In the face of aggressive competition in the high-end carrier switching market, particulary from Cisco, Cabletron has fleshed out its service provider portfolio.
But the announcement of its strategy plans has not silenced predictions from industry experts that the company is on the verge of being acquired.
In an exclusive interview with Network News Cabletron's CEO, Piyush Patel, did little to assuage the takeover speculation.
He admitted a purchase remains a possibility: "We're open to partnerships and will not rule out anything."
Since his promotion to the hotseat in June, Cabletron's fourth CEO in a little over two years, Patel has been pushing a three-pronged strategy.
- Switching Cabletron's main focus for growth towards service providers and gearing up the Gigabit Ethernet SmartSwitch Router for this market, and developing DSL products.
- Growing revenues from Cabletron's overlooked software and services divisions, particularly its Spectrum network management platform.
- Pushing Cabletron to develop products for the emerging markets of wireless network and internet telephony.
However, Jean-Loius Seguineau, general manager at analyst Meta, said weaknesses in its sales strategy mean that Cabletron's technology will be "squeezed into niches."
"Cabletron's message is geared to technical people. It has a strong technical offer but problems marketing it," said Seguineau.
Seguineau said Cabletron was in a similar position to Fore before it was bought by GEC, and would likely face a similar fate, with European telecommunications manufacturers such as Ericcson as the likely purchasers.
Ellen Carney, an analyst at Gartner Group, agreed with these predictions: "They have good intentions, but they would have to change the name of the company or get acquired for their problems to go away," Carney said.
Cabletron chief operating officer Romulus Pereira said Cabletron had a wider data-networking portfolio than Lucent and did not urge the "forklift upgrades" arch-rival Cisco advocates.
"For the last two years we have been fleshing out our portfolio. We have been spending more time on the converged side of networks, what I call the un-PBX," said Pereira.
To extend this portfolio, early next year Cabletron will launch a carrier-class version of the SmartSwitch Router. The 16-slot SSR 32000 will support up to 120 Gigabit Ethernet ports in a single chassis and is designed to provide ISPs with multi-interface capacity and multi-service capabilities to connect DSLAMs, dial-up, wireless, and other access media to the internet backbone.
Pereira denied that Cabletron would be crushed by Cisco's relentless marketing machine and strong channel. BT and UUNet are using its SmartSwitch Router for web hosting, he said.
Its carrier initiatives will not detract the vendor from its enterprise efforts, said Pereira.
"Carriers are becoming an alternative sales avenue back into the enterprise. Our large customers are trying to outsource their leased lines into a virtual private network-based extranet. Extranets are outsourced. Data server farms are being outsourced.
"You have to follow the new sales avenue, which is the new service provider, back to the enterprise customer," he said.
Despite the improved prospects for Cabletron, analysts are unanimous in what will ultimately befall the data networker - death by acquisition.
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