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Is it making a carrier-class product or a WLAN switch for the enterprise? Either way, it's spending a lot of money
January 23, 2003
Wireless switch startup Trapeze Networks Inc. is having a "small, exclusive gathering to celebrate the creation of Trapeze Networks" in downtown San Jose, Calif., this evening.
The company isn't planning to announce its product line yet and will only say that, "Trapeze Networks will bring the reality of boundless varekai into the boundaries of the LAN." [Ed. note: varekai means "wherever" in the Romany language of the Sinti and Roma (formerly known as "Gypsies"). It means “whatever” in ours. What this has to do with wireless telecommunications is anybody's guess.]
However, as we reported last week, several sources indicate that Trapeze will come out swinging with an enterprise-oriented switch at the Networld+Interop show this spring (see Trapeze's Wireless Bait & Switch). It’s not alone, of course: A host of companies are working on this type of device -- including Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) and Aruba Networks Inc. (see Aruba's Switch Pitch).
However, those same sources also tell Unstrung that this wasn't always Trapeze’s plan. Originally, they say, Trapeze intended to target service providers with a much bigger switch aimed at the public access market. Specifically, they say that Trapeze originally was touting "a big 802.11 box" aimed at carriers looking to combine public access wireless LAN "hotspots" with their cellular networks. The box was going to implement a subscriber management system (SMS, Redback Networks Inc.’s specialty) that would enable carriers to add and maintain subscriber information and offer different service levels to different customers. This would mean that customers that paid for a higher service level would be entitled to the most available wireless bandwidth.
That product road map wouldn’t be surprising, given the company's heritage, comments Doug Klein CTO, and former CEO of wireless LAN network management software vendor Vernier Networks Inc. (see Vernier Appoints CEO).
"The Trapeze team is a bunch of old Redback guys, so they're going to look at things from a carrier perspective."
So why would the company reportedly switch focus to the enterprise? Right product, wrong time, Klein summizes. "Carriers aren't spending any money," he snorts. "There's no way they would have got the funding they got [$16 million] with a carrier product."
When Trapeze eventually unveils its product Klein is expecting to see it emphasize performance. "They'll be all about fast silicon and high switching speeds," he says. "We guess they'll probably be one of the noisiest [of the WLAN switch startups] in terms of the public speaking."
Like others, Klein also marvels at how much Trapeze appears to be spending in these tough times. "Put it this way, we have a skeleton PR budget," he says. "They have four people just in marcomms [marketing/communications] alone."
News of Trapeze’s switch switcheroo raises as many questions as it answers. For one thing, it’s not entirely clear how far Trapeze was along the path to developing the carrier-class product before changing its mind. Trying to convert a mondo carrier-class device into a smaller enterprise system could have serious implications on price and size (which could end up high and big, respectively). It’s also not known whether Trapeze intends to have things both ways by selling a large product to carriers, and a wee-willy-winkie version to enterprises.
The answers to all these and more questions about Trapeze will have to wait until the N+I event in May, where, amidst the gambling and prostitution of Las Vegas, the company intends to make all clear. Until then, Unstrung’s editors will just have to glean what information they can about Trapeze, varekai they can find it.
— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung
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