The Stinger gets stung by Lucent hype

I'm allergic to bee stings. when I get stung, I swell up like a balloon and often have to go to the hospital.

I'm allergic to bee stings. when I get stung, I swell up like a balloon and often have to go to the hospital. Because of this reaction to apis mellafera, I often scream at the mere mention of the word "bee."

Imagine the noise coming from my office last week when I was "stung" by Lucent's press release about its new product, ominously named the Stinger.

About the only thing that I am more allergic to than bee stings is vendor doublespeak. And with the press release about the Stinger, Lucent went into overdrive. In its purest form, the Stinger is a combination of a high-density DSLAM and an ATM switch. Now, both of these devices have existed for years—Lucent simply had the good sense to combine them into one extremely useful device.

And make no mistake: The Stinger is a useful device that fits a definitive need in the carrier market. However, it's not a voice device; it is a data-in/data-out product. I realize that data is no longer sexy and that everyone and their mother wants to be a convergence player, but slapping the word "voice" into a press release doesn't magically turn a shoebox into a telephone, and it doesn't make the Stinger a voice device.

Lucent mentions the word "voice" no fewer than 13 times in its press release, extolling the "carrier-class voice capabilities" built into the Stinger.

Twenty paragraphs into Lucent's press release, I found out how Lucent will actually support voice on the Stinger—through a new program that will allow the Stinger to deliver voice by interoperating with third-party voice gateways.

The Stinger enables voice over DSL about as much as two cans voice-enable a piece of string. What Lucent conveniently left out of the press release is that these third-party voice gateways offer the same level of interoperability with almost a dozen other companies' products, most notably archrival Cisco's 6100, which will compete directly with the Stinger.

Cisco advertises the 6100 as a DSLAM—nothing more, nothing less. It isn't floor wax, it isn't dessert topping, and it sure as heck isn't a voice device.

Stop the madness

I thought that being in the network world would make me immune to the Internet insanity currently running through the marketplace. Does anyone really need an Internet-enabled mouse? How about that new Internet-ready screen saver?

I would hope the networking companies of the world would see past this smoke screen and not try to place a small "e" or dot-com in every product name to proclaim its Internet readiness. I guess they figured they missed that opportunity, and now they must "voice-enable" everything from switches to Cat-5 cabling.

The truly sad part of the Lucent release is that the technical specs on the Stinger are great. This is one high-density mamba-jamba with great QOS features. However, as is often the case with an overzealous marketing department, Lucent's honchos feel that they must bill the product as something that it isn't to appeal to customers. In actuality, they confuse customers, who must spend valuable time trying to figure out what a product does when they should be figuring out whether or not to buy it.

How confused have you gotten when reading vendor marketing material? Contact me at pankaj_chowdhry@zd.com.

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