Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router

With all the edge-router players out there, is there room for another one?

Timetra Networks thinks so. The company has been toiling in stealth since being founded in early 2000, but it recently dropped a few hints to Light Reading about what it's doing (hmmm, let's see, might it be... looking for funding?).

There are now about 30-plus companies with products in this space (see Taking Routing to the Edge). So what's the differentiator? According to Timetra, it's about delivering more services features with a new chip architecture -- one that uses programmable network processors in array to handle both IP routing and service-creation features.

Timetra President and CEO Basil Alwan calls this approach the "service edge router" that will take advantage of what he sees as a "deeper split" between core routing and edge routing. "The edge routers and core routers will further diverge," says Alwan.

What does he define as a "service edge router"? Its features include such things as MPLS, QOS (quality of service), broadband aggregation, Ethernet virtual private networks (VPNs), accounting and billing software, service diagnostics, and management. Oh, and plain old IP routing, too, of course.

This makes sense, considering there is mounting evidence that so-called service-creation boxes -- which aggregate and deploy services such as VPNs -- and edge routers are moving together anyway. At Supercomm last week, it became clear that providers of services boxes were aiming to put more routing features into their own products, while many of the edge-routing players were adding service-creation features (see Edge Routing Gets Service Friendly ).

The services players include such companies as CoSine Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: COSN), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) (through the SpringTide acquisition), Network Equipment Technologies Inc. (net.com) (NYSE: NWK), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) (through the Shasta acquisition).

The edge-router market is crowded with many players, including such large companies as Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK), and Unisphere Networks Inc. (see Juniper Nabs Unisphere for $740M). There's also a handful of startups like Laurel Networks Inc. and Allegro Networks Inc.

Some analysts question Timetra's ability to set itself apart from other startups in the sector.

"The market is pretty saturated, so it’s going to be tough for them, or any startup for that matter, to break in," says Kevin Mitchell, an analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. "Their product is at least a year away, and the market will only get tougher."

It may come down to whether Timetra can leapfrog existing edge routers on density and performance. While the product specifics are still under wraps, Timetra -- unsurprisingly -- claims its box will scale better, offer better density, and deliver higher performance than any other router on the market today.

Alwan says the key is in the array of network processors it uses to process and forward packets. Unlike application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which are used in many routers, these network processors are programmable.

The concept of using network processors in edge routing is nothing new. Several other vendors -- Alcatel, Allegro, and Celox Networks, to name just a few -- are using some sort of array of network processors in their devices.

In the past, off-the-shelf network processors have been criticized for not being able to perform as well as custom ASICs. But now much of that criticism has died down, says Frank Dzubeck, president and CEO of Communications Network Architects. Theoretically, programmable network processors can achieve the same performance as custom-built ASICs. And because they are developed on merchant silicon, they result in commercial products more quickly than do the custom-built ASICs.

The downside is that high-performance network processors at speeds of 10 Gbit/s and higher are still very expensive and will be for at least a year, says Dzubeck. For this reason, edge routers that use ASICs -- like Juniper's, Redback's, and Unisphere's -- could still have a leg up on startups using network-processor designs.

Both the CTO of Timetra, Mike Noll, and the vice president of hardware design, Ken Kutzler, were part of an early-stage startup called Treseq Inc., which was bought by Nortel in 1999. According to the Timetra Website, Treseq was one of the first companies to develop programmable network processors.

While Timetra may have a lot of expertise in network processor technology, it seems to be lacking in routing software expertise. In fact, six of its eight top executives worked in the enterprise switch division of Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) before coming to Timetra. Three of them, including Alwan, had been with Rapid City Communications, a Layer 3 Gigabit Ethernet switch startup that was bought by Bay Networks in 1997 (Nortel bought Bay Networks in 1998). None of them seems to have much experience with routing targeted at service providers.

Alwan says Timetra has built its BGP (border-gateway protocol) code from scratch and gotten other routing protocols off the shelf from third-party providers. He also says the company’s routing code is already testing in some large carrier backbones, although he wouldn’t say where.

Since it began in 2000, the company has raised a total of $50 million from three investors: Accel Partners, Redpoint Ventures, and a large "strategic partner," a public company that Timetra is not disclosing. Some wonder if Nortel may be bankrolling Timetra, considering that so much of the management is from there.

"Well, that would be a guess," says Alwan. "But we also have a few folks from Cisco and Extreme Networks here."

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, and Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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Iipoed 12/4/2012 | 10:15:55 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router Obviously the management will be the biggest problem for this startup.
Look who is running sales, female employees take cover.
IPIPIP 12/4/2012 | 10:15:54 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router Yeah, yeah - we heard all these pitch again and again before. Do people really care about all these "advanced services"?? Can someone just build a box that is simple, reliable and do not cost an arm and a leg please.
wilecoyote 12/4/2012 | 10:15:52 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router Yes there are real questions about this company. But Wagner at Accel and Dyal at Redpoint are very sharp guys (Wagner is the guy who put lipstick on the Amber pig and Nokia kissed it for $450M last summer).

Basil is very bright and very talented.

Rapid City became a business that has generated billions in revenues over the last few years for Bay/Nortel.

Bet on the jockeys, not the horse.
grateful photon 12/4/2012 | 10:15:51 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router
You can raise questions about any company, or anything for that matter. This team is composed of folks with solid track records in this business and technology. Basil is a leader, smart, and a real competitor who has previously built strong teams and delivered. I would expect the same result until shown different.

The hype is low because I suspect they are real and will let the gear do the talking.

gratefully yours....
Rockhead 12/4/2012 | 10:15:49 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router this company is entirely different from your standard hot-market-leftover-optical-this-or-that. the product is well thought out, solves a real problem, the technology is leaps ahead of current or future alternatives, and the team is A+.

market conditions suck in the carrier world, to be sure, and timetra must deal with that like everyone else. but based on everything i've seen, this company has a very good chance of succeeding despite the tough environment.
wilecoyote 12/4/2012 | 10:15:49 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router You know, you raise a good point: let the gear do the talking. One of the problems with startups is the customers don't trust them anymore. Naive network engineers got swept up in building their own careers by betting on "the sexy new box from Overhypednetworksystemsbuiltforclecs, Inc." Next thing you knew, the carriers had a bunch of junk they couldn't use and the startups were discredited.

Companies like Timetra and my personal favorite, Force10, that buck the trend and stay very quiet generally do so because they don't want others to notice what they're doing. What they're doing is significant.

I wish them well. Really for Tom Dyal who is one of the classiest guys in the VC business. Smart too.

Basil is a man with a plan, always has been. He will be a visible guy in the industry for many years is my prediction.
light-headed 12/4/2012 | 10:15:48 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router these guys are very good... and it is a real startup... very well run... low key is the way to go in the long run.
Iipoed 12/4/2012 | 10:15:47 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router How much of senior management's own $$ are being used? Sure like to know. It appears that hints that a major investor is out there are fishy. Extreme could not get rid of the people fast enough that now are in management position(s) at Timetra.

These new startups are hoping that they can bankroll their VCs dollars as long as possible while their senior management takes big salaries and promises their 18 hour a day engineers IPO visions.

All they really hope to accomplish isf to get bought by some idiotic major player so that Senior management can take their .10 per share options price and get$2.00 per share return. GREAT GIG if you can get it.

We really need to see more Foundrys, Extremes and Junipers out there where senior management really participated with their personal bank accounts.

Also it would be great if the VCs were using their own dollars as well for change.

Iipoed 12/4/2012 | 10:15:45 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router Light-headed, you are either senior management or you must be a VC. To say I need therapy makes no sense. My post is reality. When the senior people at a company have their own nest egg in jeopardy and are willing to commit these dollars to the success of their product and people it shows me something.

I certainly know first hand having been apart of one of the real successful IPOs and with my own $$$ at risk.

Bottom line is holding those with responsibility financially accountable for the overall success.

Of course since my responsibility was sales and most on these forums are engineers we do have difficulty communicating at times. Sales states the obvious.
light-headed 12/4/2012 | 10:15:45 PM
re: Timetra Trumpets Its Edge Router is it just me or does that lipoed guy need some serious therapy???

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