Riverstone pegs government integrators with new switch

A newly introduced line of network switches from Riverstone Networks Inc., Santa Clara Calif., could be used by integrators to compete against telecommunications service providers for agency contracts, said Stephen Garrison, senior director of marketing for Riverstone.

Garrison said agencies are increasingly looking to build metropolitan area networks to connect their disparate offices together, using the wide availability of unused fiber optics lines already installed.

Building in-house?with assistance of an integrator?rather than contracting out to a service provider for wide area network services saves money and improves quality of service, he said.

"A telecom provider may offer a quality-of-service guarantee, but if the agency has offices outside the carrier's own networks, the company can't guarantee the same level of service," Garrison said. That often means service providers must buy capacity from other carriers to complete a wide area network, which weakens their ability to offer guaranteed high levels of performance, he said.

Greater security is another reason for setting up an internal network. Last December, Riverstone supplied General Dynamics Corp., Falls Church, Va., with routers that convert traffic from Ethernet-based networks to asynchronous transfer mode-based networks. General Dynamics used the technology for its work on a network that carries unclassified voice and data traffic within the Pentagon.

Garrison said the company's line of 10 gigabit Ethernet switches, which will be available June 1, would help integrators better compete in the market for government-built metropolitan area networks. The layer 3 switches, which the companies claims offer carrier-class speed and reliability, cost approximately $9,995 per port, Garrison said. That price is competitive with the $1,000 per-port standard offered by vendors of 1 gigabit switches, and the 10 gigabit switches are simpler to install, administer and more scalable to enterprise-wide deployment, Garrison said. This equipment would allow integrators to build Ethernet-based networks that could compete with the ATM-based services offered by telecommunications companies such as WorldCom Inc., Clinton, Miss.

In the government space, this approach could be used with programs such as the Defense Department's Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion, or GIG-BE, project, which will initially connect 90 military sites with high-speed connections. The National Science Foundation's TeraGrid network, which will use 40 gigabit connections to link five research centers around the country, would be another potential customer.

Riverstone also will be marketing this approach to the regional and local integrators who install fiber-based networks on university campuses.

Like some government agencies, university campuses have heavy bandwidth requirements, thanks to student file-trading and data-intensive research projects, Garrison said. The company counts as early customers the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Los Angeles campus of the University of California.

Spun off from Cabletron Systems Inc. in 2000, Riverstone Networks is a vendor of switches and routers. It reported $69.6 million in sales for 2003, with a net loss of $142.4 million, according to Hoover's Online of Austin. It has approximately 350 employees, according to Jennifer Arculeo, spokeswoman for the company.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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