What Alcatel saw in TiMetra

Startup TiMetra Networks has at long last revealed the reasons why Alcatel SA plans to acquire the company.

The three-year-old company unveiled its line of edge routers at SuperComm last week. The SR-Series Service Routers are designed to enable multiple services over an IP/MPLS network, and guarantee service levels through exhaustive management routines.

These management capabilities are what differentiates TiMetra's SR-Series from a wealth of competitive offerings from companies young and old, including Laurel Networks, Vivace Networks, Cisco and Juniper, analysts say.

TiMetra unveiled three models of the SR-Series: the 20G bit/sec SR-1, which occupies 1.5U of rack space; the 60G bit/sec SR-4, occupying 1/7 rack; and the 400G bit/sec SR-12, occupying 1/3 rack. All SR-Series routers utilize a common set of interface modules and small form-factor pluggable optics, which allows service providers to mix-and-match media types and optical reach on a per-port basis.

The SR-Series supports Ethernet interfaces ranging from 10/100M bit/sec to 10G bit/sec, and TDM-based interfaces from T-1/E-1 to OC-192/STM-64. The routers support densities of 600 Gigabit Ethernet or 960 OC-12/STM-4 ports per rack.

The SR-Series routers also feature a programmable chipset TiMetra calls Flexpath. Flexpath is a 10G bit/sec processor set that enables service upgrades to be achieved in microcode, which eliminates the substantial costs of line-card replacements and truck rolls typically required with current generation routers.

Flexpath supports the deployment of Ethernet, frame relay and ATM Virtual Leased Lines, RFC 2547bis BGP/MPLS VPNs and Virtual Private LAN Services.

But the coup de grace of the SR-Series is its operations, administration, management and provisioning (OAM&P) capability, analyst say. This allows providers to verify, manage and troubleshoot IP/MPLS data services, which is a rarity in IP/MPLS service provisioning, they say.

"It seems to be a sticking point with a lot of the service providers," says Roz Roseboro, an analyst at RHK in Chicago. "And it seems to be the one thing that differentiates (TiMetra)."

Adds Kevin Mitchell of Infonetics Research: "It shows maturity of the technology by focusing on the management and provisioning as it's just a toy until a service provider can manage the box, provision services, and bill for them. Now the market will decide if they built the right box and if Alcatel can sell IP."

Key OAM&P features of the SR-Series include:

-- Service Assurance tools to verify all aspects of a service, end-to-end.
-- MAC Ping and Traceroute tools to locate network paths to customer premise devices.
-- Service Mirroring to troubleshoot services and capture traffic without having
to overlay network analyzers or deploy technicians to remote POPs.

This set of OAM&P functions are embedded in the SR-Series logic and can be activated through a command line interface or via TiMetra's Management System (TiMS). TiMS also provides centralized provisioning, fault management, network and service topology mapping, and service troubleshooting.

The OAM&P capabilities of the SR-Series help enable and ensure per-service quality-of-service, accounting and billing, and provisioning and diagnostics, which allow providers to accurately support service level agreements, TiMetra claims.

The SR-Series is available immediately with list prices starting below US$30,000. TiMS will be available in the third quarter, with list pricing starting at US$60,000.

TiMetra is in the process of being acquired by Alcatel. The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter.

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