Nortel Headed Into Application Services?

InternetNews.com has learned that financially troubled networking vendor Nortel
Networks is developing a new services router that could potentially enable applications
to run on top of networking gear.

Though full details on the new Nortel services router are still being worked out, the
platform might end up competing against
HP ProCurve’s ONE initiative
that lets application sit on router blades as well as
the expected release by Cisco of its own
blade server platform
. It’s all part of a growing trend for networking vendors to
move beyond just being about connectivity and moving bits around to actually being an
application delivery platform.

“We absolutely believe this is a trend that networks will continue to redefine the way
that almost every enterprise application that you’re familiar with today can be
deployed,” John McHugh, Nortel’s new vice president of enterprise solutions, told
InternetNews.com. “There is no reason why various network service functions and
ultimately applications will not eventually slide into the actual fabric of the
network.”

McHugh declined to give full details on Nortel’s new services router however he did
provide some color on what it will enable.

“It’s a little premature to talk about it at this point but our primary purpose of the
product initially was to enable voice applications,” McHugh said. “But speaking to the
architecture in general, it is an architecture that is not specific to voice.”

McHugh argued that in general the main constraint for the services router architecture
is finding compelling applications to put into a device based on where it sits in the
network.

“We’re not doing this as if you put a processor in it they will come,” McHugh
commented.

The Nortel Services router instead will take more of a purpose built approach in order
to mitigate risk to the network. McHugh argued that Nortel doesn’t want to create an
environment for customers where the network has the same issues that exist in client and
server environments. Those issues include limited control of the apps that are running as
well as the interactions and parameters running within the application environment.

Heading of spurious network behavior

“Nortel’s concern is if you do let it become the wild west where suddenly anyone can
ignite an application inside a network device,” McHugh said. “When devices could take
advantage of presence within the fabric of the network, I think you have a formula for
spurious behavior in your network infrastructure. “

The way that Nortel will get around that is to at first offer what McHugh referred to
as ‘buttoned up’ solutions from best in class providers that are hosted on top of
Nortel’s hardware. In such a way, the Nortel services router is not just a Nortel only
play but is open to a wider array of applications.

HP ProCurve is taking a similar approach with its recently launched
ProCurve ONE initiative
that enables application from Microsoft, Avaya, Riverbed and
other partners to run on HP networking gear. Cisco’s Application eXtension Platform (AXP)
which was
announced
in April of 2008, similarly is limited to approved Cisco applications that
can be developed by third parties.

McHugh hinted that the Nortel Services router could be available this year though he
declined to provide any additional specifics.

Nortel is facing immense challenges right now. For one it is currently under
Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
in the United States as it tries to restructure its
affairs.

McHugh is actually a newcomer to Nortel and joined in December of 2008 after
previously running HP’s ProCurve unit. He is very optimistic that his new leadership of
Nortel’s enterprise business is a good situation for both himself and Nortel.

“It’s a high longevity business with a huge installed base out there and I think there
are a lot of us in the industry that looked at this asset and thought it was
underutilized,” said McHugh. “I’m here because I believe in the opportunities here and I
believe this is a business that does have its fundamental asset value intact and it will
come out even stronger than before.”

“When your back is against the wall is when you gain a lot of perspective on the big
picture.”

Article courtesy of InternetNews.com

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