TECHNOLOGY TRENDS: Driven by the Times

As boys, networking
companies were smart. As men, they still are. But they have also
matured. With large stakes in the hot carrier market, networking
companies can no longer just boast of their comfort level with IP.
Today they know that is just a necessary-but-not-sufficient
condition to succeed. They have learnt a thing or two from the real
world sensibility of the carrier market. That is reflected in their
way of doing business; long-term strategies; their talks; and yes,
their technologies.


Take, for example, the broad
concept of technology. Till a couple of years ago, it was synonymous
with product capabilities. Then came Layer 3/Layer 4 switching among
others. Today, the networking vendors do understand that technology
means much more.


All networking companies have
tried to build their strengths in three areas–optical networking,
broadband access (DSL/cable), and unified messaging. These areas
have not only seen acquisitions, even other companies who are still
independent in these areas are hot, with stocks trading at all-time
high.


Optical
Networking


Internet-based multimedia communication services will be
widely available, creating huge demand for bandwidth. Only optical
networking can address that kind of bandwidth needs. The big three
equipment vendors for the new carrier networks (Lucent, Cisco, and
Nortel) talk of IP over Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM). No wonder, the maximum number of acquisition by Cisco and
Nortel Networks have been made in this area. Other start-ups in this
area like Sycamore Networks, Cienna, and Corvis Corp. are also hot
companies. Even in India, most prospective long distance players are
looking at deploying optical networking right from day
one.


Broadband
Access


Interestingly, it is the middle of the carrier network about
which there is a sharp divide among the traditional telecom vendors
and the new datacom equipment suppliers. While DWDM is common choice
for all at the backbone, DSL and cable are fast becoming growth
areas. Many vendors are pushing DSL as it is targeted at the
traditional telcos and some new carriers. Cable, on the other hand,
is restricted to a few markets like the US (also India). India is a
bigger potential for cable than its other Asian neighbours are. This
is another area where most M&As have taken place.


Unified
Messaging


Unified
messaging, is a software-based computer telephony solution and has
been thought of as more of an application for enterprises and telcos
for value-added services. However, with IP rapidly becoming
omnipresent, it is today possible to do virtually everything over
IP. Most networking companies are grabbing up the small application
companies to provide a complete (as opposed to total) solution to
the service providers and enterprises over their converged IP-based
network. Indian companies have a potential to make a mark
here.


Unified messaging is useful both
for the enterprise and the carrier market.


Wireless corporate network is
another area where much activity has been seen. But it is still a
long way to go. The areas to watch out are IN and Web-based
customer/contact management, where some activity has just
begun.


Hot for
2000


In an unwired world, mobile
Internet application has suddenly taken off, despite the 3G wireless
not really moving in the planned direction. Nevertheless, the GSM
world is united under UMTS and the new 3G wireless operators will
soon require solid core wireless networking technology to go with
GPRS. The networking vendors are still not ready to meet the demand,
thanks to the comparatively lesser activity on this front in the US
market. They will either have to catch up fast by acquiring
companies or will also give in to their “slow-moving” competitors
from the traditional telecom equipment domain who have shown that
they are not so slow in embracing IP.

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