Laurel Looks to Europe
As early as next quarter, the company plans to introduce more Ethernet interfaces for its ST200 and ST50 routers. The goal is to position the boxes for the broadband remote aggregation server (B-RAS) market with an eye toward IPTV deployments.
"Most of what we'll be announcing in the coming months is going to be geared toward that space," says Steve Vogelsang, Laurel's VP of marketing.
Laurel still believes it's got an advantage in having a subscriber management box that's also an IP router, and that the combination is particularly well suited to IPTV. As evidence, Vogelsang points to the evaporation of older contenders in B-RAS, including CoSine Communications Inc., which recently got acquired, and Copper Mountain Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: CMTN), which has announced plans to eliminate most of its staff (see CoSine Sold for $24M and Copper Mountain Runs Dry).
Their departure "reflects the fact that networks are evolving away from this standalone B-RAS that hangs off the side of the network and handles PPP sessions," Vogelsang says. "They're moving to an Ethernet broadband gateway of sorts. Subscriber management functionality is getting integrated into platforms that are fully capable routers."
Other contenders in this new world include Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), with its ERX line of routers, and Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK).
"I am bullish on Laurel's transition to what amounts to a next-generation B-RAS vendor," says Rick Thompson, senior analyst with Heavy Reading, Light Reading's paid research service. "They have developed initial B-RAS functionality into their products and won some early business, so from a development perspective it’s an evolution of what they’ve already begun."
The IPTV focus means Laurel will be paying much more attention to Europe, where the company has expanded its sales force to 10 people from three. "There's more activity related to IPTV in Europe than in the U.S.," Vogelsang says, pointing to video deployments such as Verizon Communications Inc.'s (NYSE: VZ), which won't be pure IP (see Europeans Tug on Next-Gen B-RASs and Verizon Makes Microsoft Video King).
Laurel has a foothold in Europe thanks to its partnership with Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI). (See Laurel & Marconi Make It Official.) That might come into play only when Laurel gets more established in European B-RAS circles -- or in cases where a large carrier insists on a package covering multiple system types. "Marconi is a good fulfillment channel, but we're interested in getting out to the marketplace with a direct-touch model," Vogelsang says.
But what of the multiservice edge? This is the router market that involves collecting traffic of multiple types, using Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to transport them together across an Internet Protocol (IP) network core (see Edge-Router Evolution). Laurel's ST routers had always straddled the line between this market and the B-RAS.
The multiservice edge is quite popular, with players including (deep breath) Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Hammerhead Systems Inc., Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK), Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK), and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).
All of those companies need to contend with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), though, and it's going to be tough to break that duopoly's dominance. "Directly competing with Cisco and Juniper is probably the most undesirable competitive position to be in telecom, especially for a startup," Thompson says.
Thompson believes Laurel has shown it's got the stuff to compete on the multiservice edge, thanks to wins with Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT) and KT Corp., but that might not be enough. "I would assume they will still sell into this market to smaller carriers and international operators, but it may not be their primary focus going forward," he says (see Level 3 Chooses Laurel Router, Laurel Wraps Up KT Deal, and Juniper Gets a Piece of KT).
— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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