Orchestream Models Its Makeover

When shares of Orchestream Ltd. http://www.orchestream.com are offered for the first time on the London Stock Exchange tomorrow, their performance will in large part be dictated by the software vendor’s decision to re-invent its marketing message last year.

As makeovers go, Ricki Lake could not have done a more complete job. The transformation occurred in December. Before then, Orchestream had positioned itself as a pioneer of QOS software – even helping to found the QOS Forum http://www.qosforum.com in February 1999. But in December the company overhauled its message to emphasize its ability to deliver virtual private network (VPN) services.

Orchestream’s marketing materials tell the story: From April 1998 to December 13th 1999 Orchestream press releases contain 78 references to QoS, and no references to VPNs. In subsequent releases, QOS is mentioned twice, and VPNs are mentioned 15 times.

Orchestream says its software, which can be used on both public and private multi-vendor IP networks, is equally adept at supporting both QOS and VPNs. “The idea was always to allow people to create premium services and sell them. Ultimately, what the software does is go out and configure routers. And it can do that to enable QOS services, or VPN services,” says Richard Moore, executive vice-president of marketing at Orchestream. “We didn’t tell our VPN story last year because we did not have one,” he adds.

The company’s decision to revamp is symptomatic of what may be an underlying change in the networking industry’s attitude to QOS. As recently as last year, networking vendors considered QOS a “must have” bauble in their marketing brochures. Those who ventured to suggest that over-provisioning capacity might be a possible alternative to QOS risked being branded as Luddites.

That’s changed – for a number of reasons. For one thing, complex QOS solutions have not sold well. It’s still tough to find real-world deployments of QOS – and many of those that do exist are in universities (‘academic’ networks in both senses of the word).

At the same time, the advent of gigabit Ethernet and other fat pipe optical technologies has made it far easier and cheaper for carriers to throw bandwidth at their quality of service problems – the approach embraced by Cogent Communications Inc. http://www.cogentco.com (see The Fat Pipe Formula). Early indications are that Orchestream’s strategy was the right one. Its offering has been over-subscribed by a factor of nine, it says.

Analysts also applaud the move. “Management and foundational technologies like QoS are very difficult to market and sell as discrete products. Orchestream started as technologists and now they’ve matured to the point where they are more in tune with what the market will actually buy,” says Elisabeth Rainge, program manager at IDC http://www.idc.com.

By Stephen Saunders, US Editor, and Peter Heywood, International Editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com

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