Optical/IP Networks

Tenor Builds A Network Toll Booth

These features (traffic recognition, QoS enforcement, metering) are complemented by a service provisioning software suite that allows carriers to remotely set up and tear down connections, or make modifications to service classes, from a network management console.

Carriers can use the TN250G's smarts to refine the raw capacity afforded by DWDM, offering their customers contracts that define multiple service classes, for which the carriers can charge different tariffs. That could also allow ISPs do away with all-you-can-eat, 'free lunch' Internet access, by allowing them and to charge tiered prices for different levels of Internet QoS.

It all sounds great, but competitors say Tenor may have bitten off more than it can chew. "It's hard to say what Tenor will deliver, because nobody's touched [the switch] yet," says Larry Lang, vice-president, service provider marketing group, at Cisco Systems Inc. (http://www.cisco.com). "On paper, it does everything, but in practice, such all-in-one hybrids are very hard for startups, because they must be industry-leading on every capability or the value proposition collapses."

The TN250G will face competition from two other classes of equipment. First: terabit and multi-gigabit routers from vendors like Cisco, Juniper Networks Inc. (http://www.juniper.net/) and Pluris Inc. (http://www.pluris.com). Second: Sonet MSPPs (seeSonet Goes POP). Each type of equipment is installed in the same place as the Tenor box: the CO, or POP. And, like Tenor, the vendors selling routers and MSPPs are making a big noise about their products' service-provisioning skills. On paper, though, none of them appear to match Tenor for high-speed metering capabilities.

Tenor says its product will complement these other equipment classes-not compete with them. "Siara [a Sonet MSPP startup] is one of our closest competitors, but it isn't a direct competitor," says Sean T. Welch, vice president of marketing and sales at Tenor. He says the TN250G could be installed in a CO or mega-POP to aggregate traffic from multiple Siara MSPPs. Similarly, Welch claims that carriers will install the TN250G alongside terabit routers, such as Juniper's, in order to add metering facilities to their networks.

One thing is certain: Carriers won't be able to install the Tenor box instead of routers-at least initially. That's because in its first release the device won't ship with support for high-end router functions like BGP (border gateway protocol). "We'll add full IP routing later, when it becomes necessary," says Welch. "We recognize that it's a non-trivial task."

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