Startup to End Carrier Switch-Upgrade Headaches

FRAMINGHAM (06/21/2000) - Optical startup Equipe Communications Corp. Monday unveiled the software component of its upcoming product designed to enable service providers the ability to offer new services that take advantage of existing edge equipment and high-capacity optical networks.

Called Evail, the software is intended to help service providers and carriers avoid downtime from software-based network outages. At the same time, Evail is intended to simplify software upgrades via its modular design. The software does this by isolating memory from failures and fully separating the control and data plane functions, Equipe officials say.

Service provisioning and management software today is outdated, monolithic and prone to network failure, Equipe says. Company officials are quick to point out that software was the root of the service outages in AT&T Corp.'s and WorldCom Inc.'s frame relay networks over the past 2 years.

Software today has limited troubleshooting capability, long regression test cycles, lack of recovery management and limited scalability, they claim. Evail, on the other hand, includes more than 20 pending patents for availability, scalability and software upgrades, Equipe officials claim. Evail performs automated fault detection and recovery, and categorizes faults and executes recovery policies based on the class of failure, they say.

Evail's policy-based recovery mechanism reduces the need to reboot systems in order to recover from a software outage.

Evail software upgrades are modular, the company says, which allows specific downloads and speeds the introduction of new features and fault fixes. Evail includes a feature called Upgrade Manager that automates all software upgrade coordination. This helps eliminate the need for most system reboots, Equipe says.

Analysts say it's hard to differentiate Evail from protected-memory operating systems like Juniper's JUNOS because Equipe hasn't unveiled specifics on its hardware platform yet. But they believe it's fundamentally different in that Evail is designed for a service switch rather than a router - so it has to provide service awareness redundancy rather than resilient protocol handling.

"The individual devices in a virtual network environment don't have any knowledge of services," says Tom Nolle, president of CIMI, a consulting firm in Voorhees, New Jersey. "They run into these problems where they get into an update storm and the data paths crash." Equipe's software is built with the idea that "each individual node is going to have to be more capable of supporting its role in service fulfillment, and more capable of separating its service activities from its network management topology activities."

Such a move to build more resiliency and performance into carrier networks would be "a pretty significant departure" from other networking software implementations on the market, Nolle says.

Evail will be available later this year on Equipe's optical multilayer hardware platform. This platform is designed to be an "optical on-ramp" that integrates existing edge devices and services - such as IP routers, frame relay and ATM access devices, add/drop muxes, DSL access muxes, PBXs and integrated-access devices - for transmission over an optical core network.

This product is targeted at long-distance carriers, incumbent local carriers, large competitive local exchange carriers and "super carriers," according to Equipe.

More information about Equipe, of Acton, Massachusetts, is at www.equipecom.com.

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