Heavy Reading

Next-Generation Routers: A Comprehensive Product Analysis

Until recently, routers have played a comparatively simple role in global networks. Responsible mainly for forwarding packets consisting mainly of email and Web content around the Internet, routers have had few of the stringent performance and reliability requirements placed on other types of networking equipment.

While this relative simplicity was a major factor in keeping IP network costs low and therefore helped spur the massive growth in IP networking demand is increasing for routers to perform to levels previously only achieved by other commercial forms of voice and data networks, so that new services can be deployed and additional services migrated to IP. The low cost and relative simplicity that led to such tremendous growth in IP networks is no longer sufficient to cope either with the gradual migration of mission-critical applications away from legacy networks across to IP or with the ideal of all network traffic traveling via a converged IP infrastructure.

The growth of IP networks has required not only an order-of-magnitude increase in the forwarding capacity of routing equipment, but also support for a wider spectrum of applications, highlighting many shortcomings in router design and architecture. In addition to the enhanced features required to support many new services, the need for high levels of security over an inherently insecure network design and an ever-increasing demand for low costs has changed the Internet router industry from a sector with a few large, monopolistic players into a highly competitive marketplace in which an increasing number of players are striving to push the boundaries.

Next-Generation Routers: A Comprehensive Product Analysis delivers a complete roundup of today's next-generation router market, focusing on the current capabilities of available routing equipment and the technical and market factors that are emerging to drive the market forward.


Scores of product matrices deliver more than 1,000 data fields that enable direct feature-by-feature comparison of next-gen enterprise and carrier-class routers. The report includes product information for 119 next-gen routers from 26 different manufacturers, including 15 public companies and 11 private companies.


The report also analyzes the issues being addressed by the industry to provide IP routing equipment that will enable highly reliable, high-capacity converged networks to develop. Other critical issues analyzed in this report include the following:

Barriers to overcome before further adoption of IP virtual private networks
The question of convergence
Adoption of standards for IP networks
Barriers to overcome before widespread adoption of VOIP/converged networks
Likely catalysts for movement in the router market

In addition to providing detailed product information, this report presents product data within the framework of a standardized set of criteria. In general, product information gathered directly from router manufacturers does not allow for straightforward comparisons, because vendors typically use different metrics to play up the strengths of their offerings. By presenting product data according to a standardized set of criteria, this report aims to overcome the problems associated with techniques of this kind, thereby enabling meaningful product comparisons.

Alcatel 7750 Service Router Series Switching Capacity

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Alcatel 7750 Service Router Series Expansion Capabilities/Supported Interfaces

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Key Findings

Key findings of this report include the following:

Methods used by router manufacturers to describe the performance of their equipment still vary considerably, making direct comparisons difficult and confusing for prospective buyers. Even though most routers function in very similar ways using similar protocols and interface card types router makers often use different metrics to describe product performance. For instance, some vendors quote switching throughput by counting data once as it enters the router and then again as it leaves the router. In data sheets, figures are doubled in this fashion, followed by the true throughput, quoted as "full-duplex."

VOIP represents the most significant opportunity to expand IP networks, but that potential cannot be realized without further standardization work. Enterprises and carriers are starting to move their voice traffic from circuit-based to packet-based networks as the adoption of VOIP gains momentum. Despite these moves, there are still a number of steps that need to be taken with regards to the router technology before VOIP can be widely adopted. Issues such as network complexity, agreement of standards, and other related interoperability problems are still barriers preventing the proliferation of VOIP.

Most of the vendors offering VOIP equipment have implemented proprietary features that negatively affect next-gen router interoperability. The vast majority of router equipment available has very limited interoperability with equipment from other vendors. Many supplementary voice services, such as call forwarding, voice mail, last number redial, callback services, and conference calling, are affected by this problem.

Continued use of proprietary technologies will make it difficult for new competitors to win business in both the enterprise and carrier markets. Incumbent vendors continue to use proprietary technology as a way to keep customers locked into buying equipment only from them. This strategy essentially locks out competition from smaller, more innovative startups. The most effective way to break the proprietary cycle is for customers to demand interoperability as a requirement for future equipment buys.

Joint partnerships with smaller companies are becoming more attractive to incumbent vendors as outright acquisitions lose their appeal. Failed high-profile buyouts in recent years have made incumbents more reluctant to buy startups outright. Instead, incumbents looking to improve their chances to compete against market leaders Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks appear more likely to do so through co-marketing partnerships with smaller manufacturers. Startups such as Caspian Networks are likely partners in this scenario.

"Microbursts" are a potentially significant problem for router reliability in converged services networks. Microbursts are brief network outages (typically less than one minute in duration) caused mainly by small changes in the IP network that result in the need to update routing tables throughout the network. While microbursts don't present a significant problem for best-effort IP services, they can cause failures in delay-sensitive services such as VOIP. Compounding the problem is the fact that current network monitoring systems are not equipped to effectively detect microbursts.

Report Structure

This report is structured as follows:

Section II provides an overview of the next-generation router market, including basic information on router technology, network architectures, and emerging IP virtual private network services.

Section III outlines the key challenges that face router manufacturers in meeting requirements for reliable product performance in converged networks.

Section IV presents comparative product information for all of the next-generation routers now commercially available.

The report is essential reading for a wide range of industry participants, including the following:

Telecom service providers: How have IP routers evolved to meet your needs as you migrate to a converged services infrastructure? What challenges remain before routers can deliver the reliability required for carrier-class networks? Which routers best meet your immediate and long-term needs? How do today's products compare for the features and performance specifications that are most important to you?

Equipment manufacturers: How do your products compare with the competition? What are the specific strengths of your product line that will resonate with prospective carrier buyers? Are there potential weaknesses in your product that need to be addressed?

Investors: Which equipment makers are in the best position to capture market share in this important telecom industry sector? Which startups are delivering the technology that will gain market traction with carrier buyers?

Next-Generation Routers: A Comprehensive Product Analysis is published in PDF format. The report is sold with an enterprise license, which means it can be distributed throughout the purchaser's organization.

PRICE: $3,495
Analysts at Large, Heavy Reading

Paul Shippam, a telecom industry analyst specializing in signaling systems and network convergence, has worked as a software engineer and project manager for AT&T, Ericsson, and Lucent Technologies, among other companies.

Paul Ridgewell specializes in investment research opportunities and is the founder of Papaya Research, a telecom investment consultancy based in the U.K.
Performance metrics for next-gen routers are used inconsistently by vendors
VOIP represents a golden opportunity for router vendors to gain market share
Proprietary features continue to hamper efforts to promote router interoperability
Lack of standards is having a negative impact on startups in the router market
Incumbent vendors find joint partnerships with startups more attractive than acquisitions
"Microbursts" are a potentially huge problem for router reliability in converged networks
Full analysis of the next-gen router market and technology development

Comprehensive product data covering 119 different routers from 27 suppliers

More than 70 product feature matrices, yielding more than 1,000 comparative data points

Full analysis of next-gen router network architectures and standards efforts

89 pages of product and technology analysis
PRICE: $3,495
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