It was no easy task, as entries poured in from all corners of the industry: switches, chips, security, transport, VOIP -- you name it. While the telecom world hasn't come back to a rip-roaring recovery, the stack of submissions shows that plenty of smart people are putting brainpower into improving the network and helping carriers generate new services.
So which products stood out as potential winners? Special attention went to those demonstrating engineering innovation and the know-how to take on big competitors -- and, most important, an understanding of what it takes to make next-generation telecom services profitable. That last point can't be stressed enough, because the products that will have the most impact are those that immediately save money -- or, better still, generate money -- for service providers.
The winner will be announced at our Awards Dinner after Light Reading's Telecom Investment Conference in New York City on December 15th.
Here are the finalists, in alphabetical order:
- Acopia Networks Inc.'s Adaptive Resource Switch (ARX)
Storage virtualization is all the rage -- consolidating a mess of storage into a single pool, one easily carved up by application or department. Here, the ARX1000 and ARX6000 stood out for adding intelligence, prioritization, and hitless migration. Acopia also breaks the single-data-center mentality common in storage, allowing control of an entire network of attached storage devices.
Going up against giants such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP), the ARX series already has landed Warner Music Group and Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. as initial customers (see Acopia Ships Its Switch). Word has it, Acopia has another dozen customers in the pipeline.
- Force10 Networks Inc.'s TeraScale E1200
Cashing in on its status as the only private 10-Gbit/s Ethernet vendor, Force10 cracked the terabit barrier with the TeraScale E1200, a grand stroke that validates the startup's place at the high-end switching table. The E1200 supports 672 ports of Gigabit Ethernet or 56 ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, all at line rate, fitting in a half rack. That edges out the Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) BigIron MG8, which sports 320 Gigabit Ethernet ports or 32 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports per system, each system fitting in one-third of a 7-foot rack. (See Force10 Goes Terabit and Force10 Intros Tbit Switch/Router.)
The E1200's forte so far is in high-powered computing, with a place in four of the 15 fastest supercomputers. But as switching densities inevitably climb, the kinds of numbers TeraScale puts up will help save money by packing lots of fast connections into a small space, a key factor for crowded data centers and telco facilities. And with backplane capacity of 5 Tbit/s, there's room for expansion even as rivals catch up.
It shouldn't be shocking that a startup has taken on large public companies and beaten them with a leading-edge product. That's the way it should be. But the truth is, this has been a rare occurrence in the post-bubble world. Force10 appears to be doing things right, and reminding us why startups exist.
- NetScaler Inc.'s 9000 Series Application Delivery System
NetScaler is fast earning a reputation as one of the key vendors of all-in-one devices combining SSL VPN, compression, and load balancing features. Adding to that reputation, the company launched the 9900 Gateway and 9950 Switch in January -- high-end products built from the same core architecture as the 9500.
The key here is performance, particularly on the security front, as the 9500 scored highly in Heavy Reading’s analysis of SSL VPNs earlier this year. NetScaler boosted the 9900 and 9950 with new software during the summer, so they now can handle 2 million SYN flood attacks per second, outdoing the 1.5 million mark set by the older 9800 product (see The Lowdown on SSL VPNs and NetScaler Pushes Performance).
Despite competition from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), NetScaler appears to be breaking through. Google has deployed some 150 of the 9950 switches, and Amazon.com has jumped on board as well.
- Pedestal Networks Inc.'s Universal Broadband Server 2
Yes, this is a follow-up to Pedestal's Universal Broadband Server, which debuted in 2003 (see Pedestal Displays DSL Gear). Version 2, which came in April 2004, doubles the amount of bandwidth supported, without increasing power consumption or introducing spectral compatibility issues. It's in a hot market, too: remote access equipment for broadband services.
The new system can deliver 3 Mbit/s of asymmetric DSL (ADSL) service to users as far as 50,000 feet from the carrier's central office. Carriers can provision up to 3 Mbit/s per subscriber in 32 kbit/s increments, giving them lots of flexibility around how they sell their bandwidth services. The UBS2 also adds support for standard Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) quality of service (QOS) classifications, with permanent virtual circuits (PVCs) to help carriers measure QOS on up to four services per line. The idea is to reach hinterland customers with smart bandwidth, opening the possibility of a broader menu of services.
The flexibility and simplicity of Pedestal's gear will keep turning heads, as big-carrier interest in remote DSLAMs has increased tremendously this year (see Verizon Wrangles Remote DSLAMs, SBC RFP Refreshes Remotes, and Analyst: Copper Is BellSouth's Gold). Pedestal's gear is Osmine compliant, and its carrier-ready status has been affirmed by real-world customers including Cincinnati Bell Inc. (NYSE: CBB) (see Pedestal Server's Ready for RBOC).