Cisco Arms for IPTV Battle
It's all meant to counter Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), which has surged in the router rankings with its 7750 and 7450 boxes. Ethernet has been the key, with the 7450 gathering the Gigabit Ethernet pipes that would carry IPTV feeds, handing them off to the 7750s for routing. (See Alcatel Router Revenues Surge.)
But it's Alcatel's role as a systems integrator that has Cisco tied in knots. There, Alcatel has bagged some big-name deals such as the lead role in Project Lightspeed for SBC -- er, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) (See Mais Alors! Alcatel Bags $1.7B SBC Deal .)
"What we lacked was the systems integration arm. We didn't have the services component," says Mark Milinkovich, director of marketing for Cisco's service provider products.
Cisco indicated that this was part of the thinking involved in acquiring Scientific-Atlanta Inc. That deal, expected to close sometime this quarter, will seriously alter Cisco's outlook when it comes to services like video and IPTV. (See Sci-Atlanta: Cisco's IPTV Lifeline?.)
Even without Scientific-Atlanta, Cisco has begun to offer systems integration to carriers via its IP NGN Expertise Center, launched in October. Part of its goal is to give Cisco extra ammunition for certain large accounts -- those measuring in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"We've chosen the partner role in the past, but we're being asked to take this role on an account-by-account basis," Milinkovich explains. One example would be with Indian carrier Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) , where a 96-POP deployment involved Cisco and 90 partners. (See Cisco Pays to Play in India.)
Considering that integrators are often accused of favoring their own products, Cisco's product breadth could make things awkward. However, the company's move into this area makes sense when you look at telecom-related competitors such as Alcatel, Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Nortel Networks Ltd. , and Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE).
"All the big telecoms companies have their systems integration or network integration arm, and it's a good business," notes Michael Howard, principal analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. "Carriers like it. When we ask how they chose the manufacturer -- not the products -- the pre- and post-sale support is always near the top of the list."
Perhaps best of all, carriers are accustomed to paying for this kind of thing, Howard adds.
Separately, Cisco today announced more equipment for its carrier Ethernet arsenal. Metro Ethernet is getting lots of attention from Cisco in general, but it's particularly important given the Ethernet densities that are expected to come with IPTV deployments.
The ME 6524, launched today, is the follow-up to Cisco's ME 3400 switches announced in October. The ME 3400s featured a copper Ethernet link to end customers and a fiber uplink; the ME 6500s, based on technology from the flagship Catalyst 6500 switches, used fiber to aggregate ME 3400 traffic and forward it deeper into the network. (See Cisco Beefs Up the Edge.)
The "ME" series is aimed at carrier metro Ethernet buildouts, with Cisco touting that the boxes have passed MEF certification requirements. (See MEF Rubber Stamps Ethernet Gear and MEF Certifies QOS.) What's curious about the series is that Cisco already sells carrier Ethernet equipment and is pegged as a leader in the category. Unlike other Cisco switches that started life in enterprise networks, the MEs are intended solely for carriers. "I guess they've decided, marketingwise or strategywise, that it's important to specify this market," Howard says.
Cisco also launched the ONS 15310-MA for metro access -- the sequel to the ONS 15310-CL, a multiservice provisioning platform for the customer premises. (See MSPPizza to Go at Cisco.)
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading