Masergy Makes Layer 3 Jump

Service provider Masergy Communications Inc. has shifted its network to use Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) routers, displacing Extreme Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: EXTR) BlackDiamond switches in the process.

Masergy bills the change as an attempt to get more carrier-class features into its network, but one analyst thinks it's also a harbinger of service providers seeking out the better scaleability of routing when compared to Layer 2 networks.

The deal racks up another win for Alcatel's 7750 SR, the router inherited in the acquisition of TiMetra Networks (see Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal). The 7750 has the capacity to be a core router, but it's gotten most of its buzz for its success as a multiservice edge router, consolidating multiple traffic types for transport across a converged network core based on Internet Protocol (IP) and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).

The 7750s will give Masergy a "more robust" way to deliver its Ethernet VPN services, says Jim Brunetti, director of IP engineering. Among the features Masergy liked was the ability to assign more QOS levels to traffic inside bundled VLANs. "A lot of Ethernet switch companies, you can have QOS on a single VLAN, or you can provide QOS on a port, but you can't do both," he says.

Management tools also played a role in Masergy's decision. "We defininitely didn't have the OAM tools that we have now with Alcatel," Brunetti says.

Masergy won't say how many 7750s it's purchased, but officials note it's deployed at least one to each of its 20 points of presence.

This could be part of a trend, as some service providers are ditching Layer 2 in favor of building a Layer 3 edge network, says analyst Steve Kamman of CIBC World Markets. Kamman points to a Juniper win with KT Corp. in S. Korea early in November, where he says Juniper Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: JNPR) ERX displaced a set of Riverstone Networks Inc. (OTC: RSTN.PK) boxes (see KT Deploys Juniper). A Riverstone spokeswoman says she hasn't "heard anything to that effect."

Kamman claims scaling is what's driving some service providers to Layer 3. "Carriers are realizing they can't scale up Layer 2 Ethernet networks, so they're going with a routed approach," he says. "It's not a negative reflection on the BlackDiamond, although it won't help it either."

Extreme officials note that they're still working with Masergy, and they say they don't feel under pressure from a Layer 3 threat.

"We feel Layer 2 is more cost-effective," an Extreme spokesman says. "There is going to be Layer 3 routing at the edge, in some circumstances, but it won't be a trend." Instead, Extreme sees carriers populating the edge with "increasingly simple devices" such as media converters, leaving subscriber management and service delivery to the network core.

Riverstone does offer a Layer 3 control plane and believes carriers are interested in Layer 3 particularly for the ability to manage and troubleshoot the network, the spokeswoman says. The company positions itself as a competitor to Juniper and to Alcatel's 7750, or as an alternative where a full-fledged IP router might be "overkill," she says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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