Riverstone Router Offers More Punch in Less Space

Tried renting space in a carrier hotel in Manhattan, Chicago or Los Angeles lately?

Tried renting space in a carrier hotel in Manhattan, Chicago or Los Angeles lately?

Riverstone Networks hopes so, and hopes you came away with a case of sticker shock.

Riverstones big play is squeezing more gigabit-speed power into less space with its routers than any of its metro Ethernet competitors. The Santa Clara, Calif., start-up is one of a handful of equipment vendors moving into the most critical stages of their growth, touting multiple services and small footprints.

Riverstones new RS 16000 aggregating router crams 540 gigabit ports into a standard 7-foot rack. Thats enough routing capacity to handle 540 billion bits of information per second. Riverstone says thats 88 percent more capacity than the nearest rival, Foundry Networks BigIron 4000; more than double the capacity of Cisco Systems 6509; and nearly triple the power of Extreme Networks Black Diamond 3804. Carrier hotels in the nations largest cities charge about $1,000 per month for a cage — usually three racks per cage — and another $9,000 per month to manage and maintain the gear.

Riverstone says the RS 16000 lets customers generate about $3.8 million per rack per month, based on an estimate of $7,000 in revenue per gigabit per month. Its competitors can only generate between one-half and one-quarter of that in the same period, and have higher real estate and servicing costs.

Gigabit Ethernet is the favorite protocol for the metro space and local networks. Even among carriers wanting to hold on to their older protocols, the number of Gigabit Ethernet ports shipped is expected to more than double each year through 2005. By then, gigabit and 10-gigabit connections are expected to be the centerpiece of data centers, storage area networks, virtual private networks and broadband connectivity.

With colocation prices increasing about 15 percent per year for the last dozen years, the denser the box the better. DellOro Group estimates that network operation costs are about 70 percent of service provider costs.

Riverstones RS 16000 works with Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology to make it easier for providers to deliver service to end users, and can connect to Course Wave Division Multiplexers to get four, six or eight channels of traffic on every hair-thin strand of optic fiber.

An earlier standard, Ethernet with Transmission Control Protocol, gets the bits to the right address but cant guarantee that theyll arrive in the order that would make voice or video over Ethernet possible. MPLS, a signaling layer on top of Ethernet that adds more control, can guarantee the service levels agreed to by the service provider and end user.

The hardware-based intelligence is key to giving the router more profit-generating potential than just a dumb box, says Steve Garrison, Riverstones vice president of corporate marketing. "MPLS looks like a good way of solving the connection-oriented problems of Ethernet. Telseon, Yipes Communications, Giant Loop, Terabeam — these companies building new Ethernet networks from the ground up — helped us find the sweet spot." The RS 16000 would sit on the metro ring where there is plenty of fiber on rights-of-way to connect to the metro ring or to cross-country traffic.

Telseon CEO John Kane says Riverstones RS 16000 "fully outclasses the competition in port density, services supported, provisioning ease and flexibility and operational costs.