Lucent attends to the edge

After neglecting the multiservice edge while developing a core ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) switch that was discontinued before it shipped, Lucent Technologies Inc. has now lavished attention on its lower-end, market-leading switches.

The company last week, as expected, unveiled enhancements to its CBX 500 and GX 550 frame relay and ATM switches designed to increase service capacity and generate more revenue for carriers.

It was a long time coming. For a while, it seemed as if Lucent was conceding the multiservice edge to start-ups such as WaveSmith Networks Inc. and Gotham Networks Inc. WaveSmith recently rolled out its frame relay edge switches, which made the short list in a US$100 million Verizon Communications Inc. buildout, according to sources.

Now Lucent has responded. The extensions, available now for the CBX 500 and GX 550 switches, include channelized DS-3 ATM inverse muxing and E-1 frame relay cards for the CBX 500 that provide up to 10 times greater port capacity for the switch. For the GX 550, Lucent rolled out an ATM module that offers a fourfold increase in the number of permanent virtual circuits previously supported and a new processor that provides a fourfold increase in processing power for the switch.

Lucent also upgraded the operating system software for both switches - MXOS - to support multilink frame relay and bolster reliability by improving fault management, and manual and automatic service recovery.

The enhancements were anticipated after a Lucent internal memo was obtained by Network World in which the company apparently admitted neglecting the multiservice edge while developing the ill-fated MSC 25000 core ATM switch, which was killed before it was released. That switch has been replaced by the TMX 880 MPLS core switch, which began shipping last month.

In that memo, Ken Packert, president of Lucent's Multiservice Switching division, apparently acknowledged that the development of the MSC 25000 distracted Lucent from refreshing the edge.

"While building the MSC, the edge ATM/FR services have been neglected, starving the programs that allow our customers to generate more revenue," the Packert memo states. "We need to refocus our efforts on the network edge, helping to drive service provider revenue."

Lucent never confirmed the authenticity of the memo. But the enhancements are here, and they're currently in use at service providers KPN in Europe and Embratel in Brazil.

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