Unisphere Sharpens Its Edge
On Monday at Supercomm, the company will officially unveil the ERX 1440, which packs more overall capacity than its smaller cousin, the ERX 1400. Instead of 10 Gbit/s of switch-fabric capacity, the ERX 1440 provides up to 40 Gbit/s. The new ERX product will also include features that help carriers build IP-based data services such as virtual private networking (VPN) and subscriber management.
More importantly, the company is beefing up the density of its entire line of routing products. Because edge routers are used by service providers to collect and route customer data connections on the edge of the telecom network, density is a crucial feature that allows service providers to pack more data customers into a single box.
Unisphere will be adding special optical line cards that increase the density of the product. These include channelized optical modules that can segment traffic down to the DS0 (64 kbit/s) level, allowing the routing platform to pack in more than 96,000 DS0s per rack. The product will also be able to aggregate 12,000 T1 (1.5 Mbit/s) lines.
The density of the Unisphere box compares favorably to that of products from other carriers, according to Ron Westfall, a principal analyst with Current Analysis. Ericsson AB's (Nasdaq: ERICY) edge router only aggregates about 3000 T1s; the 10,000 series router from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) aggregates about 6,000; and Amber Networks Inc.'s edge-routing product aggregates 10,000 T1 lines, according to Westfall.
“The aggregation capacity is impressive, but Unisphere also offers a lot of IP service functionality,” says Westfall. “Unisphere is in better shape than some others, especially those startups that haven’t announced any customers yet.”
Unisphere's current customers agree that the increased capacity and the ability to aggregate more traffic makes for an important improvement over its older product.
“With the 1400, we were limited in terms of how many customer connections we could terminate,” says Henry Clark, senior network architect with XO Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: XOXO). “If we go with the 1440, we should be able to handle increased volume with fewer boxes.”
Unisphere has been successful in the edge router market at a time when others have struggled. In a recent Infonetics Research Inc. report, it was the only company, other than Cisco, that increased its market share in the first quarter of 2001 (see Edge Router Market in Chaos). The company’s international presence played a major role in boosting its market share. But analysts agree that it isn’t just the international sales channel of its parent, Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE), that has put Unisphere in a strong position: It is also the product offering. The addition of the new product should help to continue that momentum.
“Unipshere has been able to do well when others haven’t,” says Westfall. “The addition of the 1440 continues to show that the company can execute to maintain its position in the edge market.”
XO Communications has been using Unisphere’s ERX 1400 since 1999. The service provider has also been using Cisco routers in its IP backbone, but Clark says the company went with the Unisphere solution instead of using what Cisco offered at the time. Why? He gives three reasons. One: Unisphere offered IP routing, including all pertinent protocols like OSPF and BGP4. Two: It offered IP services like VPNs, which the provider could use to create new services. And three: It did all of this at line rate.
“Cisco didn’t offer the quality solution for the edge that we needed,” he says. “Their solution didn’t scale in terms of the number of interfaces we needed.”
The ERX 1440 will be generally available in September 2001.
- Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
For more information on Supercomm 2001, please visit the Light Reading Supercomm 2001 Preview Site.