April 9, 2003 2:12 PM PDT

Newcomers aim for Cisco and Juniper

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Start-up Caspian Networks unveiled a new router on Wednesday, saying it will pose a "significant" challenge to products from longtime market leaders Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks. And another start-up, Procket Networks, also joined the fight.

Caspian's Apeiro, which costs $120,000, is a new breed of equipment meant for the core of networks belonging to global service providers such as AT&T, Sprint, British Telecom or NTT in Japan, said Dallas Kachan, product marketing director for Caspian.

Most routers used by major communications providers process each bit of information as it arrives, very "democratically," Kachan said. But the Apeiro can ensure that more important traffic gets to move up in the pecking order, he said.

Caspian, backed by $262 million in venture capital, is the second well-heeled newcomer to enter the high-end router market on Wednesday. Procket Networks, backed by $272 million in funding, began taking orders for what it claims is the industry's first terabit router, capable of working 10 times faster than what's now available. Procket's routers range in price from $65,000 to $235,000 and are also meant for major communications companies.

Both Procket and Caspian claim their equipment is lower in price than that of rivals Cisco and Juniper, by as much as 60 percent in some cases. "We have lowered the price point considerably," Caspian's Kachan said. All four companies are slugging it out for control of the $1.4 billion market for routers.

A Cisco representative had no comment on either the Procket or Caspian products. Juniper Networks could not be reached for comment.


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