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Optical/IP

WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?

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
right_leading 12/4/2012 | 7:57:03 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? Are you saying that their are no customer trails going on? and that it is ok since nobody else is doing well?

No wiseguy, I'm not saying that. I was simply waxing philosophic about the state of the industry. What used to be a put-down is now a compliment and just not laying off is viewed as EXCELLENT!

I certainly have no idea what's going on at Wavesmith customer-wise, but I can say they have a top notch team (not just the engineers either, across the board). Good mix too from what I hear.

lite_me 12/4/2012 | 7:57:11 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? Underline_Man: I think night_reading was just looking for an update to see if things panned out the way Mr. Dunn described to Mr. Heywood they might.

Has ANYTHING panned out for ANYONE over the past year? What companies are still on schedule to IPO? Beta? Ship? NOT lay off even? True, true.

==================================================

Are you saying that their are no customer trails going on? and that it is ok since nobody else is doing well?
right_leading 12/4/2012 | 7:57:39 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?
Underline_Man: I think night_reading was just looking for an update to see if things panned out the way Mr. Dunn described to Mr. Heywood they might.

Has ANYTHING panned out for ANYONE over the past year? What companies are still on schedule to IPO? Beta? Ship? NOT lay off even? True, true.

Not sure I understand the train on crack reference. Is it a reference to this thread?
http://www.lightreading.com/do...

_____ 12/4/2012 | 7:58:20 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? Was the "Jumbo Shrimp" being chased by something resembling a train on crack?
_____ 12/4/2012 | 7:58:23 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? Where the heck did you dig this up from? This is old news...
night_reading 12/4/2012 | 7:58:23 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? "Where the heck did you dig this up from? This is old news..."

4 or 5 _,

I saw a "Jumbo Shrimp".

P.S. could you mention in your message the number of _ in your alias. Its kind of hard to count. Thx



night_reading 12/4/2012 | 7:58:25 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? "The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Three carriers -- among them Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Genuity Inc. (Nasdaq: GENU - message board) -- will start testing WaveSmithGÇÖs gear in their labs at the end of May, according to Chad Dunn, WaveSmithGÇÖs director of product management. First customer shipments are scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year."



Anybody heard anything about how the WaveSmith lab trails are going? or was Chad kidding?


majid 12/4/2012 | 8:22:36 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? I would think ATM users are more conservative than the average. Wouldn't they migrate instead to established carrier-class vendors who have not had engineer attrition through management the way Lucent has. Perhaps Fore/Marconi or Nortel's Passport line?

Also, many of the Japanese companies such as Hitachi and Toshiba have serious ATM iron product lines (not that they have been able to market them effectively, but that is another matter).
gbennett 12/4/2012 | 8:23:08 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? Actually I'd forgotton about Cadia, but now you mention it :-)

I never claimed Marconi was an exception, did I?
lu-alum 12/4/2012 | 8:23:10 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? "The history of startups over the bull period has been to get a product into a semi-working state for FCS and IPO, and then get into a bidding war with two or more big manufacturers to have them buy your company. After the first vesting period, all the engineering talent leaves to form the next startup and the big manufacturer is left to pick up the debris"

Sounds like someone is still bitter about Cadia.
fk 12/4/2012 | 8:23:12 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? I'd agree that not every criticism is groundless, but I do think that there's a core of people who criticise every start-up (except their own) either because the start-up deserves it or because the start-up is a competitor and they feel the need to take undeserved swipes at all competitors because, hey, this is war. I don't mind and even really appreciate detailed, substantive discussions or arguments on the technical, architectural or business shortcomings or advantages of any particular company. But there's a lot of trash talk and arguments with all of the intellectual rigor of "yankees suck! yankees suck!"

I agree with most of the rest of your post, especially the definition of madness, which I just used on my pre-teen a week or two ago. :-)
gbennett 12/4/2012 | 8:23:14 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? >I haven't the slightest idea whether they will >make it or not, but this habit of groundlessly >criticizing every single start-up (and every >large company as well) is both meanspirited and >more reflective of the criticizers than the >criticizees.

I don't think these criticisms are groundless, are they? One definition of madness is when you do the same thing and expect a different result.

The history of startups over the bull period has been to get a product into a semi-working state for FCS and IPO, and then get into a bidding war with two or more big manufacturers to have them buy your company. After the first vesting period, all the engineering talent leaves to form the next startup and the big manufacturer is left to pick up the debris. Startups don't tend to bother too much about details like IPR and documenting of code, so the value of the remains is questionable.

You could argue the point for the Ascend/Cascade crew that Lucent's post-acquisition management of them was unacceptable (I have some friends who went through this and the war stories are a hoot), but ultimately it's the customer who suffers.

Do we feel that this trend ended with the stock market crash? Probably, as Lucent, Cisco and Nortel don't have the cash or equity power to justify technology acquisitions, so perhaps we have to go back to the days when a startup business plan had to have more than one page :-)

Obviously it's going to be a much tougher time for startups because none of the management of these companies has had to work in a "non-boom" environment. To paraphrase both an article in The Economist and Mr.W, what seemed at the time to be inspired management now looks pretty lame!

I'm happy to go along with what skarz says in Post 7, "innocent until proven guilty". But as Perry Mason would say there's a lot of circumstantial evidence mounting up.
deadbeef 12/4/2012 | 8:23:32 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? SM, I think at some point (soon) they are going to be forced to look to an alternative to the CBX. The reason the carriers are so unhappy with the CBX is because Lucent can't support it anymore. There is very little experience left over there. With each maintenance release (which is supposed to *fix* bugs), more bugs are introduced by green developers who have little to no experience with the code (which is quite complex).

The original (Cascade) design was best in class 6 years ago. But the later releases are really buggy and unreliable. That's why you have so many carriers sitting on code that came out 3 years ago because they are petrified to upgrade to the newer releases.

At some point they are going to have to begin turning away from the unreliable, unsupportable CBX in favor of some very reliable, well supported newer switches (which may not be as feature rich initially).
silent mariner 12/4/2012 | 8:23:33 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? My point is that the carriers won't commit to large networks from start-ups at this point.
chubbabubba 12/4/2012 | 8:23:33 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? I would argue that many of the WaveSmith folks have NOT built this product before - SOME of the engineers might have, but many are from enterprise/vpn/edge plays, like New Oak.

More importantly, look at the management team - heavily weighted with enterprise, edge/access experience - not what it takes to succeed in the distributed multiservice "carrier class" space. This ain't no VPN dialup box.
fk 12/4/2012 | 8:23:34 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? I don't think you can argue both sides of the argument (at least not successfully.) On the one hand you are attacking the product because it is produced by a start-up, and presumably therefore must not be as good because the start-up doesn't have the expertise to make it comparable in quality to that of the existing vendors. On the other hand, you note that many of the people on the team were responsible for designing and implementing the very product that they seek to replace. So by this measure, it would seem that they have sufficient expertise. I also get the impression that because they (some of them) designed the existing standard box, which is now getting long in the tooth and is showing its limitations, they are somehow limited by this history in your opinion. Who among us has grown with each product we've designed? Who wouldn't change some things about any design they've ever made? It's called learning and growing, and if your mind is open, is a lifelong process.

I haven't the slightest idea whether they will make it or not, but this habit of groundlessly criticizing every single start-up (and every large company as well) is both meanspirited and more reflective of the criticizers than the criticizees.
silent mariner 12/4/2012 | 8:23:35 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? I think that it will a long road to the first sale to a carrier for this box. Why would a carrier buy a start-up box to fit into critical, revenue generating networks, especially one designed essentially by the same crew that built the LU boxes mentioned in the article. Since Wavesmith is in need of funding soon, beating the hype drum can't hurt at this point.

Does anyone have an opinion on whether LU is just waiting for this thing to see the light of day before pursuing some legal action against those that left LU to build it? Just a thought....
Dredgie 12/4/2012 | 8:23:51 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? or +ëquipe?
right_leading 12/4/2012 | 8:23:52 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? >Author: kupfi
.
.
.
>However, just because old man LU has problems
>does not mean that all the telcos will flock to
>WaveSmith.

Where then? Telica?
wildcard 12/4/2012 | 8:23:53 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True?

Mad shrimp disease?
wildcard 12/4/2012 | 8:23:54 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

Or if that doesn't work, there is always the high road cisco often takes with its strong arm tactics. But point well taken, honesty indeed, there is money involved here people.

Try the Prawns...


gladysnight 12/4/2012 | 8:23:54 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? "Oz is the next step up the line if it ever sees the light of day."


Not a question really of whether it sees the light of day - it almost certainly will.

The real question is will anyone buy it?

Will it be worth buying?

One would hope so, but right now you'd be hard pressed to find many people prepared to bet on it.
gladysnight 12/4/2012 | 8:23:54 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? "People decades! Goodness me, what will you Americans think of next...vendor financing perhaps :-)"
+++++++++++++++++++

You raise a good point. One thing I've often wondered is how much clout the vendors have over their vendor-financed companies.

Effectively they have often become major stockholders in the business ventures they've financed, but they (SEEM TO) have had no representation at board level, which any prudent large scale investor would want, in order to protect their investment.

Given the "no taxation without representation" history of the US, this seems ironic at least, and possibly even insane.

Anybody have any thoughts or information on this angle?

Much Obliged
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
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 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
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 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 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?




Dredgie 12/4/2012 | 8:24:10 PM
re: WaveSmith Too Good to Be True? Mr. W, YouGÇÖre an angry guy. Chill.
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 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 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!


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