Micro MSPPs Are Big

The demand for Ethernet services and the buildout of 3G networks have made a star of micro multiple service provisioning platforms, or micro MSPPs.

A micro MSPP is a small, low-priced, low-capacity switch that aggregates network traffic (in various protocols) onto Sonet/SDH pipes at the edge of the network so that the core network can be simplified and operated more efficiently.

The micro MSPPs stand between 1 and 2 rack units (RU) in height (they can be modular) and usually cost between $3,000 and $8,000. For the small size and small price tag, concessions must be made -- the units' architecture is usually not as fully redundant as larger Sonet platforms.

The micro MSPP concept grew from two realities in the service provider business. First, service providers need to leverage their deep investment in Sonet. Second, they need to satisfy the growing demand for Ethernet-based services. The micro MSPP allows service providers to extend their Sonet/SDH networks to “customer located” sites, making provisioning a smarter, smoother, and less costly affair.

“It is really all about pushing the smarts out to edge of the network where the customers are,” says William Quigley of Clearstone Venture Partners. Quigley says older-generation MSPPs were built to sit in the service provider’s central office (CO), aggregating and switching the traffic for a large area. The old MSPPs therefore needed much more switching capacity (usually 160 Gbit/s to 300 Gbit/s).

But moving all that traffic from the network's edge back to the CO is expensive. Nowadays, much larger traffic loads are being moved in that direction. So carriers need a way to do that switching at the edge so as to eliminate all the backhauling to the CO. The way to do it is to distribute that switching power more finely to more locations at the edge of the network. Since such a scenario creates more switching locations, these new MSPPs can get away with having far less switching capacity. Still, they need to be far less expensive than their $40,000 predecessors to justify the scheme, Quigley says.

The micro MSPPs look good on paper; but what applications are propelling their popularity? As discussed in a Light Reading Webinar held last week, the delivery of Ethernet services will be a major carrier capital expenditure (capex) priority this year. The micro MSPP will likely emerge as a crucial piece of hardware for carriers racing to delivering those services efficiently, according to Andrew Knott of White Rock Networks Inc., which has been selling a micro MSPP since August.

“The reality is the carrier will offer Ethernet to new customers it is trying to take away from somebody else providing basic DSL service,” Knott says, “Some of the smart ones will offer Ethernet to their existing customers so that nobody can steal them, but usually [carriers offering Ethernet] are trying to take subscribers away from competing carriers.”

Besides Ethernet service delivery, 3G network requirements may also be driving a big demand for micro MSPPs. Specifically, micro MSPPs are being sought out for the ability to streamline the movement of wireless traffic among access points.

Clearstone's Quigley says it is no coincidence that places where 3G technology is hot -- like China, Korea, and Japan -- are also the places where demand for micro MSPPs will most likely turn into real sales. China Telecommunications Corp. (NYSE: CHA), Korean incumbent KT Corp., and India’s Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) all have RFPs or RFQs out for micro MSPPs, according to Paul Nahi, CEO of Crimson Microsystems Inc., which supplies components to the makers of micro MSPPs.

The new technologies are nice, but the central appeal of the micro MSPP, from the service provider's point of view, is simply economic: It leverages Sonet, the world's dominant telecom networking technology.

“There has been a substantial investment globally in SDH and Sonet technology in core networks -- I think its something upwards of $300 billion of installed base,” says Michael Crossey of Transmode Systems AB. “And with having those micro MSPPs with those interfaces, it really gives those networks a new lease on life, and allows operators to deploy new data services, high-capacity services, which traditionally weren’t supported on legacy SDH/Sonet.”

Micro MSPPs also support storage networking protocols such as Escon, Fibre Channel, and Ficon, making them a good fit for data centers and medium to large enterprise customers. In fact, many service providers first began buying micro MSPPs to serve their enterprise customers.

“In a full-blown MSPP it is really expected to have a fully redundant system where there is no single point of failure. In the case of the micro MSPP very often there is a tradeoff made, because one its big attributes is cost,” says Transmode’s Crossey.

Micro MSPPs on the market now include ADVA Optical Networking's (Frankfurt: ADV) FSP 1500; Verilink Corp.'s (Nasdaq: VRLK) Orion 5000; Tejas Networks India Ltd.’s TJ100; Transmode’s TSE; and White Rock’s VLX2006. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL), and Luminous Networks Inc. have also announced gear in this space (see Luminous Thinks Small, ECI Intros Small MSPP and MSPPizza to Go at Cisco).

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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Viewpoint 12/5/2012 | 3:28:37 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big
Calling modular design as building block strategy is nice marketing spin. These companies have been too long in a depressed market. It is time to put them to sleep. How many micro-MSPPs and MSPPs are ILECs going to buy from little boys? Only choice is that either they get acquired for paltry sum of money invested in them or gracefully shut down. It has been perfect storm for them.
optical 12/5/2012 | 3:28:37 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big With White Rock's building block strategy, they can just build a new "building block" to keep up with the technology race. the key is, do they have enough runway to pull this off. Their concept is really smart if they have a revenue stream that supports this model. My guess is due to the depressed market, the answer is not positive, but you have to give these guys credit for surviving, which is a feather in their mangement's cap. Lonnie Martin and company have done a good job keeping this going.
Ringed? 12/5/2012 | 3:28:36 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big Turin announced a Micro MSPP and had one at their booth at Supercom. Don't know if it worked but the lights were on. :)


White Rock is an odd company. The sell their VLX product line from a price point as though it were a Micro MSPP. Why?

I think Viewpoint and MrDid have brought up key issues. White Rock will need to IPO to make it. No large company will pay for them when they can wait until July and buy it at liquidation. Therefore going back to the VC's is going to be difficult.

Don't look for a Micro MSPP to pull any company out of troubled waters. At best you'd sell these products through a VAR at volume rates. But at these price points you would likely need at minumum 40% margins to sell through a VAR. If a VAR would take 20% then there is only 20 left. Is a 20% margin enough for an equipment vendor to positively impact the balance sheet? Are components that cheap now?

Think about it. How high can the margin get on products like this? Anyone know?

fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:28:36 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big >Think about it. How high can the margin get on products like this? Anyone know?

Hard to tell what the margin is, especially considering development costs. But I did attent LR's SONET seminar in November, and got HR's report on SONET chips. The gist is that the bulk of the work of a micro MSPP is done on one chip, which costs about $300. So you add some glue logic, SFPs, packaging, power, and the basic box still probably costs less than a grand to produce. So if one's to believe Scott Raynovich, there will be a raft of these things selling in the $1-5k range pretty soon.

I'm actually disappointed by what's in the market now. I'm running into applications for a small but not micro MSPP -- say, 3RU with a few plug-in cards, to squeeze into a telco collocation rack, for instance. Many of the small products are too bounded. White Rock, for instance, has a great deal if you need that particular combination of ports, but if you need a bunch of DS3s, or a bunch of DS1s, or a particular combination of Ethernet and DS-whatever, then you could be out of luck. Especially at OC-12 or up. Even Cisco's 13-series products seem bounded. Huawei of all companies seems to be the one closest to the target. I'm open to suggestions.
jmunn 12/5/2012 | 3:28:35 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big They missed ADTRAN's OPTI-6100 MSPP. It has much more flexibility than some of these pizza boxes.
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:28:35 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big Tellabs originally OEMed White Rock to front end their optical cross connect (for lower speed interfaces), not to sell as a stand alone product. THis may have changed, but if it did not, there is no pull-though for the White Rocks products. Perhaps someone familiar with the current relationship can comment.

I have always liked the product. The company is very focused on doing a few things well. If it had been around in the good old CLEC days (MFS and TCG), it would have made a real killing.

By the way, since I now live in the RTP area, I have to point out a local company that has a pretty nice micro-MSPP offering: Overture Networks. It has SONET or DS-3 uplinks with Ethernet and T1 downlinks.

(P.S. I have no consulting relationship with either White Rock or Overture).

spsol 12/5/2012 | 3:28:34 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big It is unforgetant they skipped the OPti6100. It is very full featured and most important has superior warranty. The weakness is strickly SONET, no GBE plans yet. The market at Entrerprise level seems to be going from ATM/Sonet to GBE.
OSXman 12/5/2012 | 3:28:33 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big ">Think about it. How high can the margin get on products like this? Anyone know?"

I don't know, but I'm pretty sure the margins will be lower. On the other hand, there are a lot of customer premises and the unit volume can be a lot higher. Sounds like a classic tradeoff to me.

"The gist is that the bulk of the work of a micro MSPP is done on one chip, which costs about $300."

I'm not sure what chip you are talking about here. I would think that TranSwitch Ethermap-3 would be ideal in this sort of application. This is a $125 chip. Any thoughts here?
particle_man 12/5/2012 | 3:28:29 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big "Don't look for a Micro MSPP to pull any company out of troubled waters. At best you'd sell these products through a VAR at volume rates. "

There is another angle here which is the "CLE" discussed in some length on this site already. If Verizon were to decide to dump their lame Canoga-Perkins solution and offer real e-line and e-lan services they would need an access box like the one being discussed here. At that point the game changes due to the incredible volumes that are possible from an incumbant.

If a company like White Rock lands a large RBOC CLE deal, liquidity issues will be substantially mitigated. The other side of this sword is that the price point will be draconian and as Ringed? rightly points out margins will be under pressure. I would expect(temporary?) margin salvation may come in one of the emerging VLSI solutions - Arrive, Parama, PMC - that will crank the cost down a bit.
papychon 12/5/2012 | 3:28:29 AM
re: Micro MSPPs Are Big There are several more MicroMSPPs on the market that were not mentionned in this article: UTStarcom's NetRing600, TelcoSystems OTM1000, Lucent's (DMXplore, DMXpress, Metropolis-AM), T-PACK (Denmark), Anda Networks EtherReach 3000, RBN's GigaEdge, AXXESSIT (Norway), etc, the list goes on...

In my opinion, this market is already getting pretty crowded...

The barrier to entry to this market has become very low, anybody and his monkey can now stick a couple PMC chips together...
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