Rocky Times For Redback?

Redback’s biggest potential problem is that its subscriber management systems, which are used to aggregate DSL and other copper technologies in the CO (central office) or POP (point of presence), are based on general-purpose PC processor technology. That goes both for its existing products, the SMS 1000 and the SMS 1800, and its recently announced SMS 10000 platform (see Redback Multiplies By Ten ).

Specifically, the SMS 1000 and 1800 were built using Intel Pentium processors, whereas the SMS 10000 uses up to 48 PowerPC CPUs per chassis, Light Reading has learned. (Redback has converted its subscriber management software to run on the new CPUs).

Redback’s decision to stick with a PC-based architecture for its new chunky-look platform has surprised some. “[PC-based products] are designed for servicing consumers’ low-speed dial-up traffic, not offering high-performance broadband connectivity to businesses,” says Mielke.

Many startups use general-purpose PC silicon or off the shelf FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) for their first product because it lets them develop and ship a debut offering quickly – giving them time to market advantages. However, general-purpose silicon has a well-earned rep for delivering puny performance – that’s why it’s standard MO for companies to develop much faster ASICs (application specific integrated circuits) for their second generation of equipment.

Not surprisingly, Redback’s competitors are having a field day with its decision to stick with a PC architecture. “It means that their hardware platform remains a big weakness for them. It’s the area that their customers complain the most about,” says Larry Lang, vice-president, service provider marketing group, at Cisco Systems Inc. (http://www.cisco.com).

One major Redback account may have done more than complain. “I hear UUNET is throwing them out,” says Mielke of Treillage Network Strategies. UUNET declined to comment. Redback says it is ‘not aware of an issue’ with UUNET.

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