Riverstone scores coup

Riverstone Networks is headed for the metro core. The Cabletron spinoff recently announced the RS 38000 Optical Metro Backbone Router, its largest capacity router in a long line of metropolitan area switch routers.

The new router seems to be shaking things up a bit for a few of its competitors. IntelliSpace, a metro area service provider, has been so impressed with the new box that it’s redeploying its Extreme Networks and Juniper Networks gear in different parts of its network to make room for the RS 38000.

" It’s a lower-cost solution and offers more robust features, " says Carlo Lalomia chief technology officer and co-founder of Intellispace. " We can condense functionality, which lowers our capital and maintenance costs. "

Not only does the RS 38000 offer greater port densities than other switch/routers that Riverstone offers, but it also comes with a slew of new bells and whistles. In particular, a new Application-Specific Integrated Circuit supports 10G Ethernet, ATM, packet over SONET, hardware-based Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) and resilient packet ring (RPR), according to Riverstone.

These new features have been a long-time coming, according to its customer, Intellispace. Although Lalomia says that Intellispace doesn’t pick equipment favorites, the provider has been a steady Cabletron switch customer since 1996 and has already deployed several Riverstone switches in its network. But earlier this year when the company was looking to deploy a 10G Ethernet solution, it had to go with an implementation from Riverstone competitor, Extreme.

" In general, I think Riverstone has better solutions, " Lalomia says. " But Extreme happened to win, because they had 10G bit/sec and Riverstone didn’t. "

And when it came to T-3 (45M bit/sec) aggregation, again, Intellispace had to go with another vendor. This time it was Juniper.

While these solutions have worked well so far, Lalomia says that the RS 38000 can consolidate functions into a single piece of hardware. For example, the company can eliminate the Assured Access Multiplexer from Alcatel SA for T-1 (1.544M bit/sec) aggregation, the Juniper routers used for T-3 aggregation and the Extreme switches that provide Gigabit Ethernet aggregation. Lalomia says Intellispace will use RS 38000s to provide all three functions.

" Extreme doesn’t have strong WAN interfaces, " he says. " But Riverstone has a long history of solid WAN interfaces, and the Juniper gear is just much more expensive than Riverstone. It makes more sense for us to use the Riverstone router that can do this and more. "

Lalomia says he plans to redeploy the Extreme switches and Alcatel muxes in Intellispace’s tier 2 markets. And he plans to use the M40s he bought from Juniper as core routers, using the Riverstone routers for T-3 aggregation.

In addition to consolidating several functions into one box, the RS 38000 combines a 170G bit/sec nonblocking switch fabric, with hardware-based services such as MPLS and RPR. Lalomia plans to use MPLS to provide managed VPN services for Intellispace customers. Currently, Intellispace uses the Extreme switches to provide Layer 2 VPNs, but Lalimio says that the implementation isn’t enough.

" Packets can be prioritized, but there is no guarantee inside the [virtual LAN] ttunnel, " he says. " MPLS provides dynamic bandwidth reservation so that capacity is always guaranteed. "

The RS 38000 also supports the emerging RPR standard (802.17). This allows it to combine the 50-millisecond failover capability of SONET and the plug-and-play attributes of Ethernet.

The RS 38000 is currently available for customer shipments. But not all the interfaces will be available right away. The 10G Ethernet interfaces won’t be ready until April, and OC-192 (10G bit/sec) aren’t expected until June 2001, according to the company.

This story, "Riverstone scores coup " was originally published by Network World.

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