Laurel Moves to Phase Three
So far, it’s handling the product's rollout by the book. Phase one happened in May 2001 when it announced the basic platform (see Laurel Launches Edge Router). Phase two came in September, when it announced some fancy features for the box -- the ability to handle multiple services, including ATM, Frame Relay, and Ethernet, using MPLS (see Laurel Announces MPLS Solution).
With today’s announcement, it’s basically run out of things to say about the product, raising the question of when phase four -- a customer announcement -- will occur? Laurel won’t be drawn. Although it claims it’s already shipping “product for revenue,” it won’t say how much, or to whom.
Laurel says its LPS software provides service providers with a full suite of provisioning, accounting, management, and planning capabilities.
There are a few notable features. Namely, Java, CORBA, and XML APIs, which allow the application to be seamlessly integrated into service providers' existing OSS platforms. Also, a scaleable, redundant, distributed software architecture, allowing service providers to deploy the code across multiple servers and management consoles. LPS also eliminates the need for service provider technicians to log into each router to change configurations, provision service, or monitor performance. All such functions can be handled en masse via management GUI scripts.
Laurel’s edge router product suite faces plenty of competition, from incumbent vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR); mid-sized companies such as Unisphere Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: UNSP) and Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK); and startups like Amber Networks (acquired by Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK)). All of these companies are either shipping or developing edge routers that compete head to head with the Laurel box.
It’s worth noting that the ST200’s multiservice capabilities also mean that it competes with another equipment sector: the multiservice switches now under development by startups like Équipe Communications Corp., Gotham Networks, and WaveSmith Networks Inc. Like Laurel’s edge router, devices from these companies can support multiple traffic types.
Looked at simply, the main difference between edge routers and multiservice switches is that edge routers are typically based on packet-switching architectures (using an IP control plane) whereas multiservice switches are usually based on ATM architectures -- and use cell-based control planes.
Multiservice switches are more likely to appeal to RBOC traditionalists, ones that are looking to upgrade existing ATM infrastructures with smaller, faster, cheaper ATM technology. Conversely, this equipment category has less allure for carriers that have built their networks around an IP core. Further, these switches' "multiservice" abilities are unproven, as yet -- particularly when it comes to IP-based applications like VPNs. Edge routers, on the other hand, present almost the same pros and cons, but in reverse. While they are an obvious fit for carriers with IP infrastructure, their appeal is less clear to service providers with ATM networks. And since these products cannot switch ATM traffic natively, naysaysers question their ability to handle cell-based traffic.
Laurel says its biggest competitive advantage versus the incumbent players, Cisco and Juniper, is that its product is designed from the ground up to support multiservice and service provisioning capabilities.
“Can you retrofit an existing product with service provisioning features? Sure, you can do that. But it’s not going to work as well as a product that has been designed from scratch with those features in mind,” says Stephen J. Vogelsang, cofounder and vice president of marketing at Laurel.
— Stephen Saunders, Founding Editor, Light Reading
Note: Light Reading will shortly reveal the results of two new reports, on the edge router and multiservice switch markets, in two Webinars. The edge router Webinar will take place on Thursday, April 11. The multiservice switch Webinar will take place on Thursday, May 30. Leading vendors from both markets will participate in the events. Registered Light Reading users will be notified by email when registration for these events is open. If you are not a registered Light Reader, and would like to become one, please click here: