SANTA CLARA, Calif. Ramp Networks Inc., a company with nearly five years' experience developing broadband access systems for small-office/home-office markets, will make a break with its original ISDN WebRamp routers, moving to a platform optimized for Digital Subscriber Line service.
The WebRamp 200/300 and 4xx families have offered symmetric and ISDN-based DSL services from an architecture based on the company's original line of ISDN routers.
But the 600 family being offered to resellers and service providers in the first quarter of 2000 uses a 133-MHz embedded MIPS RISC controller to meet the speeds of Asymmetric DSL services.
Ramp will make splitterless ADSL an important part of its product mix, and has conducted G.lite interoperability tests with chip-set manufacturer Centillium Communications Inc.
Raghu Bathina, vice president of the new broadband products unit at Ramp, said that a heavy marketing emphasis on the 600 family does not imply that Ramp will phase out its IDSL or SDSL product lines quickly.
The 450i IDSL access system, using the 2B1Q chip sets developed for Ramp's basic-rate ISDN products, will continue to be important for markets where service providers can only offer IDSL in the immediate future. And the 510i SDSL product, launched in the third quarter of 1999, has found an important distribution partner in Competitive Local Exchange Carrier Rhythms NetConnections Inc. (Englewood, Colo.)
"We use a common VxWorks operating system base throughout our platforms, so there are points of commonality in all the families," Bathina said. "The type of DSL delivered may be very dependent on what a service provider is capable of doing in a given area, so we have to meet all demands."
Ramp, which launched its initial public offering of stock in 1999, has gone through several transitions since the mid-1990s. Founded as Trancell Systems Inc., the company was going to focus on customer-premises ATM access equipment and network interface cards, until end-to-end ATM flopped.
Mahesh Veerina, president and chief executive of Ramp, led a quick shift in focus to single-user and small-office access platforms based on ISDN. The corporate name of the company was changed to Ramp Systems, and WebRamp became the company's flagship product line.
The transition of the architecture from ISDN to DSL follows the trends in broadband access common to virtually all carriers. What Ramp simultaneously focused on was the broadening of access device feature sets to include many router-like features. Ramp is pursuing a "baby router" market in competition with the likes of Netopia Inc., Compatible Systems Inc., and Efficient Networks Inc., which acquired DSL router specialist FlowPoint Corp. at the end of 1999.
The expansion of this baby router market has heightened the need for retaining good networking software programming talent.
Support for Network Address Translation and file encryption has already become all but necessary in this industry, as has embedded Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server support. The need to add IP Security (IPsec) features, including tunneling and authentication, is one of the biggest drives in 2000.
This expansion of programmable feature sets was one of the drivers necessitating the turn to a 133-MHz RISC platform, Bathina said. Not only are customers expecting a full IPsec feature set, but many want to use advanced symmetric ciphers like Triple-DES for file encryption. Another round of features, including voice compression and echo cancellation, will be added as Ramp moves to Voice Over DSL support in 2000.
Netopia, Efficient, and FlowPoint all have inked deals with the "big three" in VoDSL gateway platforms Tollbridge Technologies Inc., CopperCom Inc., and Jetstream Communications Inc. and Ramp is no exception.
Bathina said that Ramp will be prepared to show interoperability with all three architectures in the first half of 2000, and will concentrate on adding VoDSL features beyond simple voice support, such as Virtual Private Network tunnel creation, in platforms slated for delivery in mid-2000.
Like many in the DSL router market, Ramp still is looking at the best options for pursuing multi-tenant unit/multi-dwelling unit markets, seeing the high-rise building arena as one of the fastest DSL growth markets for the next few years.
Starting in the basement
DSL Access Multiplexer vendors were one of the first class of OEMs to target MDU/MTU opportunities, since high-rise basements could use a simple DSLAM without all the ruggedized bells and whistles required in a telco central office. But a DSL-based router could have a different, complementary purpose in an MDU/MTU architecture, serving as an access manager for a building subnetwork, handling such duties as Web server and DHCP server in addition to being the broadband access point.
The IDSL and SDSL products from Ramp will be upgraded with full software features such as DHCP, VPN tunneling, and IPsec, but Bathina said Ramp's brightest future lies in pushing higher-speed access to the new RISC-based 600 platforms.