April 16, 2001
Although it's still a couple months away, activity is already gearing up for the Supercomm trade show that will be held June 3 - 7 in Atlanta.
Several trends are already taking shape in the number and types of announcements planned for the show. Here's a glance at just a few items that are starting to gain momentum:
Access: Supercomm's likely to be a forum for everything related to extending broadband services the last mile to business and residential customers. This only makes sense: The overall slump in capital spending has made many carriers a lot more aggressive about getting as many users as quickly as possible onto the IP networks they've already spent big bucks to build.
A host of vendors will be touting access products. Among these is Appian Communications, whose Optical Services Activation Platform lets service providers provision high-speed, last-mile services to business customers, incorporating Sonet and TDM networks.
Also on hand will be Quantum Bridge Communications Inc., which started life two years back as a vendor of passive optical networking (PON) gear. Having migrated its platform to handle not just PON but ATM and DWDM (see Quantum Bridge Snaps In DWDM), Quantum Bridge says it's ready to continue its forward move with announcements at the show.
Another exhibitor, Optical Solutions Inc., which specializes in gear that adapts cable TV networks to run data in residential areas, plans a rollout of fiber-to-the-home products.
It's also likely some new startups will debut in the access space. Despite lower individual company valuations and a weeding out of IPOs that failed to catch fire in 2000, analysts predict strong growth in the buildout of fiber to homes and businesses. "It is clear that these applications will be better served using fiber optics," says Michael Duran, partner at Patricof & Co. Ventures Inc.. The increased focus on access will lead to a range of new companies being funded this year, albeit at lower but more stable prices, he says.
Broadband Ethernet: The show in Atlanta will feature a range of products designed to adapt Ethernet to broadband carrier networks. While 10-Gbit/s Ethernet connectivity isn't a reality just yet, a slew of vendors is readying wares designed to speed the transition. These vendors claim to offer Ethernet over optical WANs using proprietary methods they say can be readily adapted to emerging standards. Exhibitors to watch include Atrica Inc., Aura Networks Inc., and World Wide Packets Inc., to name just a few.
Atrica recently announced that its Optical Ethernet platform has entered tests at France Telecom SA and trials at Bezeq. Atrica's also been beefing up its staffing: Last month, the startup announced the appointment of Nan Chen, formerly of Force10 Networks Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), as well as sales execs from Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and Nortel.
For its part, Aura Networks aims to simplify carrier provisioning of optical Ethernet services with its Radiance Optical Ethernet platform, which the vendor claims offers security and dynamic bandwidth allocation features not present in other systems.
World Wide Packets will be exhibiting its LE-3700 Access Distributor, which the vendor says aggregates up to 120 gigabit Ethernet connections for delivery to business customer premises.
MPLS: Supercomm 2001 will be the venue for a range of products that control IP bandwidth via multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). Among the vendors pushing product are Laurel Networks, a startup that plans to debut an edge router at the show; and Tenor Networks Inc., which will show a core switch based on MPLS.
Although most MPLS products today are still based on proprietary adaptations of the standard, these issues are being worked out (see MPLS Mavens Tout Progress). A number of vendors plan to demonstrate interoperability of the emerging specs, using a trial of the User Network Interface (UNI) under development by the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF). The demo will be tested prior to the show at the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Lab. So far, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7), and Nortel are the only vendors that have publicly announced they'll be part of the test.
In all, it looks as though Supercomm 2001 will be a proving ground for the viability of technologies that aim to make best use of the networks that already are in place. "We'll see a lot of startups aiming to show they can work, lots of interoperability, lots of building on next-gen Sonet capabilities," says Scott Clavenna, president of PointEast Research LLC and director of research at Light Reading.
In a bearish market, it may be interesting to see which, if any, vendors opt to forego the cost of participating in the show. "Lots of folk are asking who's going to be there," Clavenna says.
For more information on Supercomm 2001, please visit the Light Reading Supercomm 2001 Preview Site.
- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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