Allied Telesyn Debuts DSLAM Drama
Although the company isn't very well known in the United States, it's a signficant power in the Asian markets, counting NTT Communications Corp. among its largest customers. Company officials say it generates more than $500 million in revenue. With new IP-based DSLAM products, it's clearly aiming for more business in North America.
The 16-year-old networking equipment vendor has a good-sized installed base of hubs, switches, routers, and residential gateways. But today it announced two new IP-based DSLAMs, as well as plans to roll out several new access products in the coming months, including customer premises gateways, broadband delivery systems, and a software suite that controls the whole lot.
The company says its new products -- the AT-TN7700 and AT-TN7400 -- are designed for RBOC networks, but it will first target smaller independent operating companies (IOCs) as it expects these carriers to be the first to achieve the "triple play" and provide voice, video, and Internet services to consumers over their existing telephone lines.
As DSLAMs go, Allied Telesyn's new products do all the stuff you'd expect a DSL platform to do in the way of providing telephone service and high-speed Internet access. The 7700 is a 17-slot, nine-rack-unit (RU) central office chassis designed to support from eight to 272 subscribers. The 7400 DSLAM is a seven-slot, three-RU remote terminal chassis that supports from eight to 112 subscribers.
But these DSLAMs also go a step further to complete the "triple play" by providing video over ADSL with the ability to support up to 512 video channels. The quality of service of the video is ensured via 802.1p -- a protocol that gives Layer 2 switches (and IP DSLAMs) the ability to, among other things, make sure video packets are prioritized properly as they come through the network. "[Layer 2 switches] have all kinds of fancy QOS algorithms built in now that really mimic the hardcore ATM functions… but that also drive down the price tremendously," says Phil Jopa, Allied Telesyn's chief technology officer.
Like other IP DSLAMs, Allied Telesyn's gear offers video in a way that's less expensive than what's accomplished on ATM-based DSLAMs. Namely, the guts of an IP DSLAM closely resemble a standard Ethernet Layer 2 switch -- the components are inexpensive and plentiful. Also, the process of serving video streams to the end customer is more efficient because, rather than having to use one ATM PVC [permanent virtual circuit] per customer or move to SVCs [switched virtual circuits] to switch channels, the IP boxes make use of IGMP, or Internet Group Management Protocol.
In fact, the company has added a little kick to IGMP. If you're watching a video programming feed that's been delivered over DSL, when you change the channel the DSLAM uses "IGMP snooping" to see if there are any messages coming from the members of a multicast group (the customers it serves). When you click the remote, it passes along your request to the router or Layer 3 switch upstream in the network.
Such "snooping" effects can cause problems for routers, which need to process all the extra chatter. Allied Telesyn's box monitors these IGMP messages before they go upstream so as to save the router from being bombarded by useless or redundant information. So if 50 people being served by a DSLAM all change the channel to CNN at 8 PM, the Allied Telesyn DSLAM will only send one request -- not all 50 -- to the router further up the network. "We're just taking the standard and enhancing it," says Jopa.
The company's new gear competes with other IP DSLAMs sold by companies such as Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Net to Net Technologies Inc., Paradyne Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: PDYN), UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI), and Zyxel. Access equipment leader Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC) (Nasdaq: AFCI) , whose customers are mostly those smaller incumbent phone companies that Allied Telesyn is targeting in the U.S., also pose a constant competitive threat.
Separately, Allied Telesyn announced it has deployed the boxes with a consortium of IOCs in Wisconsin and with the Matanuska Telephone Association, a communications cooperative in Palmer, Alaska. Outside the U.S., the DSLAMs are in trials with NTT and Yahoo BB.
Allied Telesyn, a subsidiary of Japan's Allied Telesis K.K., has made its reputation outside the U.S. About 420 of the company's 2,540 employees are in North America, according to Howard Kamerer, Allied Telesyn's chief operating officer. The privately held company says it brought in $514 million in revenues last year and expects about $634 million this year, nearly 70 percent of which will come from sales to carriers in Asia.
Though its new DSLAMs make for interesting comparisons to ATM-based products, the target market is clearly the IOCs.
"The RBOCs... because of the FCC regulation regarding fiber-to-the-home, are going to be certainly more focused on their fiber-to-the-home deployments and metro Ethernet platforms than they are on ADSL," says Kamerer. RBOCs would have to count new IP DSLAMs as unbundled network elements and share them with competitors, he says, a deterrent that will likely keep IP DSLAMs out of RBOC networks until around 2005. Likewise, Kamerer adds that IOCs haven't invested nearly as much in ATM-based networks, so moving to IP DSLAMs isn't as big a deal for them.
— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading