Alcatel to push 100G to carrier edge

Alcatel-Lucent plans to ship a router module next year that supports the emerging 100Gbit/sec Ethernet standard at the edge of carrier networks, where services are delivered to subscribers.

The company is announcing on Thursday a 100-Gigabit services interface for its 7750 Service Router and 7450 Ethernet Service Switch, which will be available for demonstrations in the fourth quarter of this year and ship commercially in the middle of next year. Pricing has not yet been set.

The 100-Gigabit Ethernet standard is the fastest specification yet for the ubiquitous packet networking technology that began in enterprises and is now also used in carrier networks. It is expected to be formally completed around the middle of next year, along with a standard for 40-Gigabit Ethernet.

Juniper Networks last month introduced a 100-Gigabit interface for its T1600 Core Router, which is designed for the core of carrier networks. Alcatel's module is intended for routers that are usually used at the edge of the service provider core, closer to subscribers, where services such as IPTV (Internet Protocol television) and IP VPNs (virtual private networks) are handled. It can also be used in a carrier's core.

Alcatel is a major vendor of DSL (digital subscriber line) access equipment but a relative newcomer to the carrier router business, which is dominated by Cisco Systems and Juniper. The 100G interface offers double the speed of Alcatel's current fastest line cards, which have a maximum throughput of 100Gbit/sec. Both are based on the company's homegrown FP2 silicon. There are two FP2 processors in the 100G card, so it can handle 100Gbit/sec both inbound and outbound at the same time, said Lindsay Newell, vice president of marketing in Alcatel's IP division..

It's one thing to build a 100Gbit/sec interface card for routers in the network core, where packets are simply being transported, and harder to deliver that speed in a device that also manages sophisticated services at the edge, Newell said. Before long, some carriers may need that much capacity at the edge to handle traffic from many high-speed customer connections, such as FTTP (fiber to the premises) links, he said. The ability to deliver extra-cost services at high speed will be critical for service providers' profitability, he said.

The 100G line card has one 100Gbit/sec port and can be can be used in Alcatel services routers shipped as far back as 2004, the company said. To serve carriers that may not need a port that fast yet, Alcatel will also introduce at the same time a line card with 10 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports. A standard telecommunications rack fully configured with those modules could accommodate 300 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports.

"Carriers don't need it today, for the most part, but they do need to know it's coming," said Infonetics Research analyst Michael Howard. Some large enterprises are also looking ahead for their data-center needs, he said. "You can bet that Google's looking at this, and MSN and the rest of the big content providers."

Some large banks that have to interconnect thousands of servers in their data centers are already waiting for 40-Gigabit Ethernet gear, Howard added. By 2012 or 2015, 100-Gigabit Ethernet will be widely deployed, he said.

And for the average enterprise, the promise of 100Gbit/sec interfaces at the edge of carriers' core networks bodes well for faster carrier Ethernet services they eventually will be able to buy down the road, Howard said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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