Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Avici Switches its Focus from Core Routing to PBT Control Layer Intelligence

Marking a strategic shift for the company, Avici Systems announced that it will be transitioning away from core router development to focus on its new product initiative, Soapstone Networks, which is developing a Provider Backbone Transport (PBT) controller for the Carrier Ethernet market. Avici expects the final shipments of its core router products will occur by the end of 2007.

"While we were successful in bringing the company to profitability in 2006 and continued to do so in the first quarter of 2007, we recognize that the routing market is under tremendous pressure from alternative technologies such as Ethernet switching and we do not believe our focus on core routers and our position as the number three supplier in this market to be a sustainable growth business for the company," said Bill Leighton, CEO of Avici Systems.

Functioning as an alternative to MPLS, Avici's forthcoming Provider Backbone Transport Controller aims to provide carrier-class QoS and traffic management using low-cost Ethernet switching.

Avici describes its Soapstone initiative as a natural evolution of a maturing routing market that will separate the control plane from the data plane in a router or switch and move the network control plane closer to the services control plane.

The company believes that moving the control plane from equipment into software will enable a natural value optimization to occur. Data plane vendors such as Ethernet switch suppliers can work to drive down the unit cost and add new features. Control plane vendors will focus on services and feature velocity. By making the coupling between network elements looser, interoperability problems are minimized and carriers can optimize their networks around the best building block technologies in a multi-vendor environment. The Soapstone control plane will exist outside the traditional router and could as easily control an Ethernet, optical or routed.

  • Avici has been a supplier of core routing equipment to AT&T since 2000.

  • In February, Avici Systems has formed a new business unit, called Soapstone Networks , that will offer a network control layer solution that sits between IT-hosted services and network/transport. Soapstone will leverage key industry standards such as ITU NGN, SOA, TMF eTOM, and others, along with open application programming interfaces (APIs) between the network and IT/OSS systems. The Soapstone aim is to map the abstract service needs expressed by the business plane into a simple configuration command set that can be applied to any technology or equipment.

    Phase One of the Soapstone product rollout will include the availability of a Provider Backbone Transport Controller (PBTC). Instead of MPLS, PBT uses low-cost Ethernet switching and can link the OSS and network with a simple API. In order for PBT to support automated provisioning and fault management and ultimately control operations costs, it requires a reliable and scalable control plane. Soapstone PBTC is a virtual control plane for PBT, but also one that is compatible with other network technologies such as IP.

    Soapstone will deliver a transport abstraction layer above both PBT and MPLS, enabling the migration from already-deployed MPLS networks to PBT.

    Soapstone also aims to deliver key capabilities for IMS applications by decoupling IMS from the network, a function IMS recognizes in its definition of a Resource-and-Admission Control Function (RACF). The company plans to support the full ITU NGN RACF capability set, making it compatible not only with IMS but also with emerging FMC applications and even session-based wireline applications including voice and video over IP.

    Soapstone registers network elements, selects the optimal transport elements, provisions the network, and monitors the actual characteristics for compliance of a service against a desired behavior.

    The Soapstone abstraction layer can create a “virtual resource�? that also maps to emerging standards for service management from Telemanagement Forum (TMF) and IPsphere. Soapstone controlled virtual resources can also be integrated with SDP-based features and applications that support IPTV, videoconferencing, SaaS, and other services. By providing a simple and technology-neutral interface for applications to use in brokering network resources, Soapstone facilitates the trend toward application-driven networking.

See also