Lucent kills next-generation ATM switch

Lucent Technologies Inc. is discontinuing development of its next-generation ATM multiservice switch in an effort to trim its product portfolio as part of a restructuring plan to return to profitability.

The MSC 25000 was announced in June, was slated to go into beta this month and ship by the end of the year. It was positioned as a follow-on to Lucent's GX 550 and CBX 500 switches, which are at least 3 years old (Lucent upgrades multiservice core).

Lucent is now developing an IP/MPLS switch for the multiservice core to replace the MSC 25000. Lucent, the leading vendor of ATM switches for service providers, is essentially acknowledging that the replacement of ATM with IP/MPLS as the technological underpinning of multiservice networks is approaching faster than expected.

This is a sharp reversal from the viewpoints voiced by Lucent officials in June, when the company introduced the MSC 25000. At that time, Lucent officials said the rationale for the MSC 25000 was a desire on the part of service providers to go "back to basics" by converging multiple networks with an ATM core.

Nonetheless, the MSC 25000 was designed for an eventual migration to IP/MPLS, so the decision to discontinue the switch is somewhat curious.

"We've had to reset priorities and make difficult decisions to maximize the opportunities with our large service provider customers," a Lucent spokesman says. "During the past few months, we've seen greater interest from customers who want to grow their existing Lucent multiservice networks through a high-speed IP/MPLS core that has quality-of-service. As a result of our review, we are ending development of the MSC 25000 and have made a strategic decision to develop a new multiservice platform that will deliver the capabilities customers require sooner than would have been available on the MSC 25000."

This new multiservice platform, which Lucent will announce later this year, is believed to be based in whole or in large part on the Nexabit NX64000 router Lucent obtained from its acquisition of Nexabit Networks 2 years ago. The spokesman would not confirm this, however.

Details on the migration strategy, including investment protection and trade-in incentives, for customers moving from the GX 550 and CBX 500 products to this new platform could not be learned by press time. The Lucent spokesman also declined to immediately disclose the number of people working on the MSC 25000 project and what their new role, if any, within Lucent will be.

While conceding that the future of multiservice provisioning is in IP/MPLS, the interesting twist is whether Lucent will still be around when IP/MPLS overtakes ATM as the foundation of these networks. Lucent is slashing jobs and product development projects as it looks to return to profitability next year. It's experienced several quarters of huge losses amid missed market opportunities, reduced customer spending and the overall downturn in the economy and the telecom industry in particular.

After the latest round of firings, Lucent will be less than half the size it was a year ago (Lucent undergoing painful revamp).

The company is also selling off chunks of itself in an effort to raise cash, and is focusing squarely on selling to the 30 or so largest service providers in the world.

The MSC 25000 was designed to scale from 320G bit/sec to 2.5 terabit/sec. For eventual service and infrastructure migration to IP, the MSC 25000 was to have packet-over-SONET and Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, as well as MPLS signaling and traffic engineering capabilities.

The switch was also designed to support IP service shelf cards, QoS and differentiated services features from the GX 550. It was also going to interface to Lucent's SpringTide IP service switch intelligence.

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