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Start-up taps ex-Juniper exec as CEO

A former Juniper sales executive takes the helm at Laurel Networks, a hot Internet Protocol routing start-up.

Juniper's former vice president of North American sales has taken the helm at Laurel Networks, a Pittsburgh-based Internet Protocol routing start-up.

Don Pyle, who left Juniper last June, has been acting as an independent board member to Laurel Networks, a start-up developing IP edge routers, since the fall of 2003. He succeeds Laurel co-founder and CEO Atul Bansal, who has been named president and chief operating officer. Bansal will continue to handle many of the day-to-day technical aspects of the company, while Pyle will take charge of the company's sales.

"The founding team was really good at developing and delivering technology," said Steve Vogeslang, vice president of marketing and another co-founder of Laurel. "But in order to maximize our success as new opportunities arise, we need to expand other areas of the business. This means bringing in senior level sales experience."

Pyle, 45, joined Juniper in 1997 and helped build it into a $200 million-per-quarter company. During the six years that Pyle headed up the North American sales organization, Juniper became the only vendor to challenge Cisco Systems in the core routing market. The company has established itself as the main alternative to Cisco in this segment of the routing market. It currently gets about 20 percent of the market per quarter, while Cisco gets about 70 percent, according to Infonetics Research. Its closest competitor is Avici Systems, in third place with only about 3 percent of the market per quarter.

Prior to working at Juniper, Pyle served as a sales executive for Cisco from 1996 to 1997. He arrived at Cisco as part of the company's acquisition of StrataCom.

Laurel, founded in 1999, makes "edge" routers, which are used to aggregate network traffic and transport it over a common packet infrastructure. Specifically, the product is designed to help carriers migrate their traditional circuit switched networks onto an IP-based multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) infrastructure. The Laurel edge router can also be used by broadband operators to aggregate and manage subscriber traffic.

Analysts expect IP edge routing to be one of the most promising markets for telecom equipment markets in the next few years as demand for broadband increases and carriers look to add more IP-enabled services, such as voice over IP, onto their networks. Infonetics Research expects the IP edge router market to grow from $1.6 billion in 2002 to $2.7 billion by 2006.

Several publicly traded companies are already playing in this market, including Cisco, Juniper and Redback Networks. Start-ups have also been chasing this market, and some have already been acquired by public companies. TiMetra, a Silicon Valley start-up, was acquired by Alcatel in May 2003 for $150 million in stock.

Rumors have floated around that other large telecom companies, such as NEC, Nortel Networks or Siemens might be interested in Laurel. So far nothing has materialized. Nortel recently announced it will resell Avici core routers, but experts say the company still lacks an IP edge routing strategy.

Laurel, which already has three named customers including Level 3 in North America and Dacom and Korea Telecom in Korea, has established partnerships with ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) switch maker Marconi and optical gear maker Ciena. Pyle denied any rumors that the company is talking to Nortel.

"There are probably regional partnerships in Asia that we might pursue," he said. "But for now we're focusing on our established relationships with Ciena and Marconi in North America."