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Ethernet equipment

Extreme Joins Carrier Ethernet Chorus

Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) is the latest vendor to trot out a carrier Ethernet box, the latest in what's expected to be a long line of products launched this year.

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

materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 4:04:35 AM
re: Extreme Joins Carrier Ethernet Chorus EXTR may have a new box with "subscriber management" (is there a definition of this?) built in. But, are they too late for the big design wins? The CSCO CRS-1 has shown it takes a year for a big box to get certified, what about an edge device?
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:04:34 AM
re: Extreme Joins Carrier Ethernet Chorus I would guess an edge box can get qualified rather quickly. And you have to figure Extreme has at least a couple of customers that shepherded it through the design process -- meaning 1 or 2 carriers are already waiting for the 12K.

Dunno if I'd consider Extreme that late, considering the carrier Ethernet thing -- in terms of specialized boxes -- is just starting. (Carriers could just continue using existing boxes in some cases, but apparently that's not what they want.)

Now, the half-dozen or so other companies likely to join the game this year -- they're going to be progressively later and later to the game. And these things are going to sound more and more alike as more of them get announced.

How is anyone going to stand out with a "carrier Ethernet" box that comes out in, say, October? By Globecomm, we might see one or two rushed announcements here.
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