Optical/IP Networks

Cisco Makes Multiservice Move

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) today expanded its line of multiservice switches by announcing two new switches -- a teeny tiny one and a big fellah -- plus a router module (see Cisco Intros Multiservice ATM Gear). Being Cisco, it also wrapped the whole bundle up in a natty marketing moniker: the advanced ATM Multiservice Portfolio -- or AAMP.

YAA (yet another acronym) notwithstanding, this is a highly significant move by Cisco in an increasingly significant market. In today’s capex-constrained environment, big carriers like Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) and WorldCom Inc. (Nasdaq: WCOM) are facing a trio of problems.

First, their networks are based on Olde School ATM. Second, they need to cut costs by sweating their existing network infrastructure (even if it is based on a technology designed when Reagan was president). Third, they have to find a way to generate new revenues.

Multiservice switching products, like those in Cisco’s AAAAAAMP lineup, provide a solution by bringing ATM technology up to date. They feature denser, easier to manage hardware -- reducing capex and opex expenditure -- and they allow carriers to roll out new, revenue-generating IP services via support for Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

Cisco introduced three products today. The most important is the MGX 8950 multiservice switch, a successor to Cisco’s 8850 and BPX products (both of which came out of its acquisition of ATM vendor Stratacom). The platform is designed to deliver broadband ATM service in edge or core networks, and features more capacity (up to 240 Gbit/s, versus 45 Gbit/s for the 8850) plus a series of 10-Gbit/s line cards (the 8850 maxed out at 2.5 Gbit/s).

Cisco also announced the MGX 8830 multiservice switch, a much smaller device, designed with narrowband applications in mind, with 1.2 Gbit/s of capacity; and the Cisco Route Processor Module XF (RPM-XF), a card that can be plugged in to either ATM switch to provide an array of high-touch packet capabilities – including packet over Sonet (POS), gigabit Ethernet, and VPNs.

It also announced two AAMP customers today: Telecom Italia, and Mantanuska Telephone (which is based in Alaska, apparently).

Indeed, the trend to refurbish older ATM gear as a multiservice switch appears to be in full bloom (see The Great ATM Switch Blitz). Like Cisco, a number of other incumbents have rolled out new multiservice switches in the last few months -- including Alcatel Optronics (Nasdaq: ALAO; Paris: CGO.PA), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Marconi PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

A handful of startups also play in this space.

Light Reading will examine all of these offerings in more detail in the course of a Webinar running on May 30th. To register for this event, titled “Multiservice Switches: Future-Proofing the Public Network” please click here: www.lightreading.com/webinars.asp, and scroll down.

— Stephen Saunders, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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