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Optical/IP

Ixia Gooses Its Testers

Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) unveiled a roster of enhancements for its testers today in a move at least one analyst says highlights a trend favoring customer savings.

At first glance, Ixia's announcement is dizzying: There's an Ethernet Load module for Layers 2-7 testing, for use on Ixia's Optixia platform. There's an ATM Load Module for testing broadband access gear with ATM interfaces; a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet Load module that combines packet-over-Sonet, bit error rate testing, and 10-Gbit/s Ethernet testing; and a series of software test suites -- all for the vendor's 250, 400T, and 1600T chassis.

What's the common thread? Is there a technology message here?

Josh Goldstein, director of product management, says the vendor is simply trying to prove to customers that it can roll out multiple products at once. It's also embracing faster testing capabilities.

But Shekar Gopalan, VP at Frost & Sullivan, says Ixia's rollout is evidence of a trend toward "multilayer testing," in which vendors provide as much testing capability on one box as possible.

"Test costs have become a primary concern," he says. "It used to be a piece of test equipment was amortized over three to four years. But these days, a company can't use some gear after two years." If one box can be used to add different functions as they emerge on the market, it can be amortized much faster, he notes.

Key to creating a multilayer tester is finding the right customer base. In Ixia's case, that encompasses both developers looking for gear to help them build equipment, as well as carriers and enterprises looking to install gear properly in their networks.

It's also important to find the technologies that please. In today's environment, the pace of change in this sector is volatile, and it's tricky to stay ahead of the curve with products that support existing types of equipment as well as ones that may be only on the drawing board.

So far, Ixia seems to be fitting the right products and customers together in its multilayer test approach. "We've been profitable for twenty straight quarters," boasts Goldstein. In contrast, other companies in the test segment are suffering as segment consolidation continues (see Acterna Default Points to Testing Times and Acterna Goes Bankrupt).

Ixia's still got tough competition, though. According to Gopalan, Spirent plc (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT) and Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) are big contenders in the multilayer testing space as well.

"It's a trend we've seen since the middle of last year," he maintains. And it's only gaining momentum as the downturn continues and every cost is brought into focus.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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