Pluris Is Back

When start-ups come out of stealth mode they usually don't go back in again. But that's pretty much what terabit router vendor Pluris Inc. http://www.pluris.com did. The start-up popped up in the spring of 1999 to tell its story and announce a product, then slipped back into the lab, and off the radar screen, to build it.

Joe Kennedy, who took over as CEO of Pluris last June, says the pre-announcement was a mistake. "I'm not sure what people were thinking. The programmers were still writing code when they launched the product. Then we had nothing else to announce. We couldn't announce that our last announcement was wrong." Now the vendor says its ASICs and software are finally ready for testing. But will it be too late for Pluris to get in the game, with new players like Avici Systems Inc. http://www.avici.com and Lucent Technologies http://www.lucent.com already shipping products and generating revenue? (See Lucent Quiets Terabit Router Rumors).

According to Kennedy, lateness won't be an issue. Why? Pluris says its scalable architecture differentiates it from the rest of the pack. This strategy is right on target says Raj Mehta, an analyst with RHK http://www.rhk.com. "It's clear that Pluris has focused on scale," says Mehta. "They've had some issues, but they are finally toward the end of development."

The basic architecture of the Teraplex 20 router hasn't changed since the product was announced last year. Its designed to grow from 10 Gbit/s up to a gigantic 19 Tbit/s system.

How does Pluris say it achieves this? Each chassis is split into two levels: an upper level with 16 line card slots, and a lower bay with 16 slots for 90 Gbit/s switch fabrics. Each interface line card handles up to 10 Gbit/s of traffic (4 OC-48 ports or 1 OC-192 port). Each line card is connected to two switch fabric cards in the lower bay. The switch fabrics themsleves have ports that face outward toward other chassis, so that additional chassis can be added to the system.

Instead of using copper cabling to connect line cards to the switch fabric and to connect chassis to each other, the Teraplex uses fiber connections. This makes the overall architecture of the system that much more flexible, says the vendor. Most other vendors use copper cabling to connect chassis' together, and that limits the distance between them. But Pluris says that using fiber allows it to connect chassis' that are up to 400 feet apart. That means that a system can be spread throughout different rooms -- even different buildings.

The company is expected to enter alpha testing in August with Global Crossing Ltd. http://www.globalcrossing.com, with revenue anticipated in the first quarter of 2001, it says.

With the market for core routers expected to reach $12 billion by 2003, there will be plenty of business to go around for vendors building bigger, faster, and more scalable routers, says Mehta. "It's like the PC industry in the 1980s," he says. "First there was one dominant player, but once the parts became commoditized, clones popped up. The same trend seems to be happening here."

by Marguerite Reardon, senior editor, Light Reading


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