Leading Lights Finalists: Best Product (Telecom)

7:00 AM -- Best Telecom Product is always a broad Leading Lights category. As always, we did our best to winnow down the field, and here are the "whys" (and one "why not") behind our choices.

  • Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT) Net-Net Application Session Controller. This API lets IP communications integrate easily into Web applications. The intention is to let application programmers incorporate real-time voice, video and messaging features -- for instance, clicking a link, while using a mobile device, to join a video stream -- without having to learn SIP. For service providers, the resulting communications-related apps could help build communities and create new revenue possibilities.

  • Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s FP3 400Gbit/s network processor. It's hard to ignore a product that represents a quantifiable leap ahead. The FP3 will allow dual 100Gbit/s router cards in 2012, adding to what's been a strong 100Gbit/s story for AlcaLu's router franchise. Based on what we've seen from the FP2 predecessor and from AlcaLu's router growth in general, it seems safe to say this one's going to make its mark.

  • BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND)'s Media Services Platform with Ad Insertion for IPTV. BigBand (on its way to becoming part of Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS)) has had its struggles, but what we liked here is that it's got a customer -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), no less. Built to drop into Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Mediarooom deployments, the MSP does all its work in the encrypted domain, an incremental trick that helps keep costs and complexity down.

  • Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX)'s E7-20 Ethernet Service Access Platform Multi-Terabit Chassis. Announced last November, the newest E7 chassis is like a super access box, one that's deployable now and intended to stay in place as the 100Gbit/s Ethernet generation comes into being (for uplinks, not for home broadband -- sorry). So, it's built not only for a futuristic all-Ethernet world but could stick for a couple generations' worth of advancements.

  • Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN)'s WaveLogic T2 and R2 coherent optical processors. The company that got to 100 Gbit/s first by proxy (counting Nortel as part of Ciena now) announced these devices in March. They spread coherent 40Gbit/s and 100Gbit/s transmission to the heavy hitters in Ciena's portfolio: the ActivFlex 6500 Packet-Optical Platform, the ActivSpan 4200 Advanced Series Platform, and later, the 5430 and the 5410 Reconfigurable Switching Systems. It's a lot of 100Gbit/s to promise early in the game and shows Ciena is determined to hang onto a leadership position.

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s 9000 Aggregation Services Routers Series with Network Virtualization (nV) technology. Announced in June, the 9000v access routers can be spread all over a geography and logically controlled as one 96Tbit/s device, Cisco claims. Readers have hated these big-number claims from Cisco since the days of the HFR. ("92 Tbit/s!") What's interesting here is less the total capacity and more the dispersing of a router into fun-size bits. We expect everyone's going to be doing that, but Cisco is early with an ambitious story about it.

  • Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN)'s DTN-X Multi-Terabit Packet Optical Network Platform. It's true this one isn't available, but Interoute Communications Ltd. and XO Communications Inc. are signed up, and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is at least listening. The scope of the product, announced last month, goes beyond the expected 100Gbit/s story to (eventually) include packet-optical transport.

  • Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s PTX Series Packet Transport Switch. Part of the packet-optical story is that some carriers want to lighten their dependence on core routers, instead using big MPLS switches, also called label-switched routers. The PTX's stats are impressive -- a theoretical 480 Gbit/s per slot, eventually growing to 2 Tbit/s -- but there's also something intriguing about the willingness to cannibalize that core-router market.

    By the way, if you're wondering about Juniper's QFX Series (QFabric): The idea was monumental enough for consideration, but it's also a pretty big risk on Juniper's part. The fact that it's tailored to the very largest data centers, for example, means it could have a limited impact -- or, admittedly, an enormous one. In the end, we were more comfortable leaving QFabric on the sidelines. (See How Q-ute! Juniper's QFabric Rethinks the Data Center.)

  • Verivue Inc. 's OneVantage Content Delivery Solution. It's not literally do-it-yourself, but we can't help likening OneVantage to a DIY content delivery network (CDN) for the telcos. It certainly taps into a major theme, that of telcos owning CDNs in order to better deliver content over broadband. Verivue is certainly a restart story, and it's going to have to fend off big competitors such as AlcaLu. But this product -- acquired with CoBlitz a year ago -- is a promising direction.

    Don't forget: Leading Lights winners will be announced at an Awards Dinner at Hudson Terrace in New York City on Nov. 8, following the first day of Light Reading's Ethernet Expo Americas 2011 event.

    — Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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