First, though, we must present our list of exceptional finalists, each with its own shot at changing the market it plays in.
The Best New Product, Public Company Award will be bestowed upon the company that has developed a market-leading product that, through engineering and technical excellence, enables the deployment of profitable next-generation telecommunications services.
After researching products announced this year that have caught fire (not literally) and made a difference, our editors have identified the following finalists, listed in alphabetical order:
- Alcatel SA's (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) 7450 Ethernet Service Switch (ESS)
We almost picked Alcatel's new, big, honkin' DSLAM, the Alcatel 7302 Intelligent Services Access Manager (ISAM) here. That product will eventually set the pace for the DSLAM market, but it isn't yet widely installed, and wasn't a huge leap ahead of what Fujitsu Ltd.'s (OTC: FJTSY; Tokyo: 6702) FDX has accomplished technically.
The 7450 ESS, however, is a big statement for Alcatel, which previously trailed Cisco and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) in the overall metro Ethernet equipment market. The 7450 -- an Ethernet-only version of the TiMetra box (the Alcatel 7750 Service Router) -- uses MPLS signaling to set up Ethernet point-to-point and multipoint virtual networks (see Alcatel Pushes Ethernet-Over-MPLS and Ethernet/MPLS Growth Up for Grabs). It has limited routing capabilties, but that means it costs about 30 percent less than the 7750, and it could be the first viable B-RAS substitute.
It's clear carriers like the concept, too. The product debuted in June and already has 10 customers, including SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) and TeliaSonera AB (Nasdaq: TLSN).
- Ciena Corp.'s (Nasdaq: CIEN) CN 2100 Passive Optical Multiplexer
This box originally debuted in January as the Internet Photonics' 40 Wavelength Modular LightHandler optical add/drop multiplexer (OADM), and it is a significant product upgrade, rather than a wholly new product.
Still, cable operators love the ability to start with a single, four-channel module and build their way up to boosting their transmission capacity up to 400 Gbit/s over a single fiber (40 wavelengths x 10 Gbit/s). These boxes have been the workhorses of cable video-on-demand deployments, driving the cost of transport down so low that transport competitors like Optinel (now part of C-COR Corp.) and Artel (now part of Newfound Technology) couldn't handle the heat and ran for cover. Five carriers -- including Cox Communications Inc. (NYSE: COX), another top-five U.S. cable operator, and at least one European PTT -- have deployed the CN 2100 so far.
- Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) CRS-1
It was time for Cisco to start developing a modular OS built within the framework of longevity. Enter the CRS-1. The product has made its initial splash with raw size, potentially linking 18 racks for an unprecedented 46 Tbit/s of forwarding power (see Cisco Unveils the HFR). It also carries the first serial OC768 links found on a router. The CRS-1 has undergone trials with 14 carriers, and analysts believe it has shipped for revenue to two top-tier service providers. Expert sources have told Light Reading that the router is holding up well under initial testing.
The CRS-1 is Cisco's most important product in years: It's an answer to the cry from telecom carriers for more longevity and stability in routers. The product is also an important answer to Cisco critics who say that the company is an enterprise networking company that can't scale to the demands of service providers. You can argue about whether the CRS-1 will beat Juniper's offerings, but its sheer power gives Cisco new ammunition to fight with on the core router front, and given Cisco's position as the No. 1 routing vendor, it could help reinforce that position.
- Juniper Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: JNPR) M320
Juniper's entry into "multiservice edge routers," which consolidate traffic onto an IP/MPLS core, was impressive. The idea is to replace racks of equipment with a single router, saving carriers operational expenses by simplifying the edge. Global Crossing Holdings Ltd. (Nasdaq: GLBC) and China Telecommunications Corp. (NYSE: CHA) are confirmed customers, and analysts believe more deals remain completed but unannounced.
The M320's size and port count are comparable to the Cisco 12000 series, but the M320 has the advantage of Juniper's modular operating system, JunOS, which many service providers consider more advanced and carrier-ready than Cisco's aging IOS. The list of features is outstanding: It handles Layer 2 traffic such as PPP, HDLC, ATM, Frame Relay, and Ethernet. The M320 supports multiple Layer 2 and Layer 3 VPN types and provides packet processing services such as QOS, encryption, accounting, and multicast before aggregating traffic into a 10-Gbit/s IP/MPLS core.
In short, it's the kind of box that can replace most old switching gear while allowing service providers to migrate to IP. This story has been so powerful that it's led Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) to strike up a major reseller deal with Juniper as part of its own multiservice switching strategy.
- Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com)'s (NYSE: NWK) SCREAM 3.0 Broadband Services Platform
Net.com's SCREAM 3.0 broadband remote access server (B-RAS) platform was launched in April of 2004. It’s one of the most fully featured B-RAS products on the market, using traffic shaping to deliver QOS while at the same time integrating IP, ATM, and MPLS switching into one device. In other words, it's a broadband aggregation device, a router, and an ATM switch all in one. It's designed to support 128,000 subscriber sessions, and it's got a full 40-Gbit/s ATM switch fabric.
In fact, net.com had a very practical goal in mind in designing the SCREAM 3.0, which it modeled as closely as possible to the recent TR59 specifications for service provider B-RAS devices, as developed at the DSL Forum. SCREAM was designed with some of the incumbent service providers in mind, seeking to preserve some of their investment in ATM infrastructure. The goal here was to collapse ATM switching functionality with IP-based B-RAS functionality, helping service providers preserve existing investments in ATM as they migrate to IP. That’s a winning combination.
- Spirent plc's (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT) Abacus 5000 IP Telephony Test Migration System
The rise of VOIP has reinvigorated the test and measurement market in 2004, and Spirent Communications has taken full advantage of that with its latest test platform, which launced in March (see Spirent Launches VOIP/PSTN Tester). While not the only VOIP test tool designed to test POTS and VOIP equipment for their capabilities and standards compliance, it was first to market with a product that boasts such breadth and depth in terms of protocols supported, scaleability, and functionality.
And since the initial launch, Spirent has continued to add to the platform throughout the year (see Spirent Upgrades VOIP/POTS Tester, Spirent Slims IP Telephony Test, and Spirent Expands VOIP Test Portfolio). The product already has a number of major users, including Cisco, NTT Communications Corp., and Banc of America.
That's all for this category. Two down, nine to go. The finalists for Best New Service, Public Company; and Best M&A Strategy, Public Company, will be announced tomorrow.
The winner will be announced at our Awards Dinner after Light Reading's Telecom Investment Conference in New York City on December 15th.
— The Staff, Light Reading