Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied

Marconi plc (Nasdaq/London: MONI) today announced results of tests of its BXR-48000 switch conducted by Tolly Group (see Marconi Passes Tolly Test).

The tests, on a single-rack version of the switch, indicate that it can handle 2 million simultaneous connections operating at wirespeed, with an overall capacity of 240 Gbit/s. A two-rack version is supposed to handle 480 Gbit/s, although this wasn't tested.

Impressive? Yes. But does this prove that the BXR-48000 is what Marconi claims it to be? That is, a "switch-router" that "unlike any other platform in its class... will concurrently and natively support connectionless IP routing, MPLS, and ATM switching."

Not really, on a couple of counts.

First, although Marconi says the tests were "independent," it paid the Tolly Group to conduct them. In other words, Marconi was in a position to say which aspects of its switch should be tested and which aspects should be discreetly overlooked. Likewise, Marconi was in a position to supress publication of any results that didn't quite come up to scratch.

Of course, this may not have happened. "Tolly's credibility is beyond reproach," says Geof Becker, a Marconi spokesman. All the same, there's no way of checking.

There's also some evidence that the Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) and Internet Protocol (IP) routing capabilities of the BXR-48000 weren't exactly stretched to the limit. For a kickoff, the test report posted on Tolly's Website makes it clear that the current commercial version of the BXR-48000 is a plain and simple Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switch. The packet-over-Sonet interfaces tested by Tolly are in an "advanced stage of development," according to Tolly's test report (page 4). In other words, they're prototypes that aren't yet commercially available.

Other evidence of Marconi's reluctance to have the MPLS performance of its switch put under a public microscope comes from Light Reading's own test of multiservice switches, conducted by European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) using test equipment from Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A).

In this case, the tests are truly independent. They are being paid for by Light Reading; Marconi simply had to ship its switch to EANTC's lab and configure it. And yet Marconi pulled out.

Why? Marconi's Becker says Marconi "had concerns" about the test plan and didn't have the resources to have its switch tested by both Tolly and Light Reading.

In fact, Marconi spent a couple of months discussing the test plan put forward by Light Reading and EANTC. The initial plan was heavily focused on MPLS, and to accommodate Marconi, the emphasis was shifted so that it was equally split between ATM and MPLS. Even so, Marconi ended up declining to participate.

The results of Light Reading's multiservice switch test are scheduled for publication in the next few weeks.

So far, Marconi has only managed to sell its BXR-48000 to one customer, the U.S. Department of Defense, which is reportedly using it as an ATM switch, not a multiservice switch.

Last week, Marconi laid off a further 255 people in the broadband routing and switching division manufacturing the BXR-48000, leaving about 800 on staff.

David Drury, vice president of technology strategy at Marconi and president of the MPLS Forum, was among those let go. Drury is thought to have played an important role in the DoD contract. "I didn't see this coming," Drury told Light Reading today, as he cleared his desk. "I'm still dealing with the shock and anger."

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
www.lightreading.com Want to know more? The big cheeses of the optical networking industry will be discussing multiservice switches at Lightspeed Europe. Check it out at Lightspeed Europe 02.

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hyperunner 12/4/2012 | 9:22:33 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied Ibeenframed wrote...

"Exactly the point - Marconi was singled out using the timing of the Tolley group report as an excuse for the thrashing."

But that's the whole point. Let's say LR had 3 vendors lined up for the switch test. Two of them pull out and one stays in. One of the vendors who pulled out (ie. Marconi) then pays Tolly to test their switch instead of using LR's free test for which they've been allowed to input suggestions on the test schedule.

The other vendor who pulled out stays quiet about it.

IMHO, LR are probably justified in assuming that Marconi has something to hide, no?

rzerockzeron 12/4/2012 | 9:22:56 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied What we have here is...failure to communicate...

(nah, just wanted to write that)

What we have here is...just another example of LR's dichotomy. On one hand they go after the serious optical networking reporting & journalism biz, even throw in some analyst effort (optical oracle), YET...

on the other hand they are the Optical Tattler (yes, this is a Red Dragon reference, loved the movie)of the industry by publishing articles on worst company (and individual) names (best articles on LR EVER, period), trashing NT, Marconi and other corps. not "collaborating" (man did I want to write buying) with them, etc...

So what will it be LR? Serious journalism or campy journalism? My vote would be for campy journalism (I do get my laughs every day by logging onto this website) but I understand the VCs do not go for these circus-type business plans anymore (at least not since CORV went from #1 IPO of the year to huh? in one year...)

Ultimately, the question is left unanswered...who did it, Pete?


Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 9:22:56 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied Thanks hyperunner.

It's great to see an existing Marconi customer make these points!
Ibeenframed 12/4/2012 | 9:22:59 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied "But wouldn't those vendors who pulled out prefer that this wasn't revealed? I mean, Marconi probably aren't pleased about being named?"

Exactly the point - Marconi was singled out using the timing of the Tolley group report as an excuse for the thrashing.


PS - Make one small typo - look what happens! :-)
hyperunner 12/4/2012 | 9:23:01 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied Ibeenframed wrote:

"It would be enlightening if LR disclosed who they invited, who declined immediately and who pulled out after discussions - and who remained."

I think that's a fair request, I wonder if LR will oblige? But wouldn't those vendors who pulled out prefer that this wasn't revealed? I mean, Marconi probably aren't pleased about being named? It's just that the other vendors didn't go off and pay for their own tests.


PS. Earlier in your post, did you mean "testes"...I wouldn't have had the balls to write that :-)

...apologies for that, it's Friday, it's been a long week and frankly I just needed the laugh!
Ibeenframed 12/4/2012 | 9:23:05 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied A valid point.

To be fair though we should ask how many vendors were invited and didn't participate. How many discussed attending and declined. This article is a very clear spotlight on Marconi (as it should be since Marconi released the Tolley report) - but if the testes were such that other vendors found them unfavorable enough that they too decided to "not support" the test. It could well be that the LR specified test might have been more than most chose to support. It would be enlightening if LR disclosed who they invited, who declined immediately and who pulled out after discussions - and who remained.
hyperunner 12/4/2012 | 9:23:07 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied Folks, I know there's an element of sour grapes in this article, but I'll say again, as an existing Marconi customer, and potential customer for the BXR I'd feel a lot better if the switch was tested against other vendors' products and not in a "pay for the result you want" lab like Tolly.

Reading the article it looks to me like Marconi said they wanted to join EANTC's test, and even influenced the nature of the test (ie. put in more ATM tests). Then they backed away from it.

The excuse that they only had the resource to do one test doesn't fly. If you're low on marketing budget like Marconi, do you choose to pay Tolly for a test or get a free (and more credible??) test from Light Reading?

Sure, Light Reading are acting like some kid took their ball away, but that frankly doesn't bother me. I want to know why Marconi backed out of EANTC's test.

Ibeenframed 12/4/2012 | 9:23:09 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied Peter - this is a common industry practice and everybody knows about the limitations of tests from labs like Tolley.

What got you so fired up about this particular one? You must have run dozens of stories about other vendors doing the same thing and you didn't trash them so harshly. None of what you say may be wrong - but you sure look mean and petty saying it.
dellman 12/4/2012 | 9:23:15 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied My point is 'SVC' numbers need not be different. Setting up that many number of SVCs may require setups which might be questioned again.

The important point is Marconi supports 2 million connections.
the other boxes that might be in the same market space clearly does not have this capacity.
Alcatel 7670:
256,000 connections in the database; up to 768,000 transient connections
AlasPoorYorick 12/4/2012 | 9:23:31 PM
re: Marconi's Switch Gets Tolly-fied And full apologies to hyperruner for botching the
formating that would have made clear the first
3 paragraphs are his/hers:

"The final part of the article mentions the loss
of David Drury from Marconi.

This is clearly not a volutary departure, and
it surprises me that Marconi can afford to lose
people like this at a time when you need to
keep your very best people.

I've met Mr.Drury on several occasions when he
presented Marconi's strategy and product
roadmaps to us, as well as at ATM Forum
meetings in the early 90s. Not all the customer
meetings were harmonious, as all vendors have
slips in their schedules. But I always found
Mr.Drury to be totally professional, and very
informed on leading edge communications topics.


Informed and professional are just the tip of the
iceberg. I heard Dave Drury talk about present
and future telecomm services and his insights on
what makes profitable services was extraordinary.

I still review his presentation from time to time
and it's always refreshing.

Either Marconi or the industry or both are in the
doldrums if they can do this.

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