Optical/IP Networks

Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack

Laurel Networks Inc. is the latest company to enter the crowded broadband remote access server (B-RAS) market. On Monday, the company will be introducing a software upgrade that will allow its ST200 flagship edge router to handle DSL in addition to leased-line services. The new capabilities will be showcased at Laurel’s booth during the Supercomm 2003 tradeshow in Atlanta in early June.

Up until this point, the ST200 has offered service providers the ability to aggregate and route various types of edge traffic, including ATM, Frame Relay, and Ethernet. Primarily, service providers have used the device to sell services via T1 leased lines.

By adding broadband aggregation and remote access support, Laurel has expanded its addressable market. It will now be able to go after new DSL build-outs that will serve business customers, as well as residential customers.

“Most carriers today want to deploy DSL,” says Graham Beniston, Principal at Beniston Broadband Consulting and presenter of a recent Light Reading Webinar on Next Generation Broadband Remote Access Servers (B-RAS). "The metro node, which is where Laurel would likely sit, is still the best place for a B-RAS.”

While regulatory uncertainty in the U.S. has delayed some DSL deployments, broadband competition from cable providers is forcing the hand of many incumbent carriers to roll out new services. And as DSL technology and service improve, businesses are requesting it as a replacement for their T1 connections. This makes perfect sense when the prices are compared. An average T1 connection running at 1.5 Mbit/s can cost roughly $600 to $800 per month. An ADSL service running between 640 kbit/s and 1.5 Mbit/s can cost anywhere between $200 and $400 per month.

Analysts say that B-RAS functionality is now becoming more common as part of an edge router or an IP service switch. As a result, it is no longer tracked as a standalone function. All of Laurel’s main competitors in edge routing currently support B-RAS in their products, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), and Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK). IP service switch vendors that also offer some routing functionality, like CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), also have incorporated B-RAS into their platforms.

“Subscriber management has become a necessary feature to have on an edge router,” says Kevin Mitchell, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. “Unisphere [acquired by Juniper last year] was the first to successfully pioneer this approach, and it has worked.”

To date, Laurel hasn’t provided market figures to analysts. It has only one announced customer, Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT) (see Laurel Scores at Level 3). But Mitchell estimates the company has about 1 percent of the overall edge router market. For the calendar year of 2002, Cisco led the market with 63 percent market share. Combined sales from Juniper and Unisphere accounted for about 19 percent of the market. And Redback was third with 7 percent of the market. Overall, carriers purchased about $1.56 billion in edge routing gear in 2002. That number is expected to increase to $3.3 billion in 2006, according to Infonetics.

Some say that the new functionality of Laurel's edge router could be a good fit for Marconi plc (Nasdaq/London: MONI), which is currently in talks with Laurel about an OEM partnership (see Marconi and Laurel in Talks ).

Laurel is clearly not the first edge router vendor to offer B-RAS, so how has it differentiated itself?

For one, it says it provides higher-capacity interfaces, which allow service providers to deliver and aggregate DSL-based video and voice services. The biggest interfaces most competitors offer is ATM or Sonet OC12 (622 Mbit/s) and 1 Gbit/s Ethernet. Aside from Laurel, net.com is the only competitor that offers OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) interfaces. And Laurel is the only one to offer 10-Gbit/s Ethernet and OC192 (10 Gbit/s) uplinks on its product.

Laurel also claims to offer more robust quality of service, along with a new feature it calls “service blending." Steve Vogelsang, vice president of marketing for Laurel, says these features allow the ST200 to rate-limit traffic, allowing carriers the ability to charge different rates for different services on one DSL connection. For example, it can offer a customer Internet access at a low bandwidth that can be upgraded to a higher bandwidth on demand to support a video-on-demand service.

Not all analysts are convinced that Laurel’s features are really that much different from its competitors.

“Speeds and feeds change so much,” says Infonetics' Mitchell. “It’s hard to differentiate yourself based on that alone.”

Mitchell acknowledges that rate limiting is an important feature. As carriers move more toward convergence, the ability to charge different amounts for different services is crucial. But he is not convinced that Laurel is the only one to do this.

“It seems like the ERX from Juniper also does this,” he says. “The Smart Edge router from Redback will also have B-RAS capability sometime soon, and that will probably rate-limit, too.”

If you want more information on the B-RAS market, check out this month’s edition of Light Reading Insider, due out soon.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

WillLiteFiber4Food 12/5/2012 | 12:05:11 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack Dude,

Don't be an idiot like the rest of the lemmings around here. Go read something besides what LR posts about a company or product before commenting (rambling). At the very minimum read the past articles that LR posted about Laurel. You'll see there is so much more to their box then just OC48 ATM.

As someone who has had a chance to operate boxes by both of these companies, I think anyone shopping in the edge-router market can't go wrong by choosing either one of them.

reoptic 12/5/2012 | 12:05:11 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack These guys are an edge router wanna be. Trying to get in the door by integrating b-ras is a good idea, but one would think Redback is miles ahead of them as they dominate the segment with SMS. Hard to differentiate your product down this path...just having a fast OC48c ATM uplink isn't exactly going to rock the market either. ATM is going by the wayside and there aren't that many ATM switches with OC48c interfaces anyway.
cc_junk 12/5/2012 | 12:05:08 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack What additional features does a router require for B-RAS? Is it more than the ability to treat a logical connection (ATM VC) as an IP interface running PPP and potentially DHCP relay? What else is unique or specific to B-RAS?
GreenBall 12/5/2012 | 12:05:04 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack Basicaly you need subscriber management features like:
- PPPoA, PPPoE, RFC1483 ... encapsulations
- Authentication-Authorization-Accounting support; RADIUS
Additonaly you need to apply some services like:
- IP QoS, rate limiting
- IPSec, VPN
- Firewall
to the user sessions.
And in BRAS this needs to work reliably for LARGE number of users (10K-100K).
jbsmith 12/5/2012 | 12:04:57 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack Seems like you are not just providing requirements for B-RAS, but rather an IP Service
switch which is one market of B-RAS. So features
such as IPSec and FW could also be part of another
best of breed security service switch - no? These
features are not inherently linked to B-RAS?

Ben Crosby 12/5/2012 | 12:04:56 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack I agree. From the simplest perspective, a B-RAS is simply a session termination node. Take in many thousands of PPPoE and deliver a couple of IP interfaces to routers. A bigger version of the dialup RAS' we used to connect to by modem in the days of old. (shudder)

Of course I then feel the need to ask my personal rant question of why on earth we (the industry) chose to grant end-user PPP sessions - a hangover from dialup days - the stay of execution. Simple integration into then existing AAA might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but now?
slickmitzy 12/5/2012 | 12:04:54 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack I'm alwayes surprised by the amount of fuss and hype talk that still exist in our buisness.
BRAS buisness is not the fancy stuff those vendors are trying to offer us.
Let's take bandwidth on demand for example - the only thing it's going to allow for is that subscribers will pay very little or even close to nothing for a medium size pipe ( lets say 256Kbits ) and upgrade themselves only when they want to watch a movie or download a large file ( both occasions are quite rare ) this will lower sp arpu.
In the dial-up days some sp introduced the "dollar per day don't pay if you didn't connect that day" and it became a monster that almost crashed some of the major isp in this small market ( israel ).
bandwidth on demand is very similiar to that.

On the other hand take cisco for example, they sure don't have a decent classic bras like the redback sms, nortel shasta etc etc
but if you take a 7600 to aggregate atm and GigE traffic and a bunch of 7301/7401/7206 routers to perform the lns function.
Now add a content switch module to the 7600 to do load balancing between the LNS routers, and to perform cache redirection for users traffic and you got a really nice Broadband aggregation system.
The advantages for such a system is that it can really scale, it's redundant and the price tag is lower then most BRAS "best in breed" offerings.

sure, such a system is far from perfect but it gives great price/performance.

We are even testing video over dsl service with this platform ( using multicast ) and although it's still in testing it's looking very good.

Just a little reality after the LR seminar about the next generation BRAS which is full of vendors bullshit.

I chose this solution after
NanC 12/5/2012 | 12:04:45 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack Sounds like a management nightmare to me. Kinda kludgey too.
cc_junk 12/5/2012 | 12:04:39 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack GreenBall - thanks for the response.

Why is AAA and RADIUS, IPSEC/VPN, Firewall relevant for B-RAS applied to DSL aggregation, which is essentially a dedicated internet access service?

The PPP link layer, IP QoS, rate limiting, shaping I can understand. But the others seem applicable to dynamic remote access services (via Internet or dial).
sgan201 12/5/2012 | 12:04:37 AM
re: Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack Hi,
Those do not study history are forced to repeat it..
PPP was used in DSL environment due to "equal access" requirement.. RBOC cannot be ISP. And, it needs to offer the consumer choice of ISP.
Hence, it has to use PPP and pass the authentication to the ISP's Radius server..

The cable folks at one point has a equal access requirement and they used PPPoE. Then, the requirement goes away. This is why they can get away with DHCP server without PPPoE. They run the cable modem in a simple bridge mode.

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