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Emperative Extends Its Reach

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
5/21/2001

Service provisioning software vendor Emperative Inc. today added three names to the list of vendors whose equipment its software will work with.

Emperative says that it has successfully tested its ProvEn Optical provisioning software with gear from Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

Specifically, Emperative claims its software discovers and sets up Sonet and DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) circuits for Ciena's MetroDirector K2, Cisco's 15454 optical switch/router, and Nortel's OPTera 5200 metro DWDM platform. The vendor had already announced the ability to configure gear from Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) and says it will be equipped to handle optical gear from ONI Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ONIS) and Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) by the end of this year's third quarter.

Emperative's announcement provoked a rather catty response from its chief rival, Syndesis Ltd., whose product works with equipment from Cisco and Sycamore. "Emperative can announce all the partners it wants," sniffs marketing VP Martin Steinmann. "The real significance is in the number of carriers who adopt the software."

For its part, Syndesis claims to have three customers -- though it won't say who they are. Emperative claims two but won't name them either.

It's all par for the course in the nascent service provisioning market, currently characterized by high stakes, few players -- and an ongoing game of claim/counterclaim among competing vendors (see Emperative Intros Provisioning Suite).

Industry sources say the stakes are high, because software like Emperative's and Syndesis's is desperately needed by today's carriers, which often run into difficulties when it comes to configuring optical networks based on devices from several vendors.

"In general companies such as Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks and Lucent Technologies have broad-reaching network management platforms based on their perception of open standards. However, in reality these providers are not interested in solving each other’s management problems," writes Christin Armacost, director at SG Cowen Securities in a recent research note.

But Armacost emphasizes that in attempting to unify configuration interfaces, ISVs (independent software vendors) face their own hurdles: "[ISVs] are equally challenged in keeping up with vendors’ constantly changing offerings and competing against equipment vendors that often give their software away to win business."

ISVs such as Emperative and Syndesis also are challenged by the sheer difficulty of establishing workable interfaces to optical gear, such as multiple Sonet add/drop multiplexers (ADMs) and DWDM boxes, and by the lack of established standards. Specs from the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) and other groups are still in the works, so ISV provisioning tools are strictly proprietary right now. And that makes for some tough competition among the handful of companies who've opted to tackle this market.

Hence, the war of words between provisioning rivals that some say won't be won easily -- or at all. Observers point to the fact that no clear leader has ever emerged in the enterprise world, where suppliers of multivendor provisioning tools are few, far between, and relatively unknown.

"Initially, vendors have to show their market value in terms of contracts or partners. Long term, they'll have to show what value they actually add for carriers," says Fred McClimans, managing director at McClimans Technology Partners.

Given that yardstick, it may be too soon to gauge the value of emerging products. Claims by today's provisioning vendors are still largely unsubstantiated. It may get easier to judge the relative merits of products as contracts and capabilities unroll, names are named, and interoperability is tested by third-party labs.

-- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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