Lucent confirms death of MPLS switch

Lucent Technologies Inc. on Oct. 28 confirmed that is has discontinued development of its next generation multiservice core switch, the TMX 880.

Lucent notified employees Oct. 25 that the company was ending development of the TMX 880, a 160Gbps MPLS multiservice core switch that was to be the follow on to Lucent’s five-year old GX 550 ATM switch, a company spokesman said. The TMX 880, which was announced in November 2001 and made generally available last month, never made it out of the handful of trials it was undergoing.

Indeed, Lucent just announced a big multiservice switching win with China Unicom Ltd. two weeks ago that did not include the TMX 880.

“We will continue to invest in MPLS and multiservice, and will continue to invest in the next-generation edge,” the Lucent spokesman said. Lucent CEO Pat Russo said in an earnings call last week that Lucent plans to continue to invest in MPLS and other enhancements for the GX 550 core ATM switch, and the CBX 500 edge switch and PSAX edge concentrator.

The spokesman would not say how many employees would be affected by the decision to terminate the TMX 880. A source told Network World (U.S.) that 200 employees were associated with the switch and that only 20 or 30 will be retained.

The Lucent spokesman would not confirm these figures. But he added that Lucent is seeking partnerships with companies “whose products fit into our (multiservice) strategy.”

He would not say if Lucent is currently in discussions with a company or companies. Investment firm UBS Warburg LLC last week issued a bulletin suggesting Lucent should sell its ATM/frame relay multiservice switching business to Cisco Systems Inc.

The writing was on the wall for the TMX 880. Rumors began circulating in that last few weeks that the switch was doomed due to sharply reduced carrier capital spending, lack of demand for MPLS core switching and Lucent’s own financial misfortunes that are forcing the company to cancel products that are not generating immediate revenue.

And when Russo did not mention it as part of Lucent’s product realignment last week, its fate, for all intents and purposes, was sealed.

Another IP product that Russo failed to mention last week as strategic or worthy of continued investment is the SpringTide IP services switch. Rumours are now circulating that employees may get the word this week on whether SpringTide stays or goes.

Another Lucent spokesman said the company does not comment on rumour and speculation.

“We’re committed to MPLS, multiservice switching and next-generation networks,” he said, when asked specifically about the status of the SpringTide switch.

If Lucent cancels SpringTide along with the TMX 880, the company will have given up two key components of its next-generation IP data network offerings. The company still has the Lucent SoftSwitch for Internet offload and voice-over-IP applications, and the softswitch is in trials with six carriers now for those functions.

But other than the SoftSwitch for voice-over-IP, Lucent would have no other high-profile IP offering in its portfolio.