The third release of the Scream broadband services platform today now comes with IP QOS and other features designed to help carriers make more money per broadband connection (for more information on B-RAS technology, see Who Makes What: Equipment). Also, net.com announced a small carrier customer that actually bought the Scream box for its B-RAS capabilities, which is quite a coup considering the fact that the platform's audience, to date, has mostly been government agencies.
As DSL service gets cheaper to provide and competition forces prices down, carriers are learning how to "commoditize without compromise," as the net.com folks put it. To wit, to compete with the cable companies, wireline carriers are looking for B-RAS devices that can help them add more services -- such as parental controls and spam filtering -- to their DSL offerings.
Before, net.com's Scream devices were ATM switches that had IP routing functions built in. Now, they've evolved to be full-blown B-RAS devices. The Scream 100 can support up to 128,000 user session and 40 Gbit/s of forwarding capacity. Its smaller counterpart, the Scream 50, is a scaled-down version directed toward smaller service providers. It can handle about 32,000 subscribers and has 5 Gbit/s worth of forwarding capacity.
Even with a full load of B-RAS functions and some new IP quality-of-service features, net.com faces some challenges in making headway with carriers. The company doesn't have the installed base that, say, Redback Networks Inc.'s (Nasdaq: RBAK) SMS products have. It also doesn't have as broad a product portfolio as a vendor such as Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), which can appeal to carriers with a broad set of network needs.
But net.com does have perpetual rights to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) IOS source code, following a deal it set back in 1989, so it can and does use IOS in its Scream products. This ensures that net.com's products will talk to a carrier's installed base of Cisco routers, and it provides some technological predictability as well. "We’re not a new kid on the block with a new routing engine that needs to be proven," says Steve Shaw, director of industry relations for net.com. "It's not a Cisco-like CLI [command line interface], it is Cisco's CLI."
Also, net.com says carriers can use its Scream platform in front of an installed Redback SMS box to provide superior traffic shaping, grooming, and service creation capabilities. Or, if the SMS is old enough, it can be replaced outright.
"Redback has been and continues to be in the catbird seat," Shaw admits. "Think of all the traffic that is going through those boxes."
Still, with its ATM heritage and IP routing code, net.com can make a run at the big carriers, especially since the company's products tend to excel at access integration, according to a November 2003 product analysis by Heavy Reading, which included Scream's upgraded features.
"They've got one of the most fully featured ATM switches in the category, which is especially important for U.S. RBOCs," says Graham Beniston, Heavy Reading analyst at large. Beniston says net.com's security and firewall features, however, aren't as advanced as those of its rivals.
Table 1: SCREAM Product Specs
|Model||SCREAM 50||SCREAM 100|
|Throughput||5 Gbit/s||40 Gbit/s|
|Chassis per Rack||30||6|
|Line Modules (NDP) per Chassis||1||4|
|Port Interface Modules per Chassis||2||8|
|Control Plane Redundancy||Yes||Yes|
|Data Plane Redundancy||No||Yes|
|NEBS Level-III Certification||Yes||Yes|
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||5.25 in. x 17.30 in. x 11.0 in.||26.25 in. x 17.30 in. x 11.0 in.|
In tandem with its new features announcement, net.com named a reference customer for its updated Scream suite. BridgeCom, a New York State CLEC, is now using net.com's gear, as opposed to a Cisco router with a B-RAS blade, according to Shaw. Net.com is also in triple-play services trials with a European incumbent carrier for a territory that covers about 1,000 households, he says.
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading
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