Edge router newcomer Laurel Networks this week delivered its volley into the court of profitable service\/demand creation with a program designed to chart the feasibility of carrier technology upgrades.The 3-year-old company unveiled FirstSTEP, a "strategic technology evolution" program providing financial analysis, back-office integration, and device and network validation tools to guide carriers through a technology overhaul at the edge of their networks. The goal of the overhaul is to replace legacy gear with systems - Laurel's ST200 routers, to be precise - that support packet-based multiservice networking capabilities.Laurel's FirstSTEP follows programs articulated by Cisco and Juniper Networks to also direct carriers through a technology migration that will result in profitable rollout of new services - and increased sales of Cisco and Juniper products.Cisco has been enticing carriers to move from a commodity transport business model to one centered on value-added services and applications, and has been encouraging cable multisystem operators to encroach on carriers' revenue streams, thereby creating competition and demand for Cisco products. Cisco has also described architectural frameworks - one such framework is even called\u00a0BLISS\u00a0- designed to convince service providers that they can profitably roll out new services by augmenting existing circuit, packet and cable infrastructures with new purchase orders for Cisco products.Not to be outdone on the conceptual framework front, Juniper announced its own profitability\/sales generation plan called Model for Integrated Network Transformation, or MINT.\u00a0MINT\u00a0proposes a model whereby service providers generate profit through service customization and added value as they scale their services - through purchase and installation of Juniper products - to address markets heretofore untapped or underaddressed.Now it's Laurel's turn. FirstSTEP is much more tangible than BLISS or MINT, in that it proposes establishing quantifiable and qualitative test scenarios for new technology and service rollouts, rather than concepts."It's simpler to grasp," says Mark Bieberich, an analyst at the Yankee Group. "It focuses on four very tangible aspects of the product's (proposal), whereas the other programs seem to incorporate quite a few more aspects of the overall solution."The components of FirstSTEP include a financial modeler for custom business case analysis; and portable testbed to put the ST200 through its multiservice paces; a multimillion-dollar integration lab validate the ST200's operation in a carrier environment; and a software toolkit to enable integration with a carrier's existing network management infrastructure.The Multi-service Edge Financial Modeler quantifies the financial impact of multiservice edge deployment by calculating the revenue, capital investment, operations expenses, service margins and return on investment that can be achieved with the ST200 vs. a traditional multidevice edge configuration. For example, carriers can model cap-and-grow, greenfield or transition-over-three-years scenarios for a mix of new and existing services with different growth rates, Laurel claims.The PerfectStorm Portable Testbed enables carriers to perform multiservice edge proof-of-concept test cases on Laurel's ST200 routers. Carriers can validate the scalability and performance of new and existing services including Internet, ATM and Frame Relay, QoS-enabled Ethernet, IP VPNs, Layer 2 VPNs and any-to-any interworking between ATM, Frame Relay and Ethernet, among other scenarios, Laurel says.Laurel's BigBang Integration Lab simulates a large-scale, multivendor service provider network and is available to carriers to validate services across a replica of their infrastructure. The BigBang Integration Lab tests multiservice edge interoperability with existing core and access networks by simulating a Tier One carrier network using test gear and widely installed vendor equipment.The Laurel Provisioning System's AnyOSS Integration Toolkit uses the Laurel's service provisioning and management system, and custom Java, CORBA and XML APIs to tie ST200 router and multiservice edge management into the carrier's existing operations support system environment.