x
Optical/IP

Procket Gets Unstealthy

After four years in stealth mode and $272 million in funding, Procket Networks Inc. is finally ready to talk.

With big names like routing guru Tony Li and former Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) executive Bill Lynch on board, there has been much speculation about the company. Some said it was building a huge core router to take on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) (see Procket's Strategy Taking Shape). Others said it was building an edge router (see Is Procket Heading Toward the Edge?).

The company is actually doing both. Each of the three boxes in the PRO/8800 series has the capability of being either an edge router or a core router, depending on what software is loaded onto it.

“The power of the product is that the same DNA is used across the whole portfolio of products,” says Randall Kruep, CEO of the company.

He claims the main differentiators lie in the company’s unique approach to developing its software and hardware.

Having helped develop routing software at Cisco and Juniper, Tony Li, Procket’s main software architect, avoided some of the problems that currently limit those routing codes today, according to Kruep. For one, Procket avoided off-the-shelf software code, such as Gate D or BSD. Instead, Li and his team developed source code from scratch. As a result, the company was able to put each routing function, including individual routing protocols, onto its own processes.

The modular software code offers many advantages, says Kruep. It provides carriers flexibility in terms of which features to add and when. And it allows them to troubleshoot software bugs more easily. It also ensures an easier and stabler environment for loading software upgrades.

According to Network Strategy Partners LLC, in-service software upgrades account for 22 percent of network downtime per year. This is because most routers -- namely Cisco’s -- run monolithic software code, which means every function runs on the same process. Whenever an upgrade or patch is needed, the entire IOS routing code is reloaded onto the router, which often causes other parts of the software to fail.

“Upgrading a Cisco router is like trying to fix the engine of a jet while it's still flying,” says Dorian Kim, director of IP engineering and network development for the global IP business unit of NTT/Verio Inc. Kim and his team have been testing Procket’s software for almost two years. Verio is still evaluating the Procket gear, says Kim, but because it likes to dual-source vendors, it has already deployed Juniper T640 routers in its core (see Juniper Goes Terabit With the T640).

Juniper’s software, Junos, is semi-modular in design, but Procket contends it didn’t modularize far enough. While it has separated some of the routing functions onto different processes, it still has bundled individual routing protocols together.

Another major software difference is that the Procket code is completely portable, meaning it can be loaded onto other IP devices. The company already has plans to port the code to strategic partners. This is a completely different strategy from that pursued by Cisco and Juniper, which do not share code with anyone. What’s more, Procket's software is self-monitored and can fix minor problems without bringing down an entire device.

The company has also taken an innovative approach to developing hardware. Instead of burning the routing functionality and features into ASICs, the company has leveraged Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) microprocessor technology to build high-speed packet processors. Unlike the older generation of network processors, VLSI microprocessors are highly integrated, allowing for packet processing speeds up to 40 Gbit/s on 40-byte packets.

Procket attributes this performance gain to the fabrication process used in developing VLSI chips. It allows more transistors and memory onto chips than is possible with current ASIC designs.

Because VLSI microprocessors are completely programmable, adding new features can be done much more quickly. The current ASIC development cycle is about 18 months. VLSIs can be programmed within days or weeks.

Procket’s platform comes in three sizes. The single-slot PRO/8801 router is shipping now. It offers 80 Gbit/s of total capacity and can support up to 40 high-speed interfaces in an eighth of a seven-foot telco rack; it starts at $65,000 for a base system. The 12-slot PRO/8812 routers will ship in the second quarter of 2003. It features 960 Gbit/s of total capacity and can forward 1.2 billion packets per second; it's priced at $237,000 for a base configuration. The four-slot PRO/8804 will be available later this year. All PRO/8000 Series routers support a wide range of interfaces, including OC3c, OC12c, OC48c, OC192c, Gigabit Ethernet, and 10-Gigabit Ethernet.

So far, Procket has been getting traction with customers. Kruep claims the company is in trials with 20 carriers throughout the world, and it names three customers: NTTPC Communications Inc., NTT/Verio, and PacketExchange. But some experts are skeptical that carriers will really bite on the company’s claim that it can lower capital and operational costs by 65 percent.

“The techie in me loves what they are doing,” says Dave Passmore, research director at the Burton Group. “But when I put on my business hat, I’m concerned whether their differentiators will really matter enough for service providers to migrate away from the Ciscos and Junipers of the world.”

Indeed, it won’t be an easy road for Procket, taking on the two Goliaths of the IP routing business. The core router market, which Procket will target first, is relatively small. In 2002, core IP routers generated $1.4 billion in revenue, according to Dell'Oro Group, the market research firm. That’s only about 2.9 percent of the entire worldwide carrier capital expenditure for 2002. Compare this to spending on optical and Sonet gear, which made up 30 to 40 percent of total capex. Even during the Internet boom, IP routing gear only generated $2.7 billion in 2001.

Other startups -- like Pluris and Ironbridge Networks -- that have tried to take on Juniper and Cisco have failed miserably. Even public players have found little success against them. Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) have all cancelled their core routing products. And Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) and Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) have gained little marketshare over the past several quarters.

Coincidentally or not, another core router player, Caspian Networks, is also coming out of stealth mode today (more on that later).

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Page 1 / 11   >   >>
chilkq1 12/16/2019 | 9:45:11 PM
That's good new That's good new. I love reading contents here pixel gun 3d
reoptic 12/5/2012 | 12:16:11 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy Basically these guys are touting modular software. So who isn't? That's been around forever and even Cisco is doing that. Claim to have built another big iron box but unclear who really needs that kind of platform -- and do they have the software features and all the interfaces needed to make it useful. Sounds like those are coming later. These guys are most overhyped company in the industry. Remember that Pluris launched not long before they went bankrupt.
skeptic 12/5/2012 | 12:16:10 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy Having helped develop routing software at Cisco and Juniper, Tony Li, Procket’s main software architect, avoided some of the problems that currently limit those routing codes today, according to Kruep. For one, Procket avoided off-the-shelf software code, such as Gate D or BSD. Instead, Li and his team developed source code from scratch. As a result, the company was able to put each routing function, including individual routing protocols, onto its own processes.
---------------------

When Juniper said things like this, I believed
them....and after the fact it turned out that
their "from-scratch" code turned out to be
based on gated.

I want to believe procket, but what they are
talking about sure sounds like it was based on
Zebra.

The other rather obvious thing to mention is
that "modularity" in things like OSPF and ISIS
and BGP is generally useless. You can put it
into a different process, but if any one of them
goes down, the whole ship still sinks. If OSPF
goes down, the BGP next-hops become unreachable.
if BGP goes down, most of the connectivity in
the system is lost.

And as far as in-service upgrade, what are they
really offering? Just because OSPF is a seperate
process doesn't indicate anything about how
in-service upgrades are to be done and based
on past comments, they don't seem to be doing
anything technically different than cisco/juniper
in how they plan to do in-service upgrades.

Tony Li 12/5/2012 | 12:16:09 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy Skeptic,

No, we did not use Zebra. Yes, it is all from scratch.

Yes, BGP is dependent on OSPF, but other cases that are not dependencies are more interesting. For example if PIM goes down, unicast is not affected.

For in service upgrades, what we're making available today is the ability to install a replacement module for one of IS-IS, BGP, OSPF or PIM and then restart that particular process. Today this would be typically used to phase in patches. Yes, this would cause a service interruption, but all other processes would still be alive.

Regards,
Tony
Seldon 12/5/2012 | 12:16:08 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy Congragulations Tony and team @procket
Honda_Elise 12/5/2012 | 12:16:07 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy Having helped develop routing software at Cisco and Juniper, Tony Li, ProcketGÇÖs main software architect, avoided some of the problems that currently limit those routing codes today, according to Kruep. For one, Procket avoided off-the-shelf software code, such as Gate D or BSD. Instead, Li and his team developed source code from scratch. As a result, the company was able to put each routing function, including individual routing protocols, onto its own processes.
---------------------

As far as I understand, the carriers won't qualify
hardware vendors that use Gate D or BSD, or
any other routing code that is "off-the-shelf".
This isn't some unique Procket feature, this is a
requirement set forth by the customers. Any
equipment vendor worth his weight needs to do the
same thing if they want to sell product.
DocGonzo 12/5/2012 | 12:16:06 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy Interesting but sort of underwhelming. While a lot of the things "done right" sound good the real proof will be in the exectution, delivery and support of the new systems. New code is exactly that and will take time to season for confident deployment in large networks. SP's are very concerned (paranoid) about downtime and any attributable to a new vendor will raise skepticism surrounding them.

In these times of tight finances most SP's will really scrutinize any expensive recommendation to introduce a new hardware and software platform into a sizable network. My guess is that Procket will get most of their market share from 1.)SP's that are not happy with Cisco and didn't view Juniper as a better solution 2.)SP's that want a new second provider (ala NTT/Verio) 3.)New deployments where the SP's can afford to risk a new vendor introduction. The question is how much will that market share and revenue be and is it enough.

I do seriously doubt that this is compelling enough to motivate any semi-satisified Cisco or Juniper customer to jump on the Procket bandwagon. I suspect that the 65% lower cost claim will be difficult to prove and therefore not make much of a difference in the long run. IMO, the only thing that will get SP's attention in a big way is to demonstrate dramatically improved uptime versus the incumbents. This will take time to prove out.

The real interesting point to me is where they go with licensing the code to other partners. Cisco tried this in the distant past and quickly abandoned it and Juniper has never shown any interest in it. If the the portable Procket code delivers good IP functionality and reliability, with the right partners it could become more of a threat to Cisco than Huawei.

Good Luck.

Doc
mu-law 12/5/2012 | 12:16:06 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy I'm surprised Dr. Li & co. aren't doing process replacement with checkpointing, etc. Although what this PR indicates seems to be an improvement wrt the old world, the technology certainly exists to do non-interruptive upgrades this way; I would think that would be the goal if one were to do a rewrite...

u
joe_average 12/5/2012 | 12:16:06 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy What a coincidence that both Procket and Caspian announce product at the same time! ;-)

It is also apparent that the Procket marketing team was more successful in getting the word out. A big LR article vs. only a mention in the news briefs is certainly a win for Procket.

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

I wish them both luck but can't see how either is going to make money in this terrible market.

BTW The Caspian news bulletin has a really insensitive comment from the CEO. He states how the product is such a huge accomplishment for the team, etc. He neglects to mention that he's just laid off 40% of them now that the job is complete. I'm sure the "displaced team members" would rather have been less successful and still have their jobs.
skeptic 12/5/2012 | 12:16:05 AM
re: Procket Gets Unstealthy
Caspian isn't announcing much of anything that
they have not announced before. I dont see
any detail about customers or trials.

Their flow-based adaptive router stuff is still,
IMO flawed and open to DOS attacks and
manipulation. Distributed computing is really
difficult to get right and the benefits are not
really clear. The routing table has to live
somewhere (one place) and no matter how you
distribute the rest, if the routing table is
lost, everything is gone.

I remember Caspian promising revenue and
customers "soon" at least a year ago. I remember
an article about them preparing for an IPO
long (maybe a year) before that. All
we got today (as far as I can see) is old
presentations re-done and new graphics on
the website.


Page 1 / 11   >   >>
HOME
Sign In
SEARCH
CLOSE
MORE
CLOSE