Interview: Lightstorm’s Wade Appelman

Carrier Ethernet digs deeper

An interview with Lightstorm’s Wade Appelman

Carrier Ethernet is already a huge hit, but the telecom industry just isn’t satisfied. The Metro Ethernet Forum’s Carrier Ethernet certification program established carrier-grade requirements that all new equipment need to live up to, but much of the first wave of Carrier Ethernet equipment was adapted from Ethernet silicon more appropriate to the technology’s traditional enterprise requirements.

Start-up chip vendor Lightstorm Networks is trying to change that by embedding carrier-grade capabilities in its silicon. FierceTelecom recently spoke with Wade Appelman, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at Lightstorm Networks, about unique needs of the carrier market, the company’s relationships with carriers, and the future of Carrier Ethernet and provider backbone transport.

FT: Isn’t Carrier Ethernet already a big hit? Why is there a need for your silicon?

WA: Carrier Ethernet has been a successful market, and OEMs can buy a lot of different chips off-the-shelf, but for a long time vendors have been offering enterprise Ethernet boxes adapted for carriers. The enterprise Ethernet chips in that equipment didn’t have wire-rate carrier-grade capabilities the carriers really wanted. The enterprise is a really different where they look at how much they’ll pay. Carriers look at the scalability of that chip, how many subscribers it will support. Our chip will support 80,000 VLANs and 128,000 MAC addresses. The Carrier Ethernet market also operations, administration and management requirement to manage statistics down to a user level. That’s more complex requirement than in the enterprise market.

FT: What’s the dynamic between equipment makers and chips suppliers now? How will you work with carriers?

WA: I think you will see fewer suppliers and a lot more integrators. Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, etc., have decreased the amount of R&D they are doing because they are becoming more like integrators and they are relying on companies like us to do the innovation at the chip level. That also means we need to be tight with carriers to show the chips have their capabilities. That’s why BT knows who we are.

FT: BT also is a major proponent of provider backbone transport (PBT, also called Provider Backbone Bridging-Traffic Engineering). Do you support PBT?

WA: We knew had to be agnostic to the religious battle between T-MPLS [transport multiprotocol label switching] and PBT. You’ll see networks with both technologies, and it will not be a winner take all scenario. We support T-MPLS and PBT, and we think PBT is a great idea by the way. It does what we’re tring to do in taking some of the enterprise complexity out of Ethernet for the carrier market. It takes out Ethernet Spanning Tree and some media access features that you don’t need, and allows easier, less expensive point-to-point Carrier Ethernet.