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Optical/IP

Redback Sharpens SmartEdge

ATLANTA -- Supercomm 2003 -- In a bid to be a bigger player in one of the hottest markets, Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) announced today that it has upgraded its SmartEdge 800 routing platform by adding broadband aggregation capabilities. The new product is named the SmartEdge Service Gateway.

The fact that Redback chose to upgrade its routing platform instead of its existing SMS broadband aggregation device should come as little surprise. As more and more vendors add B-RAS (Broadband Remote Access Server) functionality to edge routing platforms and IP service switches, Redback’s older SMS (Subscriber Management System) platform has fallen behind the competition in terms of both performance and functionality.

What’s more, as carriers begin offering business DSL services, they require edge routing products that can handle both T1 aggregation and DSL aggregation and subscriber management.

“It’s become a necessary feature for an edge router,” says Kevin Mitchell, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. “I also think this will help clarify Redback’s strategy. The SMS can be sold for residential services, while the SmartEdge routers can now be sold for business applications.”

Using its routing platform, the company has improved its performance considerably. The new Service Gateway 800, which is in fact a B-RAS-enabled SmartEdge 800 router, supports 240-Gbit/s worth of routing capacity, versus the 84-Gbit/s provided in the SMS.

The additional features on the SmartEdge router are designed to bring it up to par with competitors on B-RAS functionality. In a recent Light Reading Insider product survey on the B-RAS market, Redback's products were found wanting in broadband aggregation features (see Getting a Bead on B-RAS ). Products from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) all came out on top of Redback's products in terms of broadband aggregation features.

The move to migrate broadband subscriber functionality to the routing products raises more questions about the SMS. Deployed in over 500 carriers in 50 countries, including the biggest names in telecom, like SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), the SMS once accounted for the bulk of Redback's revenue. Redback now appears to be migrating more aggressively to a router model.

But Shailesh Shukla, vice president of marketing and business development for Redback, says there is plenty of life left in the SMS.

“We will continue to invest in keeping the SMS up to date with higher-performance line cards,” says Shukla. “We’re encouraging customers to upgrade their SMS 10000s to avoid a forklift upgrade.”

Even with improvements to the SmartEdge router, Redback will still have a tough battle ahead, especially against such competitors as Juniper, which has steadily seized market share in the broadband aggregation market over the past year and a half, often at the expense of Redback. While Redback has won SMS business with many of the North American carriers, it has lagged behind in international deployments, where most growth is occurring.

“I wouldn’t say that Juniper has taken market share from us,” says Shukla. “Most of the growth in DSL deployment has been in Asia and Europe. Unfortunately for us, Juniper has inroads in both Deutsche Telecom and NTT, two of the largest carriers in these regions.”

Shukla hopes that adding broadband aggregation to the SmartEdge router will help the company compete for these newer accounts. The company has also added a scaled-down version of the SmartEdge 800, called the SmartEdge 400, which should also help to boost sales.

Aside from the current competition, the company will also face new enhanced products from Cisco, which is also expected to make a big B-RAS announcement at Supercomm today (see Cisco Beefing Up the B-RAS Story).

Analysts no longer track B-RAS as a separate product category. Instead, they include it among market data for edge routers and IP service switches. Cisco dominates the edge switching market with about 65 percent market share in the first quarter of 2003, according to Infonetics Research Inc.. Juniper had about 21 percent, and Redback came in third with about 7 percent.

Newcomers are also adding B-RAS functionality to their platforms. Laurel Networks Inc., an edge routing startups, recently announced that it is adding the functionality to its ST200 edge router (see Laurel Joins B-RAS Pack).

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For extensive and up-to-date coverage of this week’s Supercomm tradeshow, visit Light Reading's Supercomm Preview Site.

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