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Bay looks to NEC for gear

The networking equipment provider turns to NEC to fill a gaping hole in its portfolio of high-speed gear.

Networking equipment provider Bay Networks (BAY) has its sights set squarely on competitors Cisco Systems and Fore Systems in the high-speed infrastructure market.

With the official announcement next Tuesday that Bay will enter into an alliance with NEC, the company fills a gaping hole in its portfolio of ATM (asynchronous transfer mode)-based networking products and could mark a turning point in the company's fortunes in that market, according to executives within the firm.

Currently lacking in Bay's ATM-based strategy is a core switching device targeted at the back-end points of a public provider or private corporate network, connecting various buildings or points in a multisite WAN (wide area network).

The company already offers a Centillion 100 ATM switch for multiple ATM LAN (local area network) connections. The NEC gear essentially will serve as the "backbone" for these offerings, as previously reported by CNET's NEWS.COM. The reseller arrangement will result in a new switch called the Centillion 1000 family, which includes four-, eight-, and 16-slot versions, according to Bay.

"It's logical that these kinds of companies would come together," said John Armstrong, an analyst with Dataquest. "This stuff is incorporating a lot of features that represent the strengths of ATM as a backbone technology."

ATM is a key component for networking companies, in light of the expected revenue various types of network service providers will generate in the coming years for infrastructure providers.

Bay executives said the move is only an initial step in a strategy that will result in several internally developed ATM-based products in the coming months. Expect news soon on ATM-based routing enhancements and support for more protocols, executives said. "This won't be the end of the story," said Kevin Dillon, product line manager at Bay, referring to the NEC deal.

Also in the works within Bay is support for Private Network-to-Network Interface (PNNI) across the entire ATM equipment line. This ATM-based signaling protocol essentially serves as an interoperability mechanism, allowing different types of ATM switches to exchange information.

Using interoperability protocols as well as a slew of Optivity network management software applications should allow Bay to easily integrate a third-party offering such as NEC's with its own equipment.

Also included in the rollout is an ATM voice concentrator, also part of the Centillion 1000 family, that converts voice and video circuit traffic to ATM cells so it can be moved across a network along with typical data traffic. Voice support also is included in the rest of the 1000 offerings. The boxes will start shipping next month with prices starting at $15,900.