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Amber Illuminates Edge Product

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
6/6/2000

ATLANTA--As a technology announcement, it will likely take many months to figure out the import of Amber Network Inc.'s http://www.ambernetworks.com ASR2000 multiservice router product, to be announced here today at Supercomm. The "Aggregation Service Router" is scheduled to go into field trials with undisclosed carriers this summer, so its performance and revenue-producing results are still on the faint horizon.

But Amber has positioned itself nicely for the money folks. Just a week after ONI Systems Inc. http://www.oni.com (Nasdaq: ONIS) went public at a $10 billion valuation, Amber will demonstrate interoperability of the ASR2000 with such well-known networking equipment vendors as Brocade Communications Systems Inc. http://www.brocade.com (Nasdaq: BRCD), Corvis Corp. http://www.corvis.com, Juniper Networks Inc http://www.juniper.net (Nasdaq: JNPR), and Tellium Inc. http://www.tellium.com. Amber's product is designed to fit into the scheme of these emerging networking players by aggregating disparate traffic types such as TDM, Frame Relay, ATM, and IP into optical-driven network backbones.

Amber has successfully kept its plans quiet until this point--quite a feat considering the company has been working on the product for nearly two years. It has raised a total of $19 million in venture capital from Accel Partners, Infinity, and Invesco. Company officials say it is in the latter stages of closing a third round of financing. Judging from the company it keeps in the optical market, this round will probably come in somewhere between $50 million and $80 million.

Amber executives include Sam Mathan, the CEO, from Ascend (now owned by Lucent); Amar Gupta, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), formerly of Cisco and Cascade; and Alex Dobrushin, VP of marketing, who came from Atmosphere.

But what about the product? "It's a bigger, badder GSR [Gigabit Switch Router]," according to Chris Nicoll, analyst with Current Analysis http://www.currentanalysis.com, who noted it was one of the "more interesting" product announcements coming out of Supercomm.

"As an edge router it's pretty cool," says Scott Clavenna, an analyst with Pioneer Consulting LLC http://www.pioneerconsulting.com

It sounds neat and tidy, until you consider that direct competition will come from Cisco Systems Inc. http://www.cisco.com (Nasdaq: CSCO), among others. Cisco markets the 10000 Edge Services Router (ESR), a product in the same category.

Amber's ammunition against Cisco comes in two forms--fault tolerance and scaleability, according to Alex Dobrushin, vice president of marketing for Amber. He says the product's OS is integrated with a set of dual ASICs designed to deliver redundancy for routing protocols such as BGP and OSPF. And the product allegedly handles loads as high as 6.5 million packets per second per node, yielding 97.5 million packets per second when the nodes are stacked in a seven-foot telecommunications rack.

Although the trial customers have not been announced, Amber included in its press materials accolades from Matt Bross, the CTO of Williams Communications Group Inc. http://www.wilcom.com. Bross, known for his 300,000-share equity participation in the ONI Systems IPO, does not own equity in Amber, assures Dobrushin. But Williams, which has embraced ONI's equipment, would be a likely trial customer.

--R. Scott Raynovich, Executive Editor, Light Reading (http://www.lightreading.com)

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