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Quarry Mines IP For Gold

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
7/8/2000

Quarry Technologies Inc. claims its iQ8000 IP edge switch will allow carriers to turn their IP backbones into money-making machines.

How? The Burlington, Mass.-based startup’s product, which won’t ship until next year, will sit between public and private networks, slicing IP pipes into increments that can be re-sold to enterprise customers in the form of secure virtual private network (VPN) services. The switch also will allow carriers to offer different classes of service over the same network, for different prices.

There’s more: the iQ8000 will also be “application aware,” Quarry claims. This means that it will be able to peer into traffic, on the fly, in order to identify and map individual applications to available network resources, and ensure that they meet customers’ quality of service (QOS) requirements.

It all sounds exciting, but it’s also too early to get carried away. In order to be successful, Quarry will have to overcome three problems: technology, politics, and competition.

Start with the technology. To date, products designed to enforce QOS on IP networks have been the networking equivalent of home gym equipment (bought with the best intentions, but ending up gathering dust in a corner). The fact is, for all the giddy hoopla over IP QOS add-ons, service providers simply have not deployed them.

The main problem is the sheer complexity of configuring and deploying QOS. “Many more QOS schemes have been developed than used. People have found it’s a lot simpler to throw bandwidth at the problem,” says Larry Lang, vice-president, service provider marketing group, at Cisco Systems Inc. “The emergence of technologies like DWDM means that the real shortage is not bandwidth, but smart people, and QoS requires some very smart people indeed,” he adds.

Quarry’s answer is its iQSMS management software, which is designed to shield service providers and their customers from the complexities of IP accessories like DiffServ and MPLS using simple GUI-based configuration tools.

Then there’s the issue of service provider politics. “To support QOS across different service providers’ networks would mean that they would have to agree to be liable for each other’s service level agreements,” points out Bob Larribeau, director of edge switching and routing at analyst house RHK. Will that ever happen? “The jury is still out,” he says.

Finally, there’s the competition (all of it). If Quarry’s story sounds familiar, it’s because a lot of other companies have already told it. All of the networking behemoths have VPN- and QOS-capable IP service provisioning products in their portfolios -- including Cisco, Lucent Technologies , and Nortel Networks. Then there are companies like Cosine Communications Inc. and Spring Tide Networks, who focus exclusively on the IP service provisioning space, and boast a significant first mover advantage over Quarry. Finally, a slew of startups have also recently entered the market, each boasting their own unique selling points, including Amber Networks Inc. , Atoga Systems, Campio Communications Inc., and Celox Networks. (For more information on these companies check out the following stories: Amber Illuminates Edge Product, Atoga Systems , and Campio Communications Inc.).

In other words, and regardless of its product’s capabilities, Quarry has its work cut out to win a share of this over-crowded market.

In its favor Quarry has lined up many of the requisites to deliver on its ambitious product -- including over $34 million in two rounds of funding, and 120 employees. Further, its chances of executing are improved by the presence on its staff of several high-speed routing experts from the former BBN (now Genuity Inc.), as well as Jean Hammond, one of the authors of the RMON2 application-layer remote monitoring standards.

And it's focusing on a potentially lucrative niche: application service providers (ASP), who will use its product to ensure that mission-critical IP applications can share the same pipe into the Internet as ho-hum traffic, and still get prioritized treatment, it says.

That might explain why Quarry’s story has been generally well received by analysts. “Quarry is aiming to give service providers the opportunity and the means to move beyond best-effort IP to offer value-added services that can widen their revenue streams,” says Larribeau of RHK. “The product fits well into the edge service space. It seems to support the right kinds of features to be competitive,” he adds.

-- Stephen Saunders, US Editor, Light Reading www.lightreading.com

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