Allegro looks to make routing a commodity

As the economic slump continues to batter the networking sector, at least one equipment vendor is trying to beat off the gloom with plans to offer carriers new services they can resell to enterprise customers.

Allegro Networks Inc. in San Jose, Calif., is developing its much-anticipated “multi-router” technology, which promises to let carriers sell routing as a service to enterprise customers.

When Allegro’s hardware device is released in the second half of next year, it will feature multiple routers (with multiple CPUs and route processors) inside a single chassis. Each router can be managed and configured independently, allowing carriers to house the unit in a central location and lease its use to enterprises or ISPs.

Unlike virtual routing technologies, each router in Allegro’s solution operates autonomously, which means individual route process failures on the carrier’s equipment does not jeopardize other users’ routers.

The bottom-line benefits to carriers could be substantial, said P.J. Iyer, Allegro’s product management director.

“It gives carriers a new service to sell,” Iyer said. “That’s what they really want. [Under the Allegro model] the carrier owns the system and the resources. So they can provision and sell, on a port-by-port basis, services to the [router users]. Every time an enterprise buys up more service, the carrier gains revenue on that incremental growth.”

Enterprises and ISPs, too, stand to gain from Allegro’s approach, because it enables secure, scalable IP-based routing without the costs of actually buying hardware. Hence, an enterprise could derive the same security and management benefits of a private IP network, but over a public backbone, Iyer said.

New services aside, carriers are likely to be drawn to Allegro’s ability to cut operating costs by minimizing the number of routers needed to offer services, according to David Callisch, Allegro’s communications director.

Indeed, some carriers, such as Clinton, Miss.-based WorldCom Inc., have shown interest in network optimization technologies like Allegro’s.

“With the economic turndown, there’s an overwhelming need to reduce network costs, both in the backbone and the edge,” said Jennifer Brooks, WorldCom’s director of commercial engineering.

“We’ve been focusing to find a vendor who can provide the higher aggregation at lower costs, and let us increase our density. At the same time, you need to have enhanced services at the edge. [Technologies like Allegro’s] allow for scaling. And if we can put more [services] on one device, that lets us remove a lot of infrastructure from our network,” Brooks said.

Enterprises, too, have been drawn to Allegro’s solution, thanks to the cost and performance gains it promises.

“The concept is interesting,” said Ajit Kapoor, director of IT architecture at aerospace firm Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Md., which is currently testing the solution. “We do some high-bandwidth collaboration, and this gives us a VPN, in concept – but we’re not imprisoned by the performance of typical VPNs.”