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Redback Carrier Ethernet switch launches vendor into hot telecom market

Redback Networks is entering the Carrier Ethernet market with a new metro-area switch designed to help service providers with mobile backhaul and high-quality video delivery.

Redback Networks today launched the first product in an upcoming Carrier Ethernet line of products, a Carrier Ethernet switch called the SM 480. Redback, which was acquired by Ericsson in January 2007, has traditionally made IP-based routers and switches, but the company is positioning the SM 480 as a good solution to handle mobile backhaul and deliver a variety of digital video.

They're in a crowded market, but they have built a very scalable product and the technical details indicate that it's a pretty sturdy product.
Eve Griliches
Program Director, Telecommunications EquipmentIDC

Originally developed at Ericsson before the Ericsson/Redback merger, Ericsson designed the SM 480 to enable carriers to build a converged Ethernet/IP metro network that could be optimized for transporting fixed and mobile traffic. The SM 480 includes Layer 2 subscriber management for wholesale broadband services, Quality of Service (QoS) for high-demand video and data applications reliability, SLA measurement capabilities and standards-based fault management.

According to Redback Marketing Director Doug Wills, the SM 480 switch tested at five 9's of reliability for data, voice and video. "Carriers looking at IPTV or video service of some sort will find that this particular box will move from half a terabyte to multiple terabytes of capacity." .

The SM series of products, which will be released by Redback, is designed to simplify network architectures, lower carrier costs and unify networks for fixed and mobile carriers, according to Wills. Ericsson is a mobile infrastructure leader, and the companies want to combine Redback's IP-over-Ethernet capabilities with Ericsson's mobile expertise.

Before this announcement, Ericsson had been reselling millions of dollars of Ethernet gear from other vendors, Wills said. Infonetics Research projects that the metro Carrier Ethernet market will reach $4.8 billion b y 2012, from an estimated $2.3 billion this year.

"This announcement follows the trend that every vendor is introducing a Carrier Ethernet product," said Eve Griliches, IDC Program Director of Telecommunications Equipment. "They're in a crowded market, but they have built a very scalable product and the technical details indicate that it's a pretty sturdy."

Ericsson has been looking for an Ethernet switch play for about five years, so when it purchased Redback, some of the acquired company's engineering resources were put toward an Ethernet line, Griliches added. "Redback is a router vendor, and making a router is a really complicated thing to do, so making a good Ethernet switch that can scale with a lot of features is not as challenging as making a router," she said.

The SM 480 also has a subset of the features from Redback's SmartEdge® family of routers, which manage network layers 3-7. The Ethernet switch was designed to work in conjunction with other products for fixed and mobile carriers from both companies, Wills said.

The SM 480 is certified by the Metro Ethernet Forum and supports three Carrier Ethernet services, E-LINE, E-TREE and E-LAN. The switch does not currently support the Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) or Provider Backbone Bridging with Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE) protocols.

"We're evaluating the carrier market for PBT demand. If there is demand, adding PBT support would be a simple software upgrade for either the SM or SE product families," Wills said.

IDC's Griliches doesn't believe that PBT support is essential at this time. "A protocol doesn't sell a piece of hardware. I think PBT adoption will probably happen over time, but it was over-hyped."

This was last published in June 2008

Dig Deeper on Telecommunication networking

Mobile infrastructure market realigned with Cisco Starent acquisition Mobile infrastructure market vendors will be facing a bigger competitor in Cisco next year because Cisco plans to fill a gap in its mobile infrastructure strategy by acquiring Starent Networks (Tewksbury, Mass.) for $2.9 billion. Starent, the IP-based mobile infrastructure solutions niche player is already well known among carriers, having Verizon Wireless and Sprint among its wireless operator customers, to name only two.

Announcing the proposed acquisition put other mobile infrastructure vendors on notice that Cisco will be a bigger player in their market. The big advantage for Cisco is that Starent's mobile solutions can manage access from 2.5G, 3G and 4G (LTE and WiMAX) wireless networks to a mobile operator's packet core network. If the deal goes through with no problems, Cisco will be well positioned to bid for carrier business as wireless operators upgrade their networks to handle increasing amounts of wireless multimedia traffic .

To get a snapshot of what the acquisition bid means for Cisco and its competitors, editor Kate Gerwig talked to Godfrey Chua, research manager of Wireless and Mobile Infrastructure at IDC.

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