Extreme Joins Carrier Ethernet Chorus
Extreme's box, the BlackDiamond 12K, comes on the heels of the latest metro Ethernet announcement from Cisco, which is making a serious push in this area. (See Extreme Sets Bar, Cisco Arms for IPTV Battle, and Cisco Updates Portfolio.)
Like many competitors, Extreme saw its carrier Ethernet market share -- represented mostly by the BlackDiamond 10000 switch -- shrink last year even though revenues grew, an effect of Alcatel's surge. With carrier Ethernet revenues near $5 million, Extreme's market share in the fourth quarter was 2.2 percent, down from 6.5 percent a year earlier, according to the recently released Carrier Ethernet Switch/Router Quarterly Market Tracker from Heavy Reading (See All Hail CESR!.)
"They really developed it from the ground up," says Michael Howard, principal analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. "Their other products were carrier Ethernet, but they still had their enterprise roots."
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) similarly is trotting out carrier Ethernet products, even though it's been selling regular switches and routers into this market, and plenty of other router/switch vendors are expected to follow suit this year. "More and more of the products are going to become 'carrier Ethernet,' because manufacturers aren't going to be able to sell them to service providers unless they have all these features," Howard says.
The BlackDiamond 12K sports a few of the features that are likely to be de rigeur in router fashion this season. Hierarchical QOS, for example, will let service providers assign different priorities to different applications.
Extreme also claims it's going to allow better packing of traffic onto switches, as its architecture lets carriers assign any combination of customers to a port. Service providers sometimes split residential and business customers into different linecards, leaving some unused capacity in each switch, says Suresh Gopalakrishnan, Extreme's vice president of marketing.
Another feature in the box that's likely to become commonplace for carriers is an emerging Ethernet technique called "MAC in MAC." This will outdo the old QinQ method of VLAN tagging, which comes from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) standard 802.1ad, by allowing 16 million VPNs instead of the 4,096 originally defined.
Cisco dominates carrier Ethernet so far, with Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) surging in the past year to claim the No. 2 spot. Analysts say several companies are preparing carrier Ethernet boxes for launch this year, a reflection of the market's recent growth. (See Alcatel Router Revenues Surge and All Hail CESR!.)
Extreme sees Alcatel as its primary competition due to the Layer 2 focus of its 7450 switch. "There are other people who try to do it at Layer 3, but it's too expensive," says Extreme product manager Peter Lunk -- indicating Cisco, presumably.
The BlackDiamond 12K might also compete with the SmartEdge platform from Redback Networks Inc. , as it includes the kinds of subscriber management functions that have aided Redback's success. (See Redback Hits the Numbers, Profits.)
Extreme "did a good job of designing that router, and they put B-RAS functionality into it," Howard says. "When I saw that, I thought, 'Whoa -- they're going after Redback.' "
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading