Dubbed the WANport Edge Concentrator, the new box fits inside an IP service provider's point of presence (POP), eliminating the need to add extra line cards to edge routers.
It's a compelling strategy with a long-term question mark attached.
The immediate benefits are straightforward. The WANport sits in front of an edge router, grouping together circuits that would otherwise consume lots of expensive router ports. The result is savings in router chassis and WAN cards, a greater volume of traffic handled per router, and even better network redundancy and performance, Seranoa says.
Seranoa execs claim the WANport can save ISPs up to 75 percent on their present POP equipment costs. That's the price differential, they say, between a port on the WANport device and a port on a channelized T3 line card from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO).
What's more, buying a WANport means not having to buy extra line cards and chassis, Seranoa says, particularly ones that really aren't needed. "Routers are capable of forwarding more traffic than they're being offered," says Graham Pattison, Seranoa's new CEO (see Seranoa Hires CEO, Touts Betas).
How much more? Seranoa and other execs say the device gives edge routers the ability to handle five times more subscriber traffic than they do via their regular line cards. This is because the WANport aggregates multiple incoming subscriber lines via Gigabit Ethernet using the IEEE 802.1q VLAN protocol, and not via low-speed TDM channels, as many edge routers do.
The WANport also contains a network processor from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), which Seranoa claims offloads the "heavy lifting" involved in bringing together multiple lower-speed subscriber links via the multilink point-to-point protocol. Since processing PPP burdens the performance of edge routers, adding the WANport potentially improves router performance.
The WANport comes with enough capacity to handle 12 channelized T3 ports. It features dual outgoing Gigabit Ethernet ports, one of which can be configured as a failover port to a second edge router in the carrier's network. The initial WANport model costs $48,000.
Seranoa says it's got the WANport in trials with seven North American carriers.
So what's not to like? A potential cloud looming on Seranoa's horizon might be the displeasure of edge router vendors, particularly Cisco, which may perceive Seranoa as bashing its line cards or its approach to populating its chassis. Unless router vendors see a positive spin on Seranoa's solution, the spunky startup could face some unwanted pricing or product skirmishes with powerful players.
Still, that may not happen. After all, in today's market, vendors seem open to anything that stimulates carrier spending, including partnerships that hitherto seemed unlikely (see Lucent & Cisco: Together at Last).
Seranoa also may find its market limited eventually, particularly since its focus is fairly narrow and not extended as yet to the international market. But again, that focus may prove to be a strength, giving Seranoa a secure platform from which to reach farther.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading