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Judgment Day for Foundry Core Router

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
5/16/2000

Foundry Networks Inc. http://www.foundrynet.com recently announced a "Cisco killer" router for the Internet core. Now that the industry has had a few weeks to digest the news, the verdict is in: NetIron 1500 core switch router doesn't stand much of a chance.

"Foundry boxes are designed for server farms and the company has been trying to play the Internet card to raise its stock value. I just think it's dishonest," says Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. http://www.cimicorp.com an independent consultancy.

Currently, the only two products making significant headway in service provider cores are Cisco's GSR 12016, with 150 Gbit/s of capacity, and Juniper Networks' M40 -- which is a 40 Gbit/s box. Juniper recently announced the M160, which has four times the capacity of the M40 (see Juniper Sees Quadruple ).

Boasting 480 Gbit/s of capacity, Foundry says the NetIron 1500 has what it takes to win the right to be the third vendor in a two-horse race. But experts and vendors say that speed is only one part of the equation.

"When the M40 first came out it was much faster than anything Cisco had at the time," says John Stewart, marketing engineer for Juniper. "But it took more than speed to actually win accounts. We worked on our software with customers for more than a year to get it right."

Vendors and analysts agree that software is the most important aspect of routing. But Foundry says its routing software has been "baking" for more than 18 months and other Foundry layer 2/3 switches have been running routing code for almost a year.

"Routing is routing," says Marshall Eisenberg, director of product marketing for Foundry. "We've been doing multi-protocol routing longer than Juniper has even been in existence."

The truth of the matter is that Foundry may not have the experience in routing that it claims. Juniper was actually incorporated three months before Foundry back in 1996, according to S1 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission from both companies. As for the technology, competitors and some experts think that Foundry just doesn't get it.

"Routing is very different in the Internet than it is the enterprise," says Raj Mehta, senior analyst for Ryan Hankin Kent Inc. (RHK) http://www.rhk.com, a telecommunications consultancy. "The nuances of the routing code are what makes the difference."

Transforming from an enterprise switching company to a service provider vendor could be "a tough a sell," adds Mehta.

Foundry is best known for being a Gigabit Ethernet player in the enterprise, so it makes sense that the NetIron 1500 offers three times the number of Gigabit Ethernet ports than Juniper, but on the flip-side the product lags behind in optical port density, which is a huge selling point in service provider networks. While Cisco and Juniper may be the main competition right now, that won't be true in the coming months. Avici Systems, Inc. http://www.avici.com has had a strong showing recently, winning some major accounts. Also Nexabit Networks, which was acquired by Lucent Technologies Inc. http://www.lucent.com last year, is also rumored to have products in production.

Both these new players' products offer almost twice as many OC-12 and OC-48 ports as the NetIron 1500. As for OC-192 interfaces---Foundry won't be offering those until sometime later this year. This may be too late since Juniper already is shipping up to 8 OC-192's per M160, and Avici and Nexabit offer 15 and 16 OC-192 ports respectively on their device.

One other issue is that the NetIron 1500's first release will not offer MPLS, something that many service providers want for its traffic engineering and VPN capabilities.

Add it all up and it seems unlikely that Foundry will steal much business from players already situated in a major ISP's core. But there are a couple things on its side. For one, lower-end layer 2 and layer 3 Foundry switches are already deployed in many service provider networks.

"It's a lot easier to break into an account when you already have established some kind of relationship," says Tam Dell' Oro, founder of The Dell' Oro Group http://www.delloro.com.

The other advantage is price. While competing products from Cisco and Juniper can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, the NetIron 1500 chassis starts at $34,495 and OC-48 modules are priced around $65,000 for two ports. This low cost edge might help Foundry find a niche in smaller ISP networks.

by Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

Next page:Feedback from Foundry

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