Time to let discontinued routers R.I.P.
CEN Feature (Dec 16 2010)
Even as total capex budgets remain flat today, service providers continue to grow their Carrier Ethernet investment and make it a larger portion of their budget each year. However, one factor fueling this shift seldom gets discussed in polite company, and almost always begins with a “Dear-John” letter from an equipment manufacturer which goes something like this:
“Dear Valued Service Provider:
This bulletin serves as official notice of the Manufacture Discontinue of the old XYZ router effective, oh, let’s say really soon….”
While it’s true that change is inevitable in every industry, service providers have experienced an extremely high level of switch/router discontinuation notices over recent years, driven by rapid network evolution, and numerous mergers and acquisitions in the vendor community.
For example, consider Riverstone Networks, one of the myriad of high-flying startups in the mid 1990’s that eventually filed for Chapter 11 in 2006. Lucent Technologies acquired Riverstone’s assets just in time for Lucent itself to merge into Alcatel—where ultimately the Lucent router portfolio, including Riverstone, was discontinued.
Riverstone is an extreme example. However, the generational change from Frame/ATM to newer IP encapsulations is similarly disruptive, leaving many operators with minimally maintained or unsupported platforms.
Many of these old or discontinued routers are deployed at the network edge, where they primarily provide an aggregation function for IP or services over traditional T1, or DS3. This service delivery method continues to grow simply because customer service demand continues to outpace metro fiber installation and availability.
So, what’s an operator to do as the gray market dries up and support disappears for Old Yeller? One option is to cross your fingers, and hope the router hardware never fails. (If there was a bug in that last software release then just continue rebooting it every couple of days so that it can keep on passing traffic.)
Fortunately, there is a solution that’s better than repeat rebooting. Operators are discovering that replacing these discontinued routers and their legacy interfaces with Carrier Ethernet solutions not only eliminates risk to service, it also greatly improves ability to deliver a common customer experience. Equally important, operational savings from power and collocation expenses alone can quickly cover the cost of the upgrade equipment. At my company, Overture Networks, we build just this type of Carrier Ethernet equipment, and our customers are deploying it for exactly these reasons.
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at some specifics and experiences as service providers upgrade from discontinued routers to solutions including Carrier Ethernet. Stay tuned.
Brian Van Voorhis is a senior product manager at Overture Networks.