Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers

For service providers and enterprises seeking a new generation of metro area networking gear to handle today's bandwidth problems, Matisse Networks claims to have built a masterpiece: a distributed Ethernet switch capable of picking up where Ethernet-over-WDM and ROADMs left off.

The 65-person startup says its new EtherBurst products can scale metro networks beyond 10 Gbit/s with gear that's easier to manage and less costly than anything currently sold by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. , and Nortel Networks Ltd. . (See Matisse Aims to Make Impression.)

Matisse's distributed switch comprises two products: the SX-1000 Ethernet Service Node and the PX-1000 Photonic Node. They use a technology called optical burst switching to improve how the bandwidth in a fiber ring is utilized by allowing for superfast setup and teardown of wavelengths.

The PX-1000 provides generic optical transport around a metro ring, and the SX-1000, which contains a packet processor and a "burst" transponder, does the intelligent stuff. Up to eight SX-1000s can be connected to each of four PX-1000s for a total of 32 SX-1000s on a metro ring, yielding up to 640 Gbit/s of capacity.

Briefly, the SX-1000 takes the incoming traffic and sorts it according to destination and quality of service required. These packets are then assembled into "bursts" and sent to their destination in the network using whatever wavelengths are available. The optical transponder in each SX-1000 can talk to every transponder on the metro ring via any available wavelength.

That's especially important when some uneven traffic spike occurs in a metro network -- as often happens these days with user-generated videos and IPTV deployments ramping worldwide. When spikes occur, the Matisse gear surrounding the traffic spike will purportedly know to queue all low-priority traffic heading to the affected node until the congestion clears.

WDM networks, which are mostly point-to-point links, are becoming more and more automated, says Michael Howard, principal analyst at Infonetics Research Inc. , who says this direction was "enhanced by ROADM-enabled WDM gear."

ROADMs can make automatic power adjustments, and they allow circuits to be provisioned more quickly with less manual labor. But "Matisse appears to have developed the next stage in WDM ring/mesh networks with nearly automated WDM traffic management of packets, source-destination delivery paths, and wavelengths," Howard says.

ROADMs "still are a circuit-based, static system that requires manual configuration," says Sam Mathan, Matisse's CEO.

Does this mean Matisse's gear is a potential ROADM killer? Not in the near term. Analysts don't see the demand for ROADMs falling off anytime soon. And, besides, Matisse is focused on metro and core Ethernet applications. (See IPTV Delays Could Hurt ROADM Deployment.)

"Even though Ethernet is emerging as an important way to distribute IPTV in the metro network, this is still a very small part of existing metro networking that relies on quite a lot of Sonet/SDH for IP, voice, and other applications," says networking analyst Michael Kennedy of Network Strategy Partners LLC .

So Matisse's gear might really make more sense in cable networks or a telco's new video overlay network, says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading. "You need a network that doesn't have legacy Sonet, SDH, or circuit traffic in it. And that network needs to have a lot of Gigabit Ethernet that has to go in a lot of different directions," he says. Cable networks fit that descriptions, and "they are in the process already of building big optical networks with tons of Ethernet."

Telco video overlays might be another place where Matisse shows up. Clavenna says it's conceivable that Matisse might be an alternative to ROADMs in networks where the carrier is installing lots of Ethernet and WDM and using ROADMs to create a wavelength mesh.

The data center is another possible playground for Matisse, Clavenna notes. "Wherever Force10 Networks Inc. is in a network, this could be a good transport mechanism for that traffic."

Matisse's Mathan, the man who sold Amber Networks to Nokia in 2001, says his company's new products will be generally available later this year and haven't weathered any carrier trials yet. So far, the only place Matisse's gear has been put through its paces is at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) .

Absent a marquee carrier customer, there are a lot of claims left unchecked with Matisse's announcement. For one, it's impossible to know if its claims of opex and capex savings would hold up in a large network deployment. And, as Harvard University senior technical consultant Scott Bradner points out: "What is to keep others from matching the cost savings in the future?"

Though not yet in commercial networks, the company's wares -- along with cutting-edge optical gear from several other vendors -- will be on display at Optical Expo 2006 tomorrow and Wednesday in Dallas.

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to our upcoming conference, Optical Expo 2006. This conference and exhibition will be staged in Dallas on September 19 & 20, 2006. Admission is free for attendees meeting our prequalification criteria. For more information, click here.

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:40:31 AM
re: Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers OK, lets ask a few questions since nobody else will...

1.If you have no customers or trials, why are you announcing? A)You don't understand anything about marketing B) You are about to raise a round of funding and need the hype to attract investors. C) You have to have something to bring customers to your trade show booth.

2.You have not started trials, yet you say the product will be GA by the end of the year, and nobody challenges you on that. Yes, I guess some of us were born yesterday.

3.You are announcing a product, yet your website lists only a Chairman/CEO, President (who also serves as VP of engineering and runs manufacturing), and VP of marketing. No VP of sales, no dedicated VP of engineering or operations. Once again, you claim to be ready for GA later this year when, at least according to your website, you only have half a company? Perhaps some of us were born this morning.

4. 65 person startup - Even assuming a reasonable amount of engineering outsourcing, that's about the size I would expect of a company that is at least a year away from a real GA. My guess is that the company is 75% engineering. Anybody ask them for a breakdown in staffing?

I question why the company would do this. It may serve some short term goal, but it's not good for them in the long run. However, I am not insinuating that they won't be a wonderful company with a wonderful product some day. I question why the press and analysts seem to be letting these kinds of quesitons go unasked, or at least unanswered.

IF the company has answers (and I promise that at a minimum the VP of marketing reads the comments on this article), drop Phil a note and let him do a follow up.
agility1 12/5/2012 | 3:40:30 AM
re: Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers In Matisse's targeted market spaces, which doesn't include mainstream "telecom" (long haul & standard metro), isn't the most important set of questions the following:

1) does the price & performance of their tunable-laser based, burst switch warrant installation over traditional boxes? Looking at the pricing quoted in their press release, I'm guessing it does - but I'm not current on pricing. Anyone have up to date info? And don't forget the cost of "wiring" which should be much lower for the Matisse box.

2) is the reliability "Enterprise Grade"? Going GA later this year with LLNL as a reference customer is certainly important news prior to a major trade show!

3) Does Matisse have the sales and distribution channels set up for their markets? They aren't selling to the traditional phone companies so they don't need a large internal sales staff at this point.

4) Can they deliver on their promises with only 65 people? I know these guys - they are sharp, very experienced, and don't need a lot of headcount, especially at the top level. I applaud them for keeping the headcount low and giving themselves a chance to breakeven early!

I'm eagerly awaiting their next press release.
optodoofus 12/5/2012 | 3:40:29 AM
re: Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers > I'm eagerly awaiting their next press release.

Good for you! I'm sure that next press release will be along much sooner than the GA product.

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:40:27 AM
re: Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers Agility1,

A few questions for you, since you seem to be "close" to the company :)

Just what is Matisse's target market space, if they are not "traditional" providers like telcos and cable providers. Just how much do these "non-traditional" providers have budgeted for next year for metro ring transport?

2)Enterprise grade reliability - I was not aware that they were selling to enterprise. Even if they are, I am not questioning reliability, but product maturity. Carrier grade reliability is determined by the design (level of reduncancy, etc.) Enterprises want fully baked product just as much as carriers.

3. If Matisse, is selling through channels, then I would expect them to have a VP of business development, and for them to be announcing channel partnerships.

4.Is LLNL a customer? Is this their target market? I'm not sure that I understand your comment "going GA with LLNL as a reference customer."

5.The founding of the company is news. A new executive is news. A new round of funding is news. A customer trial is news. Announcing that you are "going to do something" is not news.

6.I would also applaud their keeping the burn rate low, but not if they are REALLY ramping for a GA within 3 months. The product that they describe (switching, WDM, lots of software) will require a LOT of manufacturing horsepower along with a LOT of engineering horsepower to design, build, and support.

I could write a BOOK about why this is not good for the company, but that's not my original point. I'm just trying to raise the questions that others should ask.
Creagh 12/5/2012 | 3:39:54 AM
re: Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers Doug,

I could'nt agree with you more - given your own track record - you have authority here. Matisse
are not alone in this OBMS market space. I assume Agility1 is from JDSU, Syntune, Bookham or such like and would be a natural supporter of companies like Matisse whether based in Europe or North America.

Isn't it curious that they are offering two things ..but not really together ...wonder why ???

I look forward to the next press release too.
agility1 12/5/2012 | 3:39:47 AM
re: Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers Doug,

Sorry for the belated reply - I'm been on vacation and traveling for 6 months & don't check LR as often as I previously did.

On your questions:

1. According to their web site, Matisse is targeting both private networks and service providers. You have a good handle on the amount being spent on private networks (and small service providers) - it's not as large as service providers spending on metro, but it's certainly more accessible to startups!

2. Enterprise customers certainly want a well baked system, but the design in and qual path certainly isn't as long and difficult as in telco. Same is true of the cable guys.

3. Can't really comment on their channel strategy - but again, having a small number of capable exec's doesn't mean they can't set up appropriate channels without a VP Biz Dev.

4. What I meant by "going GA with LLNL as a ref customer" is the usual "crossing the chasm" path for a new technology that doesn't have wide market acceptance yet -- that LLNL can serve as a high quality early adopter reference to any enterprise or small carrier that doesn't have a large internal qualification staff like the telco's have to fully test the new technology. The statement from LLNL that

GÇ£After recent testing, we found Matisse Networks' optical burst switching technology to be the kind of reliable and powerful high-bandwidth interconnect solution that...is well suited to our systems.... (and is good enough for) our national security missions" might help convice certain large enterprise customers that this approach is robust.

5. There is so little "real news" in the optical comm area these days, that the bar is lower now. But that's just reality - unfortunate perhaps. But it's a reality that has driven a lot of us (including myself) out of the optical industry and into areas with much more "real action".

6. So much can be done with outsourcing these days that HC in a company doesn't really suggest capability to scale a product, so I wouldn't be so quick to say Matisse can't.


A note to "Creagh":
I'm not with JDSU.
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