Lucent reveals IP strategy for policy-based provisioning
Lucent Technologies Inc. Monday detailed an IP strategy designed to play to the survival instincts of many of its telecommunications service provider customers, now desperate to appeal to larger businesses.
Lucent's IP network play -- called a "service intelligence" push and built around Lucent's acquisition last year of SpringTide Networks Inc. -- is geared at newer carriers scrambling to appeal to enterprise customers so as to weather the current downturn in the telecom sector.
The Murray Hill, N.J., networking stalwart is also hoping that its strategy will prove a way to help dig Lucent out of some financial straits of its own. Lucent recently announced a seven-point plan to overhaul operations and to shed more than US$2 billion in costs.
At the center of the IP service intelligence plan is the SpringTide 7000 IP Service Switch, which packs functionality such as follow-me networking services that is designed to enable service providers to offer capabilities such as IP VPNs to larger customers.
Software-based service intelligence is a direction the networking hardware crowd is taking, said John Gonsalez, a vice president at market research firm Adventis, in Boston.
"The whole idea is to make service intelligence part of directory-driven rules-based provisioning, so carriers can allow customers to have certain services with software or software tweaking as opposed to always having to change the hardware itself," Gonsalez said.
Lucent officials elaborated on a business scenario for service intelligence involving a sales executive who dials in to corporate networks from different locations.
The sales executive may one day log in from his or her office, next seek access to corporate networks through a home broadband connection, and finally log on at a client location. Policy-based provision would enable the network to provision the appropriate services, explained Scott Hilton, vice president of product management for the IP services group.
"Awareness of user needs is a cornerstone of the product," Hilton said.
The president of Lucent's InternetNetworking Systems Group, Janet Davidson, fielded questions about the timing of the announcement, given Lucent's fresh plans to undertake a massive restructuring.
"We are resourcing for success," she said, noting that SpringTide was almost fully staffed when Lucent bought the company in September 2000 and would require minimal hiring to execute on current plans.
Although Lucent competitors Cisco and Nortel are also rushing toward increased IP functionality for their service provider customers, Steve Akers, CTO of Lucent's InterNetworking systems, aimed to differentiate the Lucent play.
"What's radically different about our approach is that it is the only one to incorporate true policy-based provisioning," he said.
Service providers overall have had a measure of success trying to provide enhanced IP functionality to smaller network customers, while larger enterprises tend to continue building in their own services.
Built for large-scale deployments, the SpringTide 7000 IP Service Switch can handle as many as 192,000 user sessions. SpringTide's former release -- the SpringTide 5000, which has shipped since December -- supports as many as 64,000 user sessions.
Gonsalez said the Lucent announcement could almost certainly push more enterprises toward the use of service providers. "That's where the big money is," he said.