BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers

BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) ended months of speculation today by naming the companies that will supply the equipment for its 21st Century network, or 21CN (see BT Names 21CN Suppliers ).

The biggest shock is that British vendor Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) is NOT among the eight key suppliers, each of which will bring a range of partners. Only yesterday, Marconi was tipped as a "certain" 21CN winner by Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (see Analyst: Marconi in Line for 21CN ).

Marconi's share price plunged 44 percent on the news this morning, dropping to 270.5 pence, from 482 pence.

Other highlights include the involvement of Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in the access and transmission categories, and the notable exclusion of Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) from the access category.

Here's the list of winners:

Access: Multiservice Access Nodes (MSANs)
Fujitsu Telecommunications Europe Ltd., an existing supplier of DSLAMs to BT, is supplying its GeoStream Access Gateway. That choice looks like good news for metro optical vendor Meriton Networks Inc. (see Meriton, Fujitsu Make a Match).

The only other MSAN supplier is Huawei, leaving shortlisted vendors Alcatel and Marconi out in the cold, a decision that will surprise many (see Huawei Picked for BT's 21CN and BT Shuns Marconi for 21CN).

Metro Routers and Switches
Alcatel, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Siemens Communications Group are the chosen ones for the metro nodes (see Alcatel Picked for BT's 21CN, Cisco Picked for BT's 21CN, and Siemens Picked for BT's 21CN).

Alcatel is providing its 7750 Service Router, the former TiMetra IP platform, and its 5620 Service Aware Manager (see Alcatel Eyes Video Market).

Analysts at Lehman Brothers noted that Alcatel's inclusion in the metro category but exclusion from access is "on balance, a slight negative."

Core Routers
No surprises here, as BT will use Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) gear, though Juniper isn't named as a preferred supplier.

That honor goes to its partner Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), which will supply Juniper's M320, T640 and TX Matrix routing platforms and its own element management system.

In addition, Lucent's Worldwide Services and Bell Labs divisions will provide "network planning, integration, deployment and support," said the vendor in an official release (see Lucent, Juniper to Supply BT 21CN).

Network Intelligence, or I-node Technology
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERICY) is the sole supplier for systems that BT says "includes softswitches, network intelligence, and bandwidth management capabilities." (See BT Picks Ericsson for 21CN.)

Transmission, Optical Equipment
Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) and Huawei are the winners here. Ciena, which says it is supplying "switching and transmission and Ethernet transport platforms," had been expected to participate (see BT Picks Ciena for 21CN).

Table 1: BT's 21CN Preferred Suppliers
Access Metro Core I-Nodes Transmission
Fujitsu Alcatel Cisco Ericsson Ciena
Huawei Cisco Lucent Huawei
  • Access -- the access domain in this context is the aggregation equipment (multiservice access node -- MSANs) which will link BT�s existing access network, initially carrying voice and data services from end users on to the 21CN core IP-based network.
  • Metro nodes provide the routing and signaling functions for the unified 21CN network for voice, data, and video.
  • Core nodes are the high capacity, large scale routers providing cost efficient connections between metro nodes.
  • i-node is where the service execution functionality is located -- in essence the intelligence that controls services. In the 21CN context, this includes softswitches, network intelligence, and bandwidth management capabilities.
  • Transmission includes the optical fiber transport infrastructure that connects all nodes in 21CN but also the electronics that convert the signals carried at high capacity over the cables connecting the MSANs, metro, and core nodes. Much of the optical fibre infrastructure is already in place and today we are announcing the preferred suppliers for the optical electronics.
    Source: BT Group plc

  • The key to BT's decisions appears to be economics. "In order to achieve world class delivery of the programme, the selection of suppliers has been about much more than choosing technology and selecting partners," says BT Wholesale CEO Paul Reynolds in a prepared statement. "The commercial agreements, which the company expects to conclude over the summer, will include open standards and a focus on whole life costs."

    In other words, the margins are razor thin, and Marconi says it didn't make the final selection because it couldn't meet BT's commercial needs.

    "This is a disappointing outcome from a very competitive tender process," said Marconi CEO Mike Parton in a statement. "Our products performed extremely well technically, but we have been unable to meet BT's commercial requirements."

    Marconi notes that it will "continue to supply equipment and services to BT under the various, multi-year frame contracts it has in place."

    Given Marconi's long history with BT, its exclusion will come as a serious blow. The price squeeze will likely have favored Huawei, though, given its reputation for providing decent quality but low-cost technology.

    BT's decisions will have significant implications for all the vendors involved, as the 21CN will provide a shop window into which other major carriers making their own next-generation network plans will peer closely.

    — Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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    ironccie 12/5/2012 | 3:14:32 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers >Xbar - Juniper is definitely not in decline.

    He's got his, and I've got mine. Meet the decline.

    DZED 12/5/2012 | 3:14:34 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers Sounds like Bookham

    Anania: I require stock options, bonuses and freebies. You just get to keep your job, for now, if you're lucky.
    SRILANKA 12/5/2012 | 3:14:35 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers kriens in an interview with forbes said among
    other things that he thinks that the pride the
    emplyees feel working for JNPR is more important
    and worth more than wages and stock options!!
    He also stated that he owns two Austin martins
    a ferrari and mercedes!He sold 0ne million shares
    in Oct. and this month sold 500k shares for a
    total haul of $$35.5 million!
    How come my mouth taste so bitter???
    donniall 12/5/2012 | 3:14:38 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers Does anyone know what the existing supplier profile is - in each of the respective categories (with exception of iNode) - for BT's existing network? So far we know Huawei is a newcomer to Access and Transmission, with Marconi losing in Access (& ????) ....

    volkot 12/5/2012 | 3:16:08 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers
    AAL5, comments inline

    >In regards to your query about how IOX will >solve a problem JUNOS cannot let me give a few examples:
    >- H/W, in particular the NP is design to be able >to perform 40G processing of packets with ACLs

    It has absolutely nothing to do with JUNOS vs. IOX

    >I have seen when 5000 filters were applied the T >series router performance drops to less than 1%. >I guess your J-Tree lookup can't handle any more >lookups as its also used for forwarding(?)

    Speaking of hardware forwarding path, you seem to bring a point of TCAM lookup vs. memory search. Judging performance of different tecnhologies is like comparing apples to oranges.

    In your case, I can demonstrate demonstrate a TCAM spillover on any Cisco GSR/7600/CRS linecard with a filter size ranging from 10 to few thousand lines depending on the model.
    Unlike performance degradation, TCAM spillovers are fatal to forwarding.

    >In real customer deployment scenarios they want >to run L3 features, using a T series they are in >for a big surprise.

    You again sound like a marketoid type.
    Who gets a big surprise will depend on the test methodology.

    > Although I have heard the sequencing issues >still are not totally resolved in the 640, it is >possible to get reordered packets

    .. or maybe you heard it wrong

    While not being a huge fan of any aforementioned products, I believe the core lineups are quite comparable. What's much better with Cisco is FUD.
    turing 12/5/2012 | 3:16:31 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers Modular software. What a term, you can update/patch JUNOS in service because its modular! What happens if you have to update the routing table code, or code that the routing table depends on which changes the selection criteria

    So true. I think modular software patching is a marketing hot-button, and makes technical architects feel good. But really it's not sustainable. How does cisco test and support all the permutations of different versions of IOX processes? How do you verify you can upgrade component X at time Y and how it interacts with all the other processes in state Z? It would make the different IOS train problems pale in comparison. And it flies in the face of the kiss principle.

    And really many of the most fundamental processes are inter-dependent, like LDP using IGP, or MPLSte with bGP (or IGP). And of course those interdependent processes are the most likely ones needing to be patched. It's not often you need to patch the SNMP or SSH or other somewhat independent parts. am i missing something?
    turing 12/5/2012 | 3:16:31 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers This really shows Junipers strategy which has been quite successful I do give it to them. Get to the market ASAP with a "good enough" system solution and try to grab the market.

    I think you just described Cisco's strategy. And Microsoft's strategy. And most every successful company's strategy.
    vferrari 12/5/2012 | 3:16:31 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers Comments below from a provider not vendor view:

    "I guess your J-Tree lookup can't handle any more lookups as its also used for forwarding(?). In real customer deployment scenarios they want to run L3 features, using a T series they are in for a big surprise."

    Most people know that's a corner case and all those cisco/meircomm tests are not using real traffic pattern. All you have to do is read the methodology (when documented) IE: all 64 byte packets and other non-real life scenarios like installing millions of routes. Providers using T series know how it works fine with real world traffic patterns/sizes. You can break lots of things once you find the achilles heel. Please...both vendors need to give people more credit when trying to position testing results.

    "Although I have heard the sequencing issues still are not totally resolved in the 640, it is possible to get reordered packets. It will be interesting also when their 40G interface comes out to see how it sequences packets, as gluing 2 20Gig engines together is not going to work! "

    AFAIK the issues were resolved a long time ago once the production HW was released. As for 40G, I would suspect that the 2x20G engines will not be used. It _should_ be a new 40G capable engine but time will tell on this one. :)

    As for the M160 issue, there were some that were annoyed but in general, the traffic pattern and flows to hit that were pretty rare. Very large high speed flows only which most networks do not have. We had and continue to have plenty of them without issue.

    All vendors have issues/bugs. Most vendors' current boxes are fine for real world deployments. Do your testing and pick your poison. :)

    I agree, an exchange without mud slinging!!

    ozip 12/5/2012 | 3:16:33 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers Both excellent posts!!

    Re-ordering. Having done a bunch of tests when the M160 came out, the problem was real. At 20% utilization of an OC192 15% of the packets were out of order and it increased to almost 50% at 60% of line rate. But, this was for a single source/dest pair and only affected flows greater than 1G. Although this seems like a small number, the real number of single flows larger than 1G is pretty small, so most operators were not really affected.

    J-Tree. Most of the new generation router vendors use a modified btree algorithm in their lookup engine. You can make these algorithms hit the wall because the engines usually have a fixed tree size (depth & width) based upon memory and loosely coupled to lookup rate. Sounds like you found it. But to acurrately paint a picture you need to mention the number of routes that were being looked-up as these would also be in the btree. So if you had a million routes with 5000 acls, your result would not surprise me. I do question the validity of a test like that! This does not highlight an achitectural issue, to expand the tree size you add more memory, get some clock speed increases from a new silicon process and increase the number of lookup engines in the ASIC. The initial capabilities of the lookup ASIC were probably based on some usage cases and economic issues at design time. As we know, these all change.

    Modular software. What a term, you can update/patch JUNOS in service because its modular! What happens if you have to update the routing table code, or code that the routing table depends on which changes the selection criteria.......... Unfortuanely, you still cant change the tyres on a moving car unless its ontop of a flatbed truck...

    MP_UK 12/5/2012 | 3:16:33 AM
    re: BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers
    I think the 'metro node' concept is a collection of functions logically grouped, rather than a specific description of what a box should do. So it doesn't really matter if the metro node comprises one box or a few, as long as there is a stable platform to perform the required functions.

    I imagine you'll find the same thing with the MSAN - doesn't matter if it's all in one box or not, as long as all the required functions can be put in the MSAN space.

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