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A s service providers move to-wards next-generation, IP-based services and

offer converged voice, data, and video services on a single network independent

of the fact whether access media is wireline or wireless, the routing technology

would play a key role in helping them deliver the services. Even if a carrier is

not really delivering converged services, the fact that network traffic is

growing at an hitherto unknown pace and volume will make it imperative for them

to go for solutions that are not only capable of handling existing volumes but

also efficiently take on sudden surges in network traffic. Telecom services

business is gradually entering a phase (in many cases it already has) where

competitive pressures would lead to moves that defy all business sense.


Therefore, the network must perform beyond expectations. To achieve these,

service providers must deploy routers that are intelligent and dynamic with

built-in resilience and security for seamless service delivery.


Multiple services:
It's all too obvious now that any service provider who

has survived competition and retained or gained new customers must offer

multiple services-voice, data, and video. Moreover, it must be ready to

deliver both customized and what can be termed as 'on-demand' services,

which may include many other services besides plain bandwidth. Multiple service

delivery demands that not only should the router be capable of handling all

kinds of traffic, it must also be robust enough to handle huge and sometimes

sudden traffic growths. Any router that a service provider decides to deploy

must be able to do all this efficiently.


Scalability has become a mundane issue as it has to be addressed on an on-going

basis, hence the issue is mundane as well as dynamic. What it means is that

there are a growing number of services and an increasing amount of traffic that

a service provider must be ready to scale all the time. What this also means is

that scalability must come both in terms of capacity expansion as well as

addition of new features or software upgrades. In other words, if a service

provider buys a router today, it must have enough room for capacity expansion

and upgradation without new, pocket-pinching, capital expenditure.


Security: Some recent developments have suggested that routers from

most of the leading vendors may be vulnerable to security threats. Incidents

like denial-of-service attacks can disrupt service providers' networks. It

would therefore be imperative for the service providers to focus on security

flaws and look for reliable attack-hacking protection solutions in their


Features: It is not only important that the router supports as many

features as possible, it must also boast of those features that really help in

adding value to the services. Some features that should be looked at are: L3

VPNs, L2 VPNs (Ethernet over MPLS, frame relay over MPLS, ATM over MPLS, PPP

over MPLS, HDLC over MPLS, VPLS, IPSec encryption, QoS, and customer


IPv6: Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the next-generation

communications protocol for the Internet. IPv6 is designed to fix the

shortcomings of IPv4, such as data security and maximum number of user addresses

that are possible. It's the next level in the growth of Internet. A service

provider's router must be ready for transition to IPv6.


Stability and performance: Service providers have to provide high

reliability to their enterprise customers running mission-critical applications.

The objective of any service provider should be to provide uninterrupted service

and performance for different applications. As most of the products are modular

in nature: if one component fails, rest of the system is not affected. In

addition, the various fail over mechanisms helps in restarting of all the

protocols and applications.

The router should be able to handle unstable network conditions such as

sudden surges in bandwidth usage and routes bottlenecks. Nowadays, routers that

separate the routing and forwarding functionality are in demand as they reduce

the risk of downtimes.

Per-port revenue: Traditionally, port density has been a key

evaluating factor for platforms. However, with the wide variety of applications

that are now possible on today's networks, the importance of revenue per port

has also emerged as a crucial criterion. Per-port revenue is related to the

range of value-added services that can be offered to enterprise customers.


Reliability: With telecom infrastructure improving, service providers

are focusing on providing a high reliability network. If the network is

reliable, service providers can focus on providing better SLAs to enterprise

customers thereby providing professional-grade services. So, routers that are

more reliable can definitely help in generating more revenue for service

providers and also keep the enterprise customer happy. One has to opt for a

vendor who can provide end-to-end quality of service.

Service and support: An important aspect that should not be overlooked

is the after-sales support provided by a vendor. One has to see what kind of

support infrastructure a vendor is offering-right from the help desk to onsite


Deployment Trends

IP and MPLS continue to permeate data networks as service providers plan

increasing investments in those technologies, says Infonetics Research in its

latest market research study, 'Service provider plans for IP, MPLS, and ATM

2004'. After a single-digit decline in 2003 and a return to growth in 2004,

worldwide service provider router and switch revenue will reach $8.4 billion in

2007, up from $4.8 billion in 2003.


Growth in the service-provider router and switch market is being fueled by a

more positive capex environment combined with a flurry of projects initiated by

carriers around the world, including data network convergence, broadband network

transformation, broadening the base of private IP-VPN offerings, and ramping up

IP-MPLS build-outs.

The world of routers entered a new era in the past year with the launch of

Cisco's CRS-1 carrier routing system. CRS-1 has a system capacity of up to 92

terabits per second (Tbps). The Guinness Book of World Records has certified

CRS-1 as the highest capacity Internet router ever developed and is designed to

afford up to 100 times more capacity than previously available. Because of the

its huge capacity, the router is still to find many takers in the enterprise

space-CRS-1 is finding good traction among broadband and multimedia service

providers and large research organizations. Softbank BB (providers of Yahoo!

BB), the National Institute of Informatics' SuperSinet research network in

Japan, as well as the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center have chosen the Cisco

CRS-1 as a key component for building out their IP network infrastructures.

These customers, along with trials at Telecom Italia, are in addition to 14

other major global service providers that are in various stages of trials with


Cisco's main competitor Juniper is recognized as almost equal to Cisco in

terms of product performance and quality. Juniper's routers are rated highly

in terms of reliablility and performance in the telecom service provider market,

where is has a leading presence. One of the recent deployments of Juniper is

that of Red Electrica Telecomunicaciones (RET), a data solutions and broadband

services provider in Spain, operating under the brand name Albura, which has

deployed the E-series edge routing platform in its broadband networks. Guangdong

Telecom, China's largest broadband service provider, has also expanded its

edge connectivity with the E-series edge routing platform.

Huawei Technologies of China is a rising star in the global router market. It

has now significant market share in the router market. The company almost

shocked competitors recently when pan-European business service provider Colt

Telecom Group announced that it would be deploying the Chinese vendor's

Quidway AR2809 and AR2831 enterprise routers for its managed Internet access and

IP VPN services.