Astral Point adds voice grooming to MAN switch

Astral Point last week unveiled an enhancement to its ON 5000 Optical Services Node that adds voice grooming to the metropolitan-area network switch.

The firm's STS-1 Transmultiplexer lets the ON 5000 groom voice traffic off DS-1s and hand it off to a Class 5 central office switch. It works with an existing DS-3/1/0 switching and grooming module for the ON 5000 that can be distributed throughout the network to manage DS-3, DS-1 and DS-0 services.

The STS-1 module is a four-port card for the ON 5000 chassis. It aggregates multiple DS-1s, and converts them into Virtual Terminal 1.5 format that the Class 5 voice switch understands.

A single ON 5000 node can support up to 80 STS-1 or 120 DS-3/1/0 interfaces. Astral Point claims the module gives customers an alternative to the traditional centralized digital cross-connect systems (DCS) that require bandwidth-inefficient backhaul connections to a central office for grooming.

With the STS-1 module, the company says it can distribute switching and grooming capabilities locally, thereby eliminating backhaul problems and conserving bandwidth. The module also lets the ON 5000 be used within a central office to take in DS-0, DS-1 and DS-3 circuits, switch and groom them for handoffs for various service providers, or transport across a long-haul network.

The firm also claims the STS-1 module allows a more reliable means of testing than centralized DCS, which doesn't provide accurate test data through the edge of a network. The STS-1 module costs $13,000 and is shipping now.

Analyst Grier Hansen of Current Analysis says the STS-1 module works well with legacy architectures and easily separates traffic into STS-1 standardized increments. He also says the module should interoperate with other vendors' systems, but will face competition from Cisco and Redback Networks.

Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. and a columnist for Network World, says the module's ability to support legacy voice traffic in addition to bursty LAN data is key to its market appeal -- and to Astral Point's fitness.

"One thing is for sure, if you look at the current market conditions, most emerging carriers are not getting any more money," he says. "They are the ones who are going to sink in the market. It's the same with equipment vendors. Those who only support futuristic traffic are going to go out of business."

Nolle's words may be prescient. The release of the STS-1 module comes as Astral Point lays off 45 people, about 20% of its staff, as a means of saving its venture funding. It has also shelved its ON 2000 product line due to lack of demand.

Released in December 2000, the ON 2000 is an access aggregation box designed for use in telecom hotels, multitenant buildings, collocation facilities and customer facilities.

Contrary to previous reports, the company says it is not scrapping the ON 2000 line altogether, but says it is simply deferring the line's development. Astral Point is prepared to resume development if the need arises, a company spokesman says.

This story, "Astral Point adds voice grooming to MAN switch" was originally published by Network World.

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