NetPlane Opens Up IP Routing
The company has yet to reveal who its customers are, but the announcement comes at an interesting time. Nortel Networks Corp. appears to be scaling back its Open IP business, at a time when the number of hardware startups in search of open IP code is exploding.
If past experience is any indication of how trustworthy NetPlane is and how well its software sells, then it should be in good shape. NetPlane, which used to be called Harris & Jeffries, has gained an excellent reputation selling its multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) source code, according to David Newman, president of Network Test.
Now the company is taking the next logical step and moving up the protocol stack to provide Layer 3 IP routing source code. In its first release the suite includes OSPF (open shortest path first); it will release BGP4 (border gateway protocol), IS-IS (intermediate system to intermediate system) protocol, and RIPv2 (routing information protocol) later in 2001.
NetPlane’s timing couldn’t be better. Why? First, any routing company will confess that software is the hardest part of the product development cycle. For example, it took Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), which built its code from scratch, two years to construct software stable enough to be deployed in commercial networks. And Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), the granddaddy of routing, is still refining and releasing new versions of its IOS routing software.
At the same time, Netplane's number one competitor looks like it might be bowing out of the game. Nortel, which has been licensing a source code called Open IP to other vendors, recently dissolved the engineering group working on the software. Some of the engineers working on Open IP were among the 4,000 employees that Nortel laid off last week, though the company would not specify how many from the group lost their jobs and how many were shifted to other groups within the company (see Nortel to Cut 4,000 Jobs). The plan going forward is to use the technology in 3G wireless products, says a spokesperson.
Many startups such as Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7), Pluris Inc., and Hyperchip Inc., as well as established vendors like Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA: Paris: CGEP:PA) and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), have looked toward third parties to provide them with the essential building blocks (see Hyperchip Hypes Its Hardware). With IP routing systems proliferating, the demand for reliable source code is high.
But routing purists point out that using generic routing code from a third-party vendor could weaken a company's ability to differentiate its software from competitors.
-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com