Optical/IP Networks

Chiaro Scores in Tiscali's Core

Core router vendor Chiaro Networks Inc.'s close relationship with ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL) helped it secure a contract with European wholesale operator Tiscali International Networks BV, the company said today.

The carrier has deployed two of Chiaro's Enstara routers in Amsterdam as part of its 10-Gigabit upgrade, says Tiscali International's head of network engineering, Sven Engelhardt.

And there's no doubt that ECI, following its recent investment in the router vendor, played a crucial role in securing what is Chiaro's first European carrier deal, following its research contract (see Chiaro Lands ECI Investment and CERN Selects Chiaro).

"ECI's involvement and commitment has been important on the business side. It gives us stability and assurance in the future life of the installed platform. Would we have bought Chiaro without ECI? Probably not," says Engelhardt.

The Tiscali man says he has been talking with Chiaro for the past 12 to 18 months, since the network upgrade RFP was issued. "Chiaro has a good product, and we're confident we can use it. The question here isn't so much, 'Why use Chiaro?' It's more a case of, 'Why not?' " adds Engelhardt.

He says the decision to deploy Chiaro routers was a "technical and commercial decision," with a greater emphasis on the technical capabilities of the router.

Pricing was an important factor, though, with Engelhardt saying there are "cost advantages" to choosing the Enstara product compared with the alternative suppliers. "There has been a huge price decline in the wholesale market, but the only thing that hasn't followed that decline has been the equipment pricing," he says.

Chiaro's VP of marketing and product management, Carey Parker, admits the vendor had to offer an attractive price as well as show off its technology. "You can't be an attacker in this market and go in at a higher price than the incumbents," says Parker, who says the two-router deal with Tiscali is worth about $1 million.

But Engelhardt is keen to point out that Chiaro's products are being added to the network alongside existing and additional routers from the incumbent providers, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See European ISP Goes With Juniper and Cisco Goes European.)

"It's not like we're kicking out the Juniper routers. The Chiaro routers are replacing the functionality of some of our existing core routers, which we are redeploying as edge routers."

Further use of Chiaro's technology is likely, adds Engelhardt, though no decisions have yet been made. "We have a few more network projects this year, but no decisions have been made. We'll certainly work more with Chiaro. You don't just want two routers in the network," but there are no specific plans for further orders just yet, he adds.

That's a hopeful message for Chiaro, which is already looking to build on this initial win in Europe. Parker says the Tiscali deployment was one of the six potential deals Chiaro was shortlisted for last year, and that another of those potential accounts, this time with an unnamed Tier 1 national operator, looks likely to pull through later in the year (see Chiaro Seeks Its Footing).

And both the Tiscali and Tier 1 relationships have come through ECI, says Parker, adding that the relationship with ECI is making all the difference in terms of opening more doors and closing on potential deals. "We know what sort of post-sales support is needed to be able to close these deals, and now we're able to turn to ECI for that part of the relationship. I wouldn't be talking about a Tiscali deployment, if it wasn't for ECI's involvement. This is a highly respected company," states Parker.

ECI is equally effusive about Chiaro, as one would expect, and displayed the Enstara router prominently on its stand at the recent CeBIT trade show in Germany. There, ECI's executive VP of global sales and strategy, Ruben Markus, claimed that the Enstara is "the first core router that has the robustness and simplicity to put it in the same league as traditional telephony network equipment. It's a real breakthrough."

That robustness comes from what Chiaro calls "Stateful Assured Routing," a design that incorporates in-built redundancy, allowing the product to continue routing protocol sessions during a hardware or software failure, or during maintenance, claims Parker. "We guarantee against delays and latency, and that's unique in the core IP routing market," says the marketing man.

So, how significant is the Tiscali deal for Chiaro? "Tiscali is a good win, but it needs to be followed up with further executions. Any vendor can win one contract," says Infonetics Research Inc. Kevin Mitchell. "The ECI partnership looks key to winning future deals, so let's see how good ECI is at winning IP deals. It does have a good top tier customer list and good carrier relationships," adds Mitchell.

He also notes how difficult it is to break the stranglehold that Cisco and Juniper have on the market, though there are, of course, others alongside Chiaro trying to do just that (see Huawei Goes Hard Core and Avici Faces 'Binary' Future). "There aren't too many success stories in the core router space. Cisco and Juniper have more than 90 percent of the market between them, but there's room for that share to come down in some regions," says Mitchell.

Parker says that in addition to the Tier 1 European prospect, there are some potential contracts in the pipeline for Chiaro in Japan and Korea, and he notes that some old relationships in North America are being reignited with ECI's help. Those relationships may not bring home any bacon this year, but Parker says "2006 is a possibility."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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