Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing

Zeugma Systems Inc. comes out of hiding today to talk about an edge router that, it says, has been crafted to help carriers produce new services more quickly -- an idea that's been popular with router vendors lately.

Built around a development team that helped create the Redback Networks Inc. SmartEdge router, Zeugma was named after an ancient Mesopotamian city that, even after being conquered by the Roman Empire, held its status as a key trading hub.

Zeugma the company wants its technology to be associated with transport and wealth generation, just like the city. Whether it wants to get invaded is less certain.

"Conquered by Rome? It may be the will of God," CEO Andrew Harries says. (He's joking, folks.)

The Zeugma Services Node (ZSN) that's debuting today is an edge router, as expected. (See Zeugma Gets $13.5M for Mystery Box and Stealthy Zeugma Pockets $22.5M.)

What's different is that its card slots can accommodate computing blades instead of routing blades, if desired. The 14-slot version of the ZSN (there's a six-slot version, too) has just 12 available slots, so there's a tradeoff: Every computing card takes one slot away from routing, and vice-versa. It's possible for the ZSN to pack 720 Gbit/s worth of I/O ports, or 520,000 Dhrystone MIPS of computing capacity, but not both.

The box has a switching capacity of 240 Gbit/s, using the usual method of counting both ingress and egress traffic. Zeugma expects to increase this to match the I/O capacity next year.

That computing power creates a "sandbox," as Zeugma calls it, for application building. It also lets the router host policy management functions that normally sit on servers.

This means applications can tap routing information. For example, the router can tell if a particular video stream isn't getting the bandwidth it needs, or it can decline a request to start a video stream if it knows the bandwidth isn't there.

It also means that when new services arise, the carrier can develop them (or have a software company develop them) directly on the router, rather than waiting for a router vendor to craft a new blade. Zeugma claims this can speed up the development process.

"Carrier-grade reliability and restoration have tended to be at odds with the dynamism and rapid service deployment of high-performance computing," Harries says.

The kinds of services Zeugma has in mind include VOIP quality monitoring, advert insertion for IPTV, or guaranteed bandwidth set aside for video. But others are likely to spring up unpredictably, leaving telcos prone to getting beaten to market by nimbler competitors, including Web companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG).

That's leading telcos to seek out ways to get applications built more quickly.

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fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:40:12 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing Zeugma is joining the crowded ranks of the charlatans peddling snake oil upon an unfriendly world. This time they're rating the box in terms of "DMIPS", as if fixed-point arithmetic were a meaningful metric, and in port capacity, though it can't all be running at once. Big deal.

This isn't an "edge router". It's all about Deep Packet Inspection, the ability to blatantly violate Network Privacy. They can change the content of web pages you're viewing ("ad insertion"), or block you from viewing selected pages, or for that matter change the content of selected pages (why the hell not; if they can insert an ad, why can't they change the content of NYTimes.com to include Ann Coulter instead of Paul Krugman?)

So far there's no law against this, but as with other DPI, it won't fly in a competitive market. Violating the privacy of users' communications like this should be a crime.

I am not with the hard-core "all packets must be treated the same" neutrality fanatics who want ISPs to carry spam and jabber alike, but merely having a few types of differentiated flows doesn't need this kind of horsepower. It only pays off if it does wiretapping, spying, and content distortion.
catalyst 12/5/2012 | 3:40:11 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing "Every computing card takes one slot away from routing, and vice-versa."

They can solve the problem of losing the slot with virtualization, which can provide two containers (one for computing environment and another for routing" on the same processor. They get to keep the same overall routing capacity...sweat!


fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:40:10 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing The LR article doesn't have as much detail as the one in Converge Digest, which notes:

To accomplish this, Zeugma is introducing an Open Application Sandbox (OAS) with APIs that give applications running on its platform the ability to continuously and dynamically modify the behavior of underlying deep packet inspection (DPI) functions and the dynamic bandwidth manager. This allows, for example, finely-targeted ad insertion, QOS-enhanced over the top (OTT) video, content and URL filtering, enhanced VOIP, active quality of experience (QOE) monitoring, and many other applications.

That's not VoD ad insertion (which doesn't need that kind of "DMIPS" horsepower). It's about letting network operators cook up ever-more-invasive forms of DPI, such as "content and URL filtering". And if you can insert ads, you can filter out articles and insert faux text too. Why the hell not?

Come to think of it, this might be just the thing for M2Z's "family friendly" wireless network proposal, that is waking up at the FCC again.
FatherTime 12/5/2012 | 3:40:10 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing You could have stopped reading at this line. It speaks for itself. Oye.

>> ...NYTimes.com to include Ann Coulter instead of Paul Krugman?)
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:40:10 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing Zeugma doesn't want to be just a DPI box. But yes, I'll concede they could be used that way. Probably an awfully expensive way to go about that, though.

Can't say I share your opinion that the box is only good for spying. As for outright content distortion -- yeah, there were cases of ISPs overlaying ads, I suppose, but to actually all-out change the content of a Web site? Carriers would be pretty dumb to try that.
miaroper 12/5/2012 | 3:40:06 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing ATCA has the possibility to load computing blades or switching, routing or storage blades, but that has not lead to a wealth of service providers getting all creative (yet). A few vendors have put together some initial products, but the ramp up has not been as dramatic as anticipated. So what makes Zuegma think it can be the catalyst ?

Who will develop applications on this presumably proprietary platform ? Sounds like Facebook all over again, hopefully they can find their Slide.com and iRock partners...
Prizm 12/5/2012 | 3:40:06 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing "They get to keep the same overall routing capacity...sweat!"

I hope that's a typo! I think you meant "sweet".
catalyst 12/5/2012 | 3:40:05 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing ThatGÇÖs right 'sweet' not sweat :-(

Thanks for the correction.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:40:04 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing Conservatives rail against DPI, too. Just ask the Christian Coalition.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:40:04 PM
re: Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing It depends on what you think the purpose of ATCA is.

A cynical view:
ATCA has little to do with service providers. It's about chip and board manufacturers wanting telecom equipment vendors to use fewer proprietary parts. For that to happen, they need the equipment vendors to embrace greater homogeneity (aka open standards).

So, just because many *equipment* vendors haven't embaraced ATCA -- that doesn't mean *carriers* won't like having Zeugma's router around.

As for who will develop applications -- now there, you've got a point. Carriers will no doubt try some of it themselves. But Zeugma really takes off if a third-party applications market arises.
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