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Nortel Unveils Passport 20000

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
2/19/2002

Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) today unveiled the Passport 20000, the long-awaited high-end addition to its ATM-based line of multiservice carrier switches (see Nortel Launches Multiservice Switch). The release focuses attention on key trends in the carrier marketplace -- and on Nortel’s ability (or otherwise) to meet those trends head on.

The Passport 20000 quadruples the capacity of the vendor's existing Passport 15000 (from 40 Gbit/s to 160 Gbit/s), while adding gigabit Ethernet, OC12, OC48, and OC192 interfaces, plus the ability to manage VPNs (virtual private networks) in native Ethernet mode. The box also supports Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), as does the 15000.

“Carriers are asking, 'What can I invest in today that will drive ATM and frame relay evolution to MPLS?' The Passport 20000 is a vehicle for doing that,” says Oscar Rodriguez, president of Nortel’s Intelligent Internet division.

Unfortunately, some of the box's more compelling features, including support of gigabit Ethernet and the ability to support Layer 2 VPNs via native Ethernet, won't be available until the second half of this year.

Also missing is a customer testimonial, which was generally expected to surface with today's news. Nortel claims it's been trialing this box for the last year or so and plans general shipment to a limited number of paying customers this quarter and next. But there's nothing to show for these claims.

How much do the delays matter? Perhaps not that much -- yet. Nortel appears to be in sync with the timeframes of Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Équipe Communications Corp., Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Marconi PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI). All of these vendors are just starting to issue "in trial" announcements of newly equipped Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and frame relay switches that also support Internet Protocol (IP) and MPLS (see The Great ATM Switch Blitz).

Nortel and its rivals say they're responding to renewed focus on equipment thought to be "legacy" just a few months back. "One and a half years ago, carriers wanted to converge all services. Now there is a pushback," says Todd Morris, director of the Passport line at Nortel.

Nortel appears to think there's plenty of time left to sell ATM and frame relay switching for its own sake -- at least in core networks. While the vendor is clear that MPLS support is important because carriers will need it to migrate to fully packetized networks over the next four years or so, spokespeople say MPLS isn't a panacea.

"Carriers don't think MPLS is carrier-ready," says Morris. Instead, carriers are focused on supporting voice, data, and video services the traditional way -- via ATM.

Still, Nortel says it's vital to stay abreast of MPLS in order to prove its feasibility and pave the way toward future protocols such as GMPLS (generalized MPLS), which Morris says many carriers are looking forward to adopting in the future.

That protocol, a subset of MPLS, adds the ability to manage quality of service over a variety of transports, including ATM and wavelengths. But the jury's out on when, if ever, it will be fully adopted (see Optical Signaling Systems).

In the meantime, Nortel says another opportunity may be just as urgent -- the need to create VPNs via Ethernet. Right now, Nortel and other vendors support the creation of VPNs via IP routing at Layer 3. But they say corporate users are increasingly demanding Layer 2 VPNs for increased security and reliability. Ethernet also adds speed.

Nortel recently touted Ethernet VPNs in announcing new metro products (see Nortel's Optical Ethernet Blitz). But the vendor won't have its Ethernet VPN functionality in Passport 20000 for another few months.

Only time will tell whether Nortel will suffer in the market as a result of the delay. Much depends on how quickly its rivals provide Ethernet VPNs in their gear. So far, announcements have been made, but shipment and adoption are still in staging.

All this raises many questions: Are Nortel and other vendors hedging their bets about the need for certain features? Are they waiting for MPLS -- or something else, such as the VPN alternatives being studied by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) -- to emerge in force for VPN creation? And as carriers start to spend on next-generation equipment again, will the addition of functionality to ATM-based switches become passé?

Some analysts say they are concerned about the ultimate shelf-life of platforms like the Passport that are still cell-based. "I think the issue is whether people will continue betting on cell switches," says David Passmore, research director at the Burton Group consultancy. "Sure, you can give your ATM switch a lobotomy to support MPLS... But eventually, packet-based cores will emerge that require a packet-based architecture."

Nortel's ready to take the chance. Time and the pattern of carrier investment indicate that ATM is an optimum launching pad for new services, the vendor says. At least for now.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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Litewave
Litewave
12/4/2012 | 10:55:10 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
Author: kephill

Nortel is still #1 in multiservice WAN switches. Looks like Passport 20000 will help them stay in that position.


Yup, and so is Lucent - according to Synergy Research, Cahners In-Stat and a string of others. So whats the deal here?

LR:Nortel claims it's been trialing this box for the last year or so and plans general shipment to a limited number of paying customers this quarter and next. But there's nothing to show for these claims.

Yup, sure sounds like the HDX.
kephill
kephill
12/4/2012 | 10:55:10 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
Nortel is still #1 in multiservice WAN switches. Looks like Passport 20000 will help them stay in that position.
kbkirchn
kbkirchn
12/4/2012 | 10:55:09 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
If all the market research firms counted the same way, how would they differeniate their product?
melao
melao
12/4/2012 | 10:55:08 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
"If all the market research firms counted the same way, how would they differeniate their product?"

Sometimes i find funny what people can do with math...
layer3
layer3
12/4/2012 | 10:55:07 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
Market needs a next gen ATM switch- does not bode well for Equipe. I think LR is just saying that a cell based architecture may not be the architecture of the future. Someone will come out with a core, packet based MPLS switch that can handle ATM-like QoS. Jury is still out on who that will be.

L3
kephill
kephill
12/4/2012 | 10:55:07 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
LR always points out the negatives on Nortel and never mentions the positives. This type of coverage distorts the news. The article fails to point out that current users of the Passport will probably upgrade to the 20000 because the competition does not have a better product.
robswat
robswat
12/4/2012 | 10:55:07 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
Does LR ever have anything good to say about Nortel? It seems as though the editors are former Nortel employees. The point is, LR starts to loose credibility when they continually have negative things to say about one vendor. Here Nortel releases something early and LR beats them up.

Given that Nortel has over 50% of all Circuit base switches in North America they have a good shot at owning Carrier Packet. May be LR should look into this.
Yabba
Yabba
12/4/2012 | 10:55:06 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
robswat wrote:
"Given that Nortel has over 50% of all Circuit base switches in North America they have a good shot at owning Carrier Packet."

Do you have a reference for that figure, such as the latest LERG ? The last data that I saw showed Nortel and Lucent each with ~45% of installed base. Siemens and Alcatel (DSC) had most of the remaining 10%.

Thanx.
Big Bear
Big Bear
12/4/2012 | 10:54:25 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
20000 , 30000, a billion. Nortel has a huge problem with their Passport line and should probably use it to escape to the moon.
CRC_Check
CRC_Check
12/4/2012 | 10:54:23 PM
re: Nortel Unveils Passport 20000
B. Wilson at Current Analysis did a detailed analysis and wrote some pretty positive specifics on 20K . Also ranked Nortel Passport number 1 over Lucent worldwide for Wan multiservice. What kind of huge problem is that BB?

/C.
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