Marconi Puts Crescent to Work
Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) has at last unveiled its new R&D center, where it is developing a range of IP products based on technology acquired from failed startup Crescent Networks (see Marconi Opens Boston R&D Center).
Having broken the news of the Crescent acquisition last December (see Marconi Buys Crescent Assets), Light Reading wrote about the new R&D facility in July, when we revealed that former Crescent CTO Dr. James Luciani had joined Marconi's ranks (see Marconi Moons Over Crescent).
Luciani says he is leading a team of more than 20 engineers, including a "handful" of former Crescent staff, in the development of a "family" of IP products that combines Crescent's VPN technology and Marconi's network management and quality of service (QOS) applications.
The resulting products will boost the IP portfolio of Marconi's Broadband Routing and Switching (BBRS) product group. It currently resells Laurel Networks Inc.'s ST200 multiservice edge router (under the name BXR 5000) to provide IP functionality (see Laurel & Marconi Make It Official).
But Marconi has been flagging up its plan to develop its own products for some time. In the company's annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in June, the company noted its intent to "develop a platform for a range of IP services routers. This platform will be able to provide virtual private networks in the mission critical applications typically required by our customers. During 2004, we acquired, for immaterial consideration, the intellectual property and assets of Crescent Networks, which we consider will form the basis for this new platform."
Marconi's new center is located at the former Crescent building in Lowell, Mass., which meets the team's power and lab space requirements. "It was easier to go back where we were originally," says Luciani.
But while the location might be the same, the approach has changed. "As a startup, we focused on individual deliverables," says Luciani. "What we're building here is a family of products [that will] take us through the entire suite of edge application products."
So what's the timeline for delivering the family's first offspring? Luciani wouldn't say whether any new products would be launched before the end of 2004 but claims to be "darn close to some pretty interesting trials." Crescent's technology had been in trials with six carriers, including NTT Group (NYSE: NTT), before it went under in early 2003 (see Crescent is Waning and Headcount: Time to Punt?).
Luciani says the first product will have "significant similarity to the Crescent platform," but "with more VPN types that Crescent didn't support, and some QOS functions that were only beginning to occur" during Crescent's lifetime.
So what's to become of Marconi's partnership with Laurel once the family starts to get bigger and encroach on the ST200's territory? A Marconi spokesman describes the relationship as "still very good. This doesn't change that at all." He adds that the partnership "mostly, but not exclusively, applies to federal government opportunities."
But Heavy Reading chief analyst Scott Clavenna noted earlier this summer that it's hard to see how Marconi would develop new products based on Crescent's technology without stepping on Laurel's toes.
Laurel says it doesn't have any concerns about Marconi's plans. "All vendor channels want to sell their own products. This is a natural step for Marconi to take," says Colin Rhodes, director of European operations at Laurel. "We know how long it takes to develop this sort of product, and we don't envisage any competitive threat for quite some time. If anything, this is another validation of the edge router market."
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, and Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading