Optical/IP Networks

Redback’s Siara Box Enters Trials

LAS VEGAS, NV -- Redback Networks Inc. http://www.redback.com is half way to completing the development of the ASICs it acquired when it bought Siara Systems, Light Reading has learned.

Rumors that Siara’s ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) don’t work are unfounded, and a beta version of the product is now being tested by three carriers, according to a Light Reading source.

That’s significant news. Ever since Redback bought Siara for $4.3 billion, it has been dogged by rumors of ASIC problems. The industry scuttlebutt had it that the product would not ship until 2001.

However, according to a source close to the customer trials, Siara is half way to completing its ASIC development. Siara is said to be working on six ASICS. Three handle TDM functions, the rest perform packet processing. The source says that Siara has completed three of the ASICs already, and has beta versions of the product incorporating the silicon in trials with three service providers – one of which is Qwest http://www.qwest.com.

The description of the ASICs (three for TDM, three for packet processes) also provides a clue as to the function that the product will serve in carrier networks. Originally, Siara positioned it as a God box –- with a slew of IP, ATM, DWDM, and Sonet capabilities. It now appears that Siara is focusing on IP over Sonet.

Progress on its ASICs is good news for Redback, but it could be extremely bad news for its many competitors in the multi-service provisioning platform market (see Sonet Goes POP).

Many of them, including Chromatis Networks Inc.http://www.chromatis.com and Geyser Networks Inc. http://www.geysernetworks.com, are basing their products on FPGA (field programmable gate arrays) rather than harder to develop ASICs. FPGAs offer faster time to market, but provide lower levels of performance than ASIC-based products. By putting so much of its products’ functionality into custom silicon, Redback should be able to trounce its FPGA competition in terms of performance.

Redback declined to comment.

By Stephen Saunders, US Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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