Optical/IP Networks

Avici's Not Digging After Quarry

Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) says it's just good friends with Quarry Technologies Inc., thank you very much.

Rumors of Avici acquiring Quarry have sprung up lately, but no such deal is in the works, says Esmeralda Swartz, Avici's VP of marketing. It's true that the two companies have been seen together, prowling the hot spots of carrier laboratories, but they swear it's all innocent.

"Interoperability testing certainly doesn't equate to acquisition," Swartz says. The two have simply landed some common customers and are being pressed to show their products can work together, she says. "We've had their box in the building," she admits.

Quarry, that coy devil, says it's not interested in that kind of relationship.

"We have no plans to sell the company at this time, and we are proceeding with another round of financing," a Quarry spokeswoman says. Quarry raised its most recent funding a year ago (see Quarrymen Dig Up Another $18M).

Even if an Avici-Quarry deal isn't happening, a merger of both companies' skills has definite appeal for carriers. The ability to do deep-packet inspection has become all the rage in routers, as indicated by Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) acquisition of P-Cube last year. The talent can be applied to improve delivery of real-time applications -- as in the case of Caspian Networks Inc.'s flow-based routing -- or to control certain traffic types, as in P-Cube's efforts to track peer-to-peer traffic (see Caspian Adds P2P Punch and Cisco Reroutes Traffic Management).

The concept ties into efforts by Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) to give Internet Protocol (IP) a robustness akin to that of Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and Sonet (Synchronous Optical NETwork) and SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy), allowing carriers to guarantee that applications get the appropriate levels of bandwidth and security. Juniper's Infranet Initiative is working towards that end, while Cisco has been flashing the IP Next-Generation Network (NGN) idea around.

And Avici? It might not want Quarry's packet-inspection technology all to itself, but it does see possibilities on the security front. The company is planning to launch security capabilities "in the next couple of months," Swartz says. Details aren't being divulged yet, but the new release will involve homegrown technology to be added to Avici's routers.

Avici's battle plan is to tout the strength of putting security in the network core rather than at the edge, the latter being the modus operandi of Cisco and Juniper so far. "The method they chose is to put new adjunct boxes in the network, which seems to make it more difficult for the customer to manage," Swartz says.

Probably security will be required in the core and at the edge. "You need it in both places," says Samuel Wilson, an analyst with JMP Securities. Core router vendors are getting pressed by carriers to add security features, as they're seeing weaknesses in the "big thick moats" approach of having security only at the edge, he says.

The security effort would also show off Avici's ability to add features without slowing down its routers, Swartz says. The adding of tasks, security in particular, can drop router performance in many cases.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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