Laurel Targets 10-Gig at the Edge
The announcement represents an aggressive move by Laurel in the edge router market. Traditionally, service providers have used 10 Gbit/s in the core of their networks. Packet-over-Sonet OC192 connections and Gigabit Ethernet lines between core routers has become standard fare in many carrier networks. But until now, there has been little talk of edge routers touting 10-Gbit/s interfaces.
Analysts are divided over whether 10 Gbit/s is really needed at the service provider edge. Kevin Mitchell, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc., says that denser access equipment and IP traffic growth is driving the need for 10 Gbit/s at the edge. He says that an edge device that can hand off 10-Gbit/s pipes to a core router is ideal, because it reduces or eliminates this aggregation from the core router.
On the other hand, Dave Passmore, research director for the Burton Group, disagrees: He says it will be at least a couple of years before carriers will need 10 Gbit/s.
“I’m kind of scratching my head on this one,” he says. “There isn’t much demand for 10 Gig at the edge right now. I see it more as a checklist item to show customers that the box can grow to more capacity.”
Laurel’s Sonet and Ethernet line cards support one port each, for a total of eight 10-Gbit/s connections per device. As part of the announcement, the company is introducing a next-generation version of its network processing blade. The older version handled only 5 Gbit/s per slot.
Steve Vogelsang, Laurel's vice president of marketing, says the new 10-Gbit/s Packet-over-Sonet interfaces will be used as uplinks to connect edge routers to core routers. The edge routers can then aggregate all the slower traffic and feed it into a 10-Gbit/s core, allowing carriers to eliminate a layer of aggregation.
The 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interface would be used to connect edge routers to core routers in the same point of presence. The reason to go with Ethernet in this situation is simple: it’s cheap. In general, Ethernet interfaces can cost 50 percent less than Sonet, says Vogelsang. Because the company still hasn’t published its pricing, he wouldn’t elaborate. Mitchell says that most point-of-presence connections already use Ethernet instead of Sonet as their transport technology.
The new line cards, which are expected to be available in the third quarter, will put Laurel’s ST200 in closer competition with high-end routers from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), which both offer 10-Gbit/s interfaces on core routers. Cisco offers them on the GSR 12400, and Juniper has them available for the M160. Cisco also supports 10-Gbit/s interfaces on its 7600 edge routers. But Juniper’s edge routing platforms, the ERX and M-series, do not support either OC192 or 10-Gbit/s Ethernet. Laurel will likely still compete with Juniper, which has been pushing its M160 more toward the edge. Cisco has been doing something similar with the GSR 12400 family, as well (see Cisco GSR 12000 Sent to the Edge).
That’s not the only competition that Laurel may face. Cisco, Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), Force10 Networks Inc., and Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN) all make Layer 2/3 switches that support 10-Gbit/s Ethernet interfaces. Cisco and Foundry have recently announced new line cards for their 10 Gbit/s, while Riverstone has recently introduced a whole new platform (see Wavesmith: Giant Killer?, Foundry Intros Next-Gen 10-Gig Ethernet and Riverstone Fuels 10GigE Price War). Foundry and Extreme are both expected to announce new platforms this spring.
Vogelsang argues that Laurel is not really competing with these products, because they are strictly switching products. The ST200 is a full-blown router. Because these switches lack Packet-over-Sonet interfaces, they are not used in large carrier networks to aggregate access traffic into a 10-Gbit/s routed core.
The price points of the switches and the routers are also different. While Ethernet switch prices have fallen drastically over the last six months, 10-Gbit/s Ethernet routing interfaces have not benefited as much from falling component prices.
“You can slash prices on chipsets all you want, but our routing interfaces also include complex routing components that drive up the overall cost” says Vogelsang. “We certainly benefit from the higher volume production, but our interfaces will likely always be priced higher than a switching vendor’s prices.”
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading