Cabletron looks beyond enterprise networks

Cabletron Systems is set to extend beyond the boundaries of enterprise networks and into the service provider market, with an ambitious virtual private network (VPN) and voice-over-IP product launch.

Within the next four weeks, Cabletron will announce a raft of offerings aimed at service providers delivering VPN and converged voice and data services to enterprise users. Cabletron demonstrated many of the new products here last week at NetWorld+Interop 99.

They include three new SmartSwitch Routers and two new WAN modules for the routers, as well as a voice-over-IP gateway developed by Hypercom and resold by Cabletron under an OEM arrangement. Cabletron is also expected to unveil Spectrum applications for managing service provider networks and voice equipment.

The product launch is critically important for Cabletron, given that the company's core enterprise network equipment market has slowed down. Cabletron must sell more gear to service providers to offset the shortfall, drive future growth and stay competitive with rivals Cisco, Nortel and 3Com.

Indeed, Cabletron's recent financial turbulence has been blamed in part on the company not having a sales strategy or product line for service providers. Cabletron has even criticised Cisco for "abandoning" the enterprise market in favour of service providers, even though Cisco's growth and market capitalisation are testaments that Cisco's strategy is a wise one.

Now, Cabletron has apparently seen the light. Over the past six to nine months, the company has invested a third of its R&D capital and human resources on this launch, says Michael Skubisz, Cabletron's chief technology officer.

"Our biggest challenge is credibility," Skubisz says. "We're looking to penetrate the market from places closest to our home turf," he adds, referring to service providers that target enterprises rather than those that specialise in sales to consumers.

Cabletron's new SmartSwitch routers will boast a mix of LAN and WAN interfaces, including 10/100M Ethernet, T-1/E-1 and ISDN. The routers will support Data Encryption Standard (DES) and 3DES encryption, as well as compression and IP tunnelling. The new SmartSwitch WAN modules support packet-over-SONET and ATM.

The voice-over-IP gateway will provide voice- and fax-over-IP services, and assign quality of service based on Layer 4 port and socket number information. The SmartVoice Gateway scales up to 96 T-1s.

The Spectrum applications will enable service providers to monitor service levels, network design and network accounting, and provision services based on policies. The applications will also enable management of PBXs and central office switches.

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