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Routing

Redback Beefs Up Its Router

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) subsidiary Redback Networks Inc. is launching its most ambitious edge router yet, hoping a combination of increased density and subscriber-related features will give it an advantage over rivals Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).

The SmartEdge 1200, announced today and set for general availability in August, is Redback's highest-density box, with 480 Gbit/s of switching capacity (that is, 240 Gigabit Ethernet feeds supported) in one fourth of a telecom rack. On a full rack basis, that appears to outdo most edge platforms on the market, with Juniper's MX960 being the notable exception. (See Redback Adds SmartEdge 1200 and Juniper Antes Up on Ethernet (Finally).)

Table 1: Density Wars
Company Platform Capacity* Size
Alcatel-Lucent 7750 SR-12 400 Gbit/s 1/3 rack
Cisco 7613 720 Gbit/s 1/2 rack
Cisco 12810 800 Gbit/s 1/2 rack
Juniper M120 256 Gbit/s 1/4 rack
Juniper MX960 960 Gbit/s 1/3 rack
Redback SE 1200 480 Gbit/s 1/4 rack
Source: Company literature
* Full duplex. That is, divide by 2 to get the number of simultaneous Gigabit Ethernets supported.


Equally dramatic is the laundry list of functions integrated. The box includes: security features such as intrusion detection, IPSec, and a firewall; a session border controller; and deep packet inspection capabilities for detecting peer-to-peer traffic. The box also includes some mobility features -- along the lines of fixed/mobile convergence --- that Redback isn't fully disclosing yet.

This has all been added to a platform that already includes Ethernet aggregation and the functions of a broadband remote access server (B-RAS). The SE 1200 uses the same operating system as other SmartEdge boxes and can use the same blades as well.

The new release shows that Redback isn't stagnating after its acquisition by Ericsson, which was completed early this year. (See Ericsson Offers $2.1B for Redback , IPTV Drives Ericsson to Redback, and Ericsson Completes Offer.)

So far, Ericsson has made good on keeping Redback's name alive and has begun intertwining its engineering efforts with that of the IP equipment firm. Those unspecified mobility functions stem from Ericsson expertise, for instance.

"It's a great step for Redback and a big win for Ericsson -- proof that Ericsson hasn't slowed them down," says Eve Griliches, an analyst with IDC .

Redback says the SE 1200 is a reaction to the number of applications that now rely on IP. Routers are being tasked to handle more jobs at once -- security, VOIP, the throttling-down of P2P flows -- and in that complexity, Redback thinks it sees a chance to outdo the industry's giants.

"It opens up the largest IP services market we've ever seen," says Arpit Joshipura, Redback's vice president of product management.

The concept isn't lost on other companies. Session border controllers, for example, are finding their way into Cisco and Juniper routers, arguably siphoning some of the market from Acme Packet Inc. (Nasdaq: APKT) and Veraz Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: VRAZ). (See Cisco Integrates Session Control and Juniper Kills Its Session Controllers.)

Griliches points out that Redback's melting pot of features is reminiscent of CoSine Communications, which also touted feature integration with its IP-based subscription management box. But it didn't work out, and CoSine eventually became better known for its agonizingly slow shutdown. (See CoSine Terminates Merger Agreement, CoSine Seeks New Blood, and Fortinet Scoops Up CoSine IP.)

CoSine's main problem was that its box slowed down if all the features got turned on, Griliches says. By contrast, Redback is claiming that the SE 1200's functions, such as security and P2P detection, will run at 10 Gbit/s without degrading the performance of the router.

"All those features are processor and memory hogs, but Redback made sure there were separate ASICs, processors, and memory carved out for each of them," IDC's Griliches says. "It also made sure each of those features happen in a certain order in the router. It's making sure that where the stuff gets processed isn't a pull on the overall system processing."

One key point is that Redback doesn't use up router slots for most of these features -- its session border controller, for example, sits on the card that handles all control-plane functions. Security and P2P detection is housed on a separate blade, and once, for instance, a P2P flow is detected, the system can forward all other packets in that flow to the appropriate linecard.

Even bypassing the features, the raw density of the box is impressive and useful to carriers, analysts say. The new box gives Redback "a huge speed and feed argument," says Andy Buss of Canalys.com Ltd.

In addition to the increased capacity, the SE 1200 will handle eight times the subscribers of its predecessor, the SE 800 -- that is, more than 500,000 subscribers, compared with 48,000 for the older box, says Redback's Joshipura. "Subscriber" in this case refers to individual services, so that one busy household running video, VOIP, and P2P downloading all at once would count as several "subscribers" inside the router.

The SE 1200 is based on a new generation of Redback-designed ASICs. New I/O cards being built for the box include one with four ports of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, and another for 20 lines of Gigabit Ethernet. The box has 12 slots for such cards and another two reserved for controller cards.

Redback says Taiwan's national carrier Chunghwa Telecom Co. Ltd. (NYSE: CHT), which has already deployed the SE 800, will be the first operator to use the new platform. (See Chunghwa Deploys Redback Gear .)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:07:35 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router This is gonna sound more sarcastic than its meant to, but ....... If the Redback box actually works, doesn't that imply they aren't using CoSine's intellectual property?

More seriously: The idea of mashing all these features together isn't new or patentable. The question is whether it's a good idea. Anybody have an opinion on that?
WillLiteFiber4Food 12/5/2012 | 3:07:35 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router ... if I remember correctly, a number of the ex-CoSine engineers ended up landing at RedBack. Is it just a coincidence that CoSine like features are now showing up in RedBack's products? Was CoSine onto something, but they were just too far ahead of the curve? Should Fortinet be filing IP infrigment claims?
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:07:34 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router The RFC chook referred to is here:

http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc192...
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:07:34 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router chook says:
"---
Number 5 of the 12 Networking Truths: (RFC1925)
-----------------------------------------------"
That was good. Can you point us to the other 11?

Separately, perhaps this means that complex networks are a bad idea. If it is bad to put X functions on one box, isn't it worse to put one on each of X boxes?
chook0 12/5/2012 | 3:07:34 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router "More seriously: The idea of mashing all these features together isn't new or patentable. The question is whether it's a good idea. Anybody have an opinion on that?"

---
Number 5 of the 12 Networking Truths: (RFC1925)
-----------------------------------------------

(5) It is always possible to agglutenate multiple separate problems into a single complex interdependent solution. In most cases this is a bad idea.
-------------------
rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 3:07:33 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router (5) It is always possible to agglutinate multiple separate problems into a single complex interdependent solution. In most cases this is a bad idea.

While I can't speak to the specifics of this device I think these types of statements are nearly useless. They give little insights towards solving real world problems, most of which are complex.

What defines a problem as separate? Is a hybrid car or the human body agglutinating problems by using multiple energy stores to create motion, i.e. should the motion be sub classified so that the "solutions" can be kept orthogonal? Defining the problem as converting energy to motion seems overly broad to a reductionist.

Is a PC be considered as agglutinating multiple problems into one complex solution? Or compare windows vs. unix where windows tightly integrated separate solutions and easily won market share over the "independent" solutions presented by unix.

A network acting as a platform is a lot more complex than one acting as a medium for a specific problem and hence a single application. Paying for such a platform is even more complex.

So these types of statements really aren't very helpful in my opinion. If one sees problems in the solution presented it would better to point them out specifically rather than fall back on silly statements advocating blind reductionism.
light-headed 12/5/2012 | 3:07:32 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router Customers are asking for these features (Firewall/Security, DPI, SBC, etc.) in an edge router because it makes sense to apply these in one device at the edge where they face the customer/subscriber.

If you can offer these features and they work fairly well and have good performance then it is of value. This is easier said than done and it remains to be seen how well redback can do this when the SE with PPA2 cannot even forward minimum sized ethernet packets at anywhere near linerate 10 Gigabit.

These high-touch features that cannot be baked into ASIC/NPU are the ones that cause heartburn. They require a lot of general processing power. The more that can be put into silicon the better.
GreenBall 12/5/2012 | 3:07:32 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router On the link bellow is the heritage list of the patents Fortinet got by buying Cosine IP:
http://www.fortinet.com/news/p...
Mostly they are related to the Virtual Routers...
So, the infringement in tha case applies to all vendor using Virtual Routers like Juniper, Cisco ...
xornix 12/5/2012 | 3:07:31 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router "Customers are asking for these features (Firewall/Security, DPI, SBC, etc.) in an edge router because it makes sense to apply these in one device at the edge where they face the customer/subscriber."

I think the boxes facing the customer are rather the so called "IP" DSLAM/OLT of this world. Actually, you may envision quite a lot of traffic being switched before the "edge router" (whatever it means) and not even flowing through it.

The only place where you are really sure to get all customer traffic is the first physical connection point, namely the DSLAM/OLT.

Obviously, the economic equation then changes with a lighter loads on a much higher number of nodes.

Regards
mr zippy 12/5/2012 | 3:07:31 PM
re: Redback Beefs Up Its Router More seriously: The idea of mashing all these features together isn't new or patentable. The question is whether it's a good idea. Anybody have an opinion on that?

"Complex = more things that can break", Anonymous, slashdot.org
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