Nortel's enterprise push brings branch-office WAN/VoIP and Web acceleration gear

New gear advances Nortel's product offerings, but may come up short against established players Cisco, Juniper, F5

Nortel will make its expected entry into the markets for unified  WAN/VoIP/security routers and application acceleration this week at Interop Las Vegas.

Nortel will make its expected entry into the markets for unified WAN/VoIP/security routers and application acceleration this week at Interop Las Vegas.

Slideshow: Take a closer look at Nortel's new WAN router

A new WAN router for corporate branch offices includes integrated security and VoIP features, with options to remote IP phones and VoIP applications on a Microsoft- or Nortel-based VoIP network. Nortel's acceleration device is targeted at speeding performance of Web-enabled enterprise applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, IBM WebSphere or SAP. The product push advances Nortel's product menu in the enterprise, but some analysts say Nortel will have a hard time going against competitive gear from Cisco, Juniper and F5 in consolidated branch and acceleration.

Nortel's Secure Router 4134 includes technology from the company's joint development deal with Microsoft, and will include a forthcoming gateway card, which will allow the box to act as a remote-office gateway for Microsoft's Office Communication Server (OCS) — a VoIP, messaging and collaboration server. The OCS blade, due later this year, will act as a gateway to a centrally hosted OCS server, and not as a stand-alone version of OCS running on the router.

Another optional VoIP blade for the Secure Router 4134, also due later this year, includes localized version of Nortel's Communication Server 1000 IP PBX server. This module would synchronize with a centrally hosted CS 1000 server, and provide the branch with local VoIP features, call control and PSTN connectivity in case of a WAN link failure, or central CS 1000 failure.

In addition to the two forthcoming, specialized blades, the Secure Router 4134 combines Nortel's Contivity VPN and firewall technology, with its Tasman-based WAN router platform, as well as integrated LAN switching options for branch offices.

Nortel is also entering the Web application acceleration market at Interop with the launch of its Nortel Application Accelerator 510 and 610 appliances. These devices, intended to compete with Web accelerators from F5, Citrix/Netscaler, Radware and others, would sit in front of a bank of Web servers and provide data compression, protocol offload and content caching. This could allow a pool of servers providing Web access to SAP, Microsoft Outlook, IBM WebSphere, or other platforms, to operate as much as 20 times faster, Nortel claims.

The Application Acceleration device was recently tested in the lab of the Venema Group, a consultant company that designs and installs data center technologies for enterprise and government customers.

"In a lot of the compression designs for wide area networks, you have to install gear at remote sites as well as the data center," says Paul Venema, principal network architect for the consultancy. "This does the compression before it goes across the WAN, which is the cool part about it."

Too little, too late?

Analysts say Nortel's entry into the enterprise application acceleration market could help existing Nortel customers with Web-based application issues, the products probably won't challenge established gear from vendors such as F5, Juniper, Citrix Netscaler and Radware.

"The enterprise application acceleration market has grown by leaps and bounds," says Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala, as companies such as F5, Citrix, Juniper and others have acquired or developed advanced technologies and long lists of customers. "Nortel should have had this vision a couple years ago; it will be going up against competitors that have at least a one- or two-year lead."

Kerravala says Nortel's Secure Router, with integrated VoIP and services, may also fall short against Cisco's dominant ISR platform, which has around 90% of the market.

"It may help protect Nortel's installed base against" Cisco and Juniper, Kerravala says, "but it won't grow Nortel's [router] installed base."

The fact that Nortel did not brand the Application Accelerator under its Alteon product line, or use technology in the device from its Layer 4-7 and SSL acceleration product family is also puzzling, says Kerravala.

"That's a really strong brand, and people like those products," he says of Alteon. "Why not tie [the Application Accelerator] to that?"

WLAN refresh

Nortel also plans to launch new WLAN gear, with technology based on its reseller agreement with Trapeze Networks, at Interop. Nortel WLAN 2300 6.0 includes the WLAN Security Switch 2382, and WLAN Access Point 2332, which are set to ship in the third quarter. The new gear provides 90% less WLAN latency and jitter for applications such VoIP over 802.11 networks, Nortel says.

The Secure Router 4134 starts at $10,495, the Application Accelerator 510 costs $28,990, and the 610 model is $39,990. The devices are available now, with the integrated Microsoft OCS and CS1000 modules due in the third quarter. Pricing for the new WLAN gear will also be set in the third quarter.

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Slideshow: Take a closer look at Nortel's new WAN router

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