Net Insight Offers IPTV Alternative
But Duffy's message will be going against the grain.
While the rest of the telecom industry seems to be talking about triple-play services across end-to-end IP networks, Net Insight's chief says IP isn't up to the task of effectively handling the transport of large amounts of video traffic, and that carriers with video service ambitions need to consider using next-generation SDH/Sonet technology (see Net Insight Unveils Nimbra 600).
"The IP-only story has some drawbacks. It's a fact that if you use packet technology [to transport video], you have to over-provision," says Duffy. "I'm not saying it doesn't work -- I'm saying that it causes problems. The data transport protocol in IP is not efficient. You have to over-provision, and that situation gets more acute as traffic volumes grow."
The alternative? Use SDH/Sonet to shunt the video, and other traffic, around the network, and use IP equipment at the edge. "Our approach is much more efficient and provides the quality needed for video," says Duffy. "Next-generation SDH gives the quality assurance that's needed. Then you can add Ethernet and IP devices at the edge of the network. It's all about efficiency and low cost.
"Our solution is a combination of IP with high-quality transport. What you put in at one end comes out at the other end, and it's ideal for carrying other traffic such as voice and IP as well. Our platform is IP-compatible, but carries traffic more effectively than a packet-based network."
The latest addition to the Net Insight product family, called Nimbra, is the 600 platform, which Duffy describes as "a high-capacity, next-generation SDH switch that's ideal for carriers offering video services. The 600 has an 80-Gbit/s backplane, and the Nimbra 680 is basically the same platform but with twice the slot capacity. With a full rack you can get 1 terabit per second of switching."
The product has already been displayed in Eastern Europe, but Supercomm is its North American debut. And Duffy says there are already some takers for the new product. "We have orders for the product from telcos in the U.S., and it'll be shipping in the third quarter," says the CEO, but he wouldn't say whether the orders are from existing or new customers.
If the orders are from existing customers, then that narrows down the possibilities. Net Insight's most prominent North American customer is Broadwing Corp. (Nasdaq: BWNG), which recently expanded its video network to 20 cities (see Broadwing Expands With Net Insight). Other than that, it has a customer in Canada, and then a bunch of broadcast customers, mostly in Europe, though Duffy says T-Systems Inc. is using the Nimbra platform for some media-specific applications (see Net Insight Lands Danish Deal, Net Insight Gets IPTV Contract, Ascent Media Gets Net Insight, and Net Insight Wins TV Contract).
The CEO, though, believes that carriers will eventually spot that video specialists are using Net Insight's technology, and follow suit. "The media companies have higher demands than the telecom carriers at the moment, and they are using us. That should tell the carriers something. We've been chosen because of our technology, not because we have a big brand."
A big brand such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO): "Cisco is pushing the all IP story, and that gives it a lot of publicity. But we're optimistic that carriers will see it makes sense to look at what we have to offer."
Cisco is indeed pushing the all-IP story, and it's not alone: Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) also has an all-IP message for video service providers and even won a media industry contract in the U.K. recently (see Neuf Expands IPTV With Cisco, Cisco Launches Video Barrage, and BT Builds IP Broadcast Net With Juniper).
So can Net Insight break into the telco big-time and counter the IP hype machine? It has its work cut out, reckons Heavy Reading's chief analyst, Scott Clavenna. He says that, while it's fair to say that next-gen Sonet/SDH is efficient and stable and that IP networks suffer from packet loss and require over-provisioning, that doesn't mean carriers will turn to Net Insight to build their video-enabled networks.
The best technology doesn't always win, notes Clavenna, adding that Net Insight will probably continue to pick up deals from the niche media network operators for which the Swedish company's technology is optimized. "They're OK in those applications where a studio needs to move around a lot of video among production and distribution points, but there's little hope they can expand beyond that niche and into the video-for-the-home market."
Clavenna concludes: "In the residential market, IP rules because it carries all services. IP is the unifying protocol for all services, so you just have to live with it."
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading