Turin Turns Up



SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Just when you thought the multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP) market couldn't get any more interesting (or crowded), a company called Turin Networks Inc. has appeared -- ta daaa!-- seemingly out of nowhere, with three new boxes and some early interest from at least one RBOC and two IXCs (see Report: Multiservice Is In).

Turin chose the lacklustre Supernet show here in Santa Clara this week to take the shroud off of its Traverse product family, which combines a Sonet add/drop multiplexer, a digital crossconnect, and edge switching capabilities. The product family is made up of the Traverse 2000, a 20-slot system for the metro core or high capacity metro edge; the Traverse 1600, a 16-slot system for metro access to metro edge applications; and the Traverse 600, a six-slot system designed to sit in office buildings or on the metro access ring.

Turin says that by using its platform, service providers can deliver OC3 to OC192 Sonet, DS1, DS3, and gigabit Ethernet services from the same box.

The question is: where did they suddenly appear from? The Petaluma-based company was actually founded at the end of 1999. Since then, its team has been keeping its collective head down, developing a product that "doesn't take any shortcuts on Sonet or Ethernet features," says Richard Stanfield, the company's cofounder and VP of sales.

Stanfield claims Turin's slow but steady R&D approach has resulted in a device that supports a full slate of Sonet and Ethernet capabilities and standards -- including Unidirectional Path Switched Ring, Bidirectional Line Switched Ring, Automatic Protection Switching, ITU G.707 virtual concatenation, ITU X.86 Ethernet over Sonet... yadda yadda yadda (full details are available on the vendor's Website).

He says that Turin's competitors, the ones that brought product to market more quickly, had to sacrifice functionality to do so -- and are passing off Sonet-lite and Ethernet-lite.

An early win with an RBOC helped shape Turin's outlook on product development. "It's all about being compliant with [an incumbent carrier's] operational model," says Steve West, VP of systems and architecture. "They need new products that will dovetail with what they've already got."

Turin also sees itself in a good position because it built its own switching fabric from scratch, using home-grown ASICs, says Stanfield. "You cannot survive by using merchant silicon," he contends. "You just can't."

Turin's main competitors include Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) ONS 15454 platform, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC)'s Flashwave 4500 box, Nortel Networks Corp.'s (NYSE/Toronto: NT) Metro 3500 box, as well as startups such as Ocular Networks (now part of Tellabs Inc. [Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA]) and Metro-Optix Inc., though Stanfield adds that he considers Metro-Optix a competitor less because of its product's capabilities than because of its new CEO (see Metro-Optix Drafts New CEO).

Though the company is one of the last in this space to rear its head, its story is more compelling than several that have come before it. Companies like Geyser Networks and Mayan Networks paid the price for rushing to market with nouveaux Sonet/Ethernet platforms that scrimped on features -- especially after their target market (startup local exchange carriers, or "cheap-LECs") started dropping like flies.

Turin claims the shakeout among next-gen Sonet players has worked in its favor. "The bubble burst and cleared the market out nicely. Before, there were too many players. Customers were confused," says Stanfield.

Still, some observers point out that Turin will face a tough time displacing existing equipment from other vendors in carrier networks. "If you are a startup, you need to be orders of magnitude better than the incumbent [equipment provider]. The incumbent just has to be as good as you, and they will keep the business," says Romulus Pereira, president and chief executive officer of Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN).

The company is backed by $72 million in venture capital from investors, including Sequoia Capital, Baker Capital Corp., Van Wagoner Capital Management, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Pivotal Asset Management, Advanced Fibre Communications Inc. (AFC) (Nasdaq: AFCI), and several individuals, such as Don Green, AFC's chairman.

The company isn't pulling in revenue from its trial customers yet but says it has landed several small deals with independent telephone companies that aren't part of the Bell System. Such phone companies usually serve rural areas, are funded by their respective states, and are more willing to check out new technology than are larger phone companies. "They're not worried about someone taking away their business. They're worried about looking better and providing better service than the RBOCs," says Stanfield.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, and Stephen Saunders, Founding Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com
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