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Ellacoya Boosts Broadband Business Case

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
5/16/2000

A new startup, Ellacoya Networks, Inc. http://www.ellacoya.com, plans to announce developments today that could help service providers build a stronger business case for rolling out broadband networks to mass markets.

The developments, a family of switches and software, aim to do two things.

First, they automate the provisioning process, enabling customers to specify, receive and pay for services without any manual intervention from the carrier. As a result, rollout isn’t constrained by the availability of engineers, and costs are minimized.

Second, they enable operators to act as intermediaries, linking their customers to applications provided by third parties and getting a cut of the revenues. This enables the operators to reap bigger financial rewards from their broadband infrastructure.

Ellacoya’s developments are based around a directory that stores profiles of services, domains, subscribers and applications. It also acts as a repository for “branded portals” – user interfaces that can be customized to include a different collection of offerings for different users, or groups of users.

In a typical application of Ellacoya technology, the landlord of multi-tenant building might provide Ethernet connections to all tenants. Once tenants have connected their PCs and loaded Web browsers, they see a branded portal, offering them a variety of services ranging from VPNs (virtual private networks) to games and video surveillance of the building’s crèche. Users select and specify services. Then Ellacoya’s software automatically configures equipment to deliver them. If necessary, services can be offered free for a predetermined trial period, after which the user can be automatically redirected to another server to complete payment details.

Existing subscriber management systems aren’t based on directories and thus aren’t application-aware, according to Kurt Dobbins, Ellacoya’s founder and president. Typically, they’re based on Radius (remote access dial-in user service) technology, which merely monitors connections, not what’s running over them.

Existing subscriber management systems also store data in flat files and thus can’t scale to millions of subscribers, according to Dobbins. With Ellacoya’s directory-based system, a branded portal can be created and then applied to a limitless number of subscriber profiles, making it much more scalable, he adds.

Right now, Ellacoya isn’t divulging the details of how its gear works, but it’s already undergoing trials at a handful of service providers. The CEO of one of them, Mike Booker of Vialight, Inc. http://www.vialight.com, likens what he's doing to “building a corporate intranet for the public space.” Vialight had been developing its own software for this, but halted work when it discovered Ellacoya. “I think they’ve got a good idea, and they’re really smart people,”says Booker.

Ellacoya’s initial funding of $34 million comes from Bessemer Venture Partners; Weiss, Peck & Greer Venture Partners; Centennial Ventures and Lighthouse Capital Partners.

-- by Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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