Lucent Banks on Faster IP Migration

Discontinuing 'new flagship product' before its launch; another multiservice platform is in the works.

Banking on the accelerated adoption of IP gear at the network core, Lucent Technologies Inc. is once again rethinking its MPLS product line.

Less than four months after introducing its multiservice ATM (asynchronous transfer mode)-based Multiprotocol Label Switching platform as the "new flagship product," the Murray Hill, N.J., vendor last week said it was doing away with the portfolios central product.

The discontinuation of the MSC 25000 Multiservice Packet Core Switch before it became commercially available is due to an unexpected rush among customers to migrate to an Internet protocol core, Lucent officials said. The MSC 25000, which had been due in December, was slated to help service providers expand high- capacity packet services over ATM networks to the enterprise because business services account for the lions share of service providers data revenue.

"What we have learned during the past few months is that weve seen greater interest from customers who want to grow their existing Lucent- supplied multiservice networks," said Mike Alva, a Lucent spokesman. "We didnt have the same level of interest in IP MPLS a few months ago as we do now."

Lucent plans to launch a new multiservice platform to deliver IP MPLS capabilities soon, officials said.

While Lucent is betting that the major incumbent service providers—local exchange carriers and long-distance companies, for the most part—will be ready to upgrade to IP-based core network infrastructure in the near term, many other vendors envision a slower migration.

Other vendors, including Alcatel S.A., Marconi Corp. and Equipe Communications Corp., continue to develop switches for MPLS upgrades on legacy networks in the belief that service providers will seek to maximize the services they can provide over the infrastructure already in place.

"[The economy] is tending to slow the adoption of new technologies rather than accelerate it," said Bob Sullebarger, vice president of marketing at Equipe, in Acton, Mass. "The model is to evolve." Equipe plans to roll out its new switch at years end.

For smaller vendors in particular, Lucents departure from the MSC 25000 platform is encouraging because most of the major service providers use Lucent equipment in their core networks and, therefore, generally give heavy consideration to the same vendors adjunct equipment.

"On balance, we think this is great news for us," Sullebarger said. "Penetrating the installed base is a big issue for us. Having [Lucent] out of the game, at least for a period of time, is good news."

Analysts widely agree that the major service providers are not ready for a forklift upgrade to IP at the core of the networks. The main problem with the MSC 25000, many say, is that it was not sized according to market demand.

"[The MSC 25000] wasnt structured as a switch to meet market needs," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects Inc., in Washington. "And by the time they would have gotten to market, the market would have passed them by."

According to industry sources, Nortel Networks Corp. is developing its own multiservice ATM switch for service providers. It will build on Nortels Passport switch line for enterprises to offer MPLS and IP capabilities on service providers legacy networks, sources said.