Net.com Screams to Be Heard
The new platform, which supposedly gives carriers a way to create and provision IP, ATM, and Sonet-based services, has no shortage of company. In fact, Net.com is headed, Scream'ing, into a Mongol horde of competitors that include incumbents like Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), as well as smaller startups such as Quarry Technologies Inc., Ellacoya Networks Inc., and Celox Networks. So what sets Scream apart from its competitors?
Compared to existing products, Net.com has a clear technology edge, says Ron Westfall an analyst with Current Analysis. “There is an obvious difference in scaleability and switching capacity versus market leaders like CoSine, Shasta [Nortel], and Springtide [Lucent],” he says.
The Scream100 can support up to 256,000 user session and 40 Gbit/s of capacity. Its smaller counterpart, the Scream 50, is a scaled-down version directed toward smaller service providers. It can handle about 64,000 subscribers and has about 5 Gbit/s worth of capacity, the vendor says. This compares to the Nortel Shasta 5000 product that supports 32,000 subscribers with 10 Gbit/s of switching capacity; Lucent’s Springtide box that supports 64,000 subscribers and 10 Gbit/s; and Cosine’s product that supports 100,000 subscribers and 22 Gbit/s of capacity.
However, when compared to next-generation kit from startups like Quarry and Celox, Net.com's numbers don't look nearly as impressive. Celox, for instance, claims to handle up to six million subscribers -- and says it has about 80 Gbit/s of capacity.
Net.com says that its "split plane" architecture should help it stand up against these new heavy-hitters. Its device architecture is physically and logically split into two distinct pieces: the control plane and the data plane. The control plane, which handles the logic of the system, runs on a Sun Solaris server. The data plane, which takes care of packet and cell processing, is a network card that slips into the box. This separation makes it easier for carriers to integrate the box into existing operational support systems (OSSs), Net.com claims.
To further smooth the integration path, Scream also uses a free, open application programming interface that allows carriers to write applications that can link the platform to directories or billing services without having to license the API from Net.com.
Other differentiators are more mundane. Unlike current generations of products, the depth of the Net.com box is 11 inches -- that means it should fit easily into a standard NEBs-compliant rack.
“A lot of these boxes stick out of the rack,” says Westfall. “I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but rack space is expensive and it’s limited. Carriers really care about this kind of thing.”
The Scream box also consumes less power than its competitors, which saves carriers big bucks on operational costs. One reason for this is its new processor from Agere Systems. For example, a fully loaded Nortel/Shasta configuration uses 96 Power PC chips at a power output of about 1500 Watts. The Scream500 uses four Agere chipsets and four of its own ASICs for ATM processing using only 900 Watts of power.
Net.com has a longer history in business than outfits like Quarry, Ellacoya, or Celox. It's been around since the 1980s developing ATM gear -- experience that should go over well with established carriers.
“I don’t see much of a fundamental difference in technology among all the next-generation players, but I’m more optimistic about Net.com’s chances because of the corporate resources they have to draw on,” comments Westfall.
-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com