10 years later, Alcatel-Lucent revisits Cisco and Juniper in the core

Company says market is ripe now for the 7950 XRS, which scales to 32Tbps and 160 100G Ethernet ports

If at first you don’t succeed…

Alcatel-Lucent is set to give Cisco and Juniper another run for the money in core routing 10 years after its initial attempt failed.

The company this week is unveiling the 7950 Extensible Routing System (XRS), a platform for the core of the service provider IP network. The 7950 is optimized for the video and cloud era of networking, Alcatel-Lucent says, and represents 3-1/2 years of development.

The 7950 scales from 6.4Tbps to 32Tbps with a density of up to 160 100G Ethernet ports. Up to six nodes can be linked in a multichassis configuration of up to 240Tbps, the company says.

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The system is based on Alcatel-Lucent’s FP3 silicon, which supports up to 400Gbps per slot. The FP3 debuted a year ago with 100G Ethernet interfaces for the company’s edge routers.

The 7950 line includes three configurations. At the low end is the XRS-16c, which features 6.4Tbps of capacity, 16 interface slots, 32 100G Ethernet ports, 80 40G Ethernet ports, or 320 10G Ethernet ports in a single rack. This standalone system with be available in the first half of 2013.

In the mid-range is the XRS-20, which features 16Tbps of capacity, 20 interface slots, 80 100G, 200 40G, and 800 10G Ethernet ports in a single-rack. It can be configured as the XRS-40 by linking two chassis together, or it can be grouped in a mulltichassis configuration. It will ship in the third quarter and is in trials now.

At the high-end is the XRS-40. It features 32Tbps of capacity, 40 interface slots, 160 100G, 400 40G and 1,600 10G Ethernet ports in two racks. It will be available in the first half of 2013 and can be configured into a multichassis configuration.

Alcatel-Lucent says the 7950 represents a fivefold density increase over competing core routers, and a 66% reduction in power consumption. It says a single 7950 node is the equivalent of 10 or 12 competitors’ routers linked together in a multichassis configuration.

Alcatel-Lucent, however, did not disclose a timeframe for shipping its own multichassis interconnect. And separately, but nonetheless coincidentally, Juniper this week announced an increase in capacity on its own TXP multichassis system, from 6.4Tbps to 16Tbps. The TXP can link four Juniper T4000 or eight T1600 core routers into a high-capacity routing system, and Juniper plans to scale the TXP to 64Tbps at an undisclosed date.

The 16Tbps TXP will be available in the fourth quarter.

So competition is aggressive in core routing. Ten to 12 years ago, Alcatel – previous to its Lucent acquisition – debuted the 7770 Routing Core Platform and followed that on with ACEIS software for non-stop failover of key routing protocols like BGP, OSPF and IS-IS.

Alcatel hardly made a dent in the market; two years after the introduction of the 7770, the router was re-branded and repositioned as the 7770 Optical Branch Exchange before it was finally discontinued. ACEIS didn’t fare any better.

Why re-emerge after 10 years of the industry solidifying around Cisco and Juniper, and why now?

“To enter this market, you need three things: credibility, opportunity and competitive advantage,” says Lindsay Newell, vice president of marketing for Alcatel-Lucent’s IP business.

Newell says the company has gained credibility by being the No. 2 or 3 player, along with Juniper, in service provider edge routing; sees an opportunity in a market he says is $4 billion and growing 10% a year, with traffic growth of 50% a year and advances like cloud and video driving and upgrade cycle; and a competitive advantage in the 400Gbps FP3 processor.

“The incumbents did not architect their platforms for the next five years,” Newell says. “There are now capacity and flexibility issues they were not optimized for.”

As a result, some of Alcatel-Lucent’s 450+ customers are re-evaluating the decisions they made years ago when they selected Cisco or Juniper or both, Newell says.

“We are talking to them everyday,” Newell says. “They are looking for alternatives in the market.”

But 10 years after allowing Cisco and Juniper to become entrenched as essentially de facto standards?

“The iPad was Apple’s second attempt at tablet” after Newton, Newell noted, adding that Alcatel’s previous foray into core routing also pre-dated the company’s 2003 acquisition of TiMetra, the start-up behind Alcatel-Lucent’s success in edge routing.

“This is completely different and we’re building off of a decade of success,” he said.

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