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Argon revs up high-speed play

Argon is one of several start-ups promising blinding speeds for equipment meant to provide services based on the Internet protocol.

    Even with an actual product not due until the first half of next year, high-end networking start-up Argon Networks continues to release details of its strategy to go after the core of service provider layouts.

    In doing so, the young firm is taking a high-stakes gamble that pits it against entrenched giants such as Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies, and Ascend Communications.

    Argon is one of several start-ups promising blinding speeds for equipment that is meant to provide services based on the Internet protocol (IP), the dominant transmission method for the Net. The twist for the Littleton, Massachusetts, entry is the addition of asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) support, a technology found in many service provider networks.

    The company today will announce plans for channelized SONet interfaces, or synchronous optical network, at rates of OC-3, OC-12, and OC-48 for its GigaPacket Node hardware, a device that is expected by the early second quarter of next year.

    Executives said the company will release a test version of software designed for the device by the end of the year. SONet technology represents a proven data framing and transmission method for ATM and IP that is gaining wider domestic adoption as costs plummet and fiber-based layouts explode. Europe has widely adopted SONet technology, but uses a different standard called synchronous digital hierarchy, or SDH.

    Argon hopes its IP and ATM approach will win converts who do not want to bet on one technology right now, a strategy also being implemented by Cisco. The reigning data giant continues to add to an IP and ATM strategy, with the announcement today of a new IGX 8450 switching device that incorporates routing into ATM-based hardware.

    Also active at the moment is Juniper Networks, another high-end start-up that recently announced delivery of its IP-based hardware and software.

    Argon executives believe there is an opening for start-ups amid entrenched networking companies due to the proliferation of new-age telecommunications firms such as Qwest Communications and Level 3 Communications.

    "The new entrants are going to use technology to their advantage to achieve cost differentiation and service differentiation," noted Chris Baldwin, vice president of marketing for Argon.

    Argon got a boost last week with the announcement that IXC Communications would test its product. Argon announced relationships with UUNet Worldcom and Williams Communications in June.

    Baldwin characterized his company's support of both IP and ATM interfaces as the "screws and nails" for building networks. The OC-48 interfaces will be priced at $90,000, with the OC-3 and OC-12 rates dependent on the configuration of the entire Argon system, though this latest launch is targeted at the corporate side of the market.