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WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
5/18/2001

Startup WaveSmith Networks Inc. hopes to give heavyweight telecom equipment manufacturers something to chew on next Monday when it announces details of its first products: the DN4100 and DN2100.

The boxes aim to help incumbent carriers address a big problem: how to deal with a capacity crisis in their existing ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) networks without buying gear that might become obsolete when -- and if -- MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) becomes a viable alternative.

WaveSmith’s solution looks impressive on paper. Its boxes pack a huge amount of switching capacity into a tiny space and give carriers a lot of flexibility in deciding when and where to shift services onto MPLS infrastructure.

WaveSmith also claims that its software will avoid a recurrence of recent outages on ATM backbones (see In Qwest Outage, ATM Takes Some Heat) and will tie in seamlessly with existing signaling and management systems.

It all sounds too good to be true, according to Geoff Bennett, director of technology at Marconi Communications PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI), an established manufacturer of this type of gear. Bennett finds it hard to believe that a small startup like Wavesmith could have done so much in so little time with limited resources .

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Three carriers -- among them Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Genuity Inc. (Nasdaq: GENU) -- will start testing WaveSmith’s gear in their labs at the end of May, according to Chad Dunn, WaveSmith’s director of product management. First customer shipments are scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

Capacity Crisis

One thing's for sure. Regional Bell operating companies (RBOCs) and other incumbent carriers are in desperate need of equipment like WaveSmith's.

Right now, most of them rely on ATM networks to carry money-spinning services such as leased lines, frame relay, and telephony. A significant proportion of them are using Cascade’s switch, the CBX500 from Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), to handle this traffic (see WaveSmith Targets Cascade Switch).

The CBX500 is beginning to show its age. A particular problem is that it can’t support sufficient virtual circuits to keep pace with the rollout of DSL (digital subscriber line) connections, which typically require a couple of ATM virtual circuits apiece. As a result, carriers need to upgrade their switches and are looking for something that’ll work in an ATM or MPLS environment so they can shift from one to the other at their own pace.

Enter WaveSmith. It’s developed a couple of chassis and a set of modules that address these requirements. The DN4100 accommodates five modules and is 7 inches high, while the DN2100 accommodates three modules and is 3.5 inches high. Each has a switching capacity of 30 Gbit/s.

Three of WaveSmith’s modules are used for handling different types of traffic -- ATM, frame relay, and IP/MPLS. Each one can be equipped with a single OC48c (2.5 Gbit/s) port, four OC12 (622 Mbit/s) ports, 16 OC3 (155 Mbit/s) ports, or 32 DS3/E3 (45/34 Mbit/s) ports. As the chassis backplane is protocol agnostic, carriers can shift from ATM to IP/MPLS by simply swapping modules.

A fourth module enables multiple chassis to be linked together using optics so that they operate as one large switch. Eventually, WaveSmith expects to offer aggregate switching capacities of up to 320 Gbit/s. Right now, however, only five chassis can be linked together. “The sweet spot is 40 to 150 Gbit/s,” says Dunn.

High-speed serial connections are used, so the chassis can be separated by distances of up to 50 feet. In this way, they can be tucked into small spaces in different racks that might otherwise be wasted.

WaveSmith’s boxes pack a big punch. A fully populated DN4100 is one fifth the size of Lucent’s CBX500, uses one tenth the power, and has six times the switching capacity, according to Dunn.

A single module can handle 128,000 virtual connections, and a complete assembly can handle 1.92 million. Equally important, each module can set up and tear down 5,000 calls a second. This ensures rapid rerouting of traffic around failures, Dunn adds.

Marconi says it can match this performance, but only because it’s spent many man-decades developing and refining its own ATM software stack. Startups like WaveSmith would almost certainly buy an off-the-shelf ATM stack rather than develop their own -- and such stacks couldn’t deliver anything like these figures, according to Bennett.

WaveSmith’s other claim to fame is that it’s bringing telephony-grade reliability to data networks by adopting a “microkernel” software architecture. In essence, processes don’t share memory, which reduces the risk of problems propagating and causing widespread outages.

The architecture also enables carriers to upgrade software without interrupting traffic and to revert to older software versions if they encounter problems. The inability to do this with Lucent’s software led to the recent ATM outages experienced by AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and Qwest Communications International Corp. (NYSE: Q), according to WaveSmith. Lucent was unable to field anybody to comment on this.

WaveSmith says it's got yet another ace up its sleeve: a way of supporting multiple call control methods simultaneously. This "Open Call Model” hasn't been available in data switching gear before, according to Dunn. It enables engineers dealing with different services, such as voice and frame relay, to set up connections using the processes they're familiar with.

The same architecture also allows carriers to control the DN4100 and DN2100 using existing operational system support (OSS) tools. The company plans to secure Osmine compliance certification next year, once it’s got purchase commitments from carriers (see Telcordia's Osmine Gold Mine).

The price of an entry-level WaveSmith switch is $28,000.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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right_leading
right_leading
12/4/2012 | 8:24:15 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
> It all sounds too good to be true, ...
> Bennett finds it hard to believe that a small
> startup like Wavesmith could have done so much
> in so little time with limited resources .

I love the lingo - "small startup". Are there "giant startups"? Jumbo shrimp?

I think they have about 75 (highly experienced) people who are putting together a very small box. What's so amazing about that, esp. when HE points out (see below) that they are using off the shelve stack?


> Marconi says it can match this performance, but
> only because itGÇÖs spent many man-decades...

:-D LMAO. That's people-decades pal, get with the P(C)rogram.


> ...developing and refining its own ATM software
> stack. Startups like WaveSmith would almost
> certainly buy an off-the-shelf ATM stack rather
> than develop their own...

Not just startups - LU uses DCL and Trillium.


> ...-- and such stacks couldnGÇÖt deliver anything
> like these figures, according to Bennett.

So THAT'S what's up with the CBX!


Dredgie
Dredgie
12/4/2012 | 8:24:13 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
Calm down, Mr. WaveSmith, this looked like a positive article, to me. But then you do dish-up the dollars for banner ads ;-)
right_leading
right_leading
12/4/2012 | 8:24:12 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?

I can't admire a team and not work there? I'm not agitated and I don't work at Wavesmith. I'm just not one of the majority that seem to think "everyone else must fail".

Agreed, the article was positive, I simply found those quotes quite lame.
Dredgie
Dredgie
12/4/2012 | 8:24:10 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
Mr. W, YouGÇÖre an angry guy. Chill.
lu-alum
lu-alum
12/4/2012 | 8:24:09 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
"PS. By the way, what *is* wrong with the CBX? The LU box is the GX isn't it?"

Both are lucent boxes, the 500 is ATM/Frame and the 550 is a larger ATM box. Oz is the next step up the line if it ever sees the light of day.
gbennett
gbennett
12/4/2012 | 8:24:09 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
Dear Mr.W,

I do apologise if my "lame quotes" upset you. Might I suggest switching to decaf?

Actually I can name several "large startups" (so described ny their marketing departments, not by me). Lucent, Agere, Agilent...should I go on?

(By the way, when you used the example of "Jumbo shrimp" this is an oxymoron, like "military intelligence". "Small startup" is not ipso facto an oxymoron, but could be portrayed, incorrectly in this case, as an example of redundant speech.)

To return to the point, the root of my scepticism comes from seeing how many *small* startups end up delivering product that has significantly less capability than their slideware claims. Why does this surprise or upset you so much?

My point in the call with Peter Heywood was that it is the *combination* of several very difficult claims that is difficult to believe. I also stated that Marconi would be very happy to go up against this, and any other ATM switch in a call setup benchmark.

>I think they have about 75 (highly experienced) >people who are putting together a very small box.

Looking at the earlier article on Light Reading, didn't these people come from Lucent's ATM switch project? And isn't this the very box that seems to be getting ATM an undeserved bad name?

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

Then again, if it's true that you learn from your mistakes...


People decades! Goodness me, what will you Americans think of next...vendor financing perhaps :-)

Cheers,
Geoff


PS. By the way, what *is* wrong with the CBX? The LU box is the GX isn't it?




skarz
skarz
12/4/2012 | 8:24:08 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
I have to agree with Mr. W. on this one. I don't work at WS but I can tell you that it seems to me that many times when a start-up announces product there's either doom-sayers or implicit negative under-currents. Like: all start-ups seem to never really have product features they claim....very generic...why not keep it positive and let the product(s) speak for themselves in the test labs...you know, innocent until proven guilty...
IF the thing flunks then Lightreading gets a hundred responses saying "i told you so'.. If the product works, look for clipping in here somewhere.
lu-alum
lu-alum
12/4/2012 | 8:24:02 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
I agree, let's see if they can execute on the trials they've announced. If they don't, feeding frenzy! If they, do I'll just go back to reading the Tachion thread.

mmmmmmmmmm shrimp
kupfi
kupfi
12/4/2012 | 8:23:56 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
I aggree with Bennett. All the super things mentioned in the article about WaveSmith is probably their ROADMAP. They could still be year(s) away from achieving all that. It is
pretty common of Marketing departments to start trumpeting the company roadmap and the clueless analysts to pick up those marketing releases and respin them as company analysis.

And for gods sake can WaveSmith stop beating upon the recent network outage because of Lucent gear. I know poor LU is in pretty bad shape and it is very easy to beat upon it. However, just because old man LU has problems does not mean that all the telcos will flock to WaveSmith.

I need to start decaf too...
But it does not taste as good...
I will stick to soda...
lu-alum
lu-alum
12/4/2012 | 8:23:55 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
I agree, WaveSmith should abide by the same forthright and honest business practices that have been hallmarks of the Lucent tradition. ;-)

ROTFLMAO
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