Beefy Alcatel-Lucent switch targets Cisco, Juniper

Alcatel-Lucent 5Tbps OmniSwitch 10000 aimed at enterprise core with 10/40/100G Ethernet

Alcatel-Lucent this week will reawaken its enterprise switching business with a core switch designed to go up against Cisco's Nexus and Juniper's high-end Ethernet box.

Research project aims to simplify large-scale network control

The company will unveil the OmniSwitch 10000, a 5Tbps system with 256 wire-speed 10G Ethernet ports. In the enterprise core, Alcatel-Lucent can now boast about being a density leader in wire-speed 10G (Arista Networks' AN 7500 sports 384 wire-speed 10G ports but they play exclusively in the data center, Alcatel-Lucent officials rationalize).

At 5Tbps overall switching capacity, the OmniSwitch 10K bests Juniper's EX8208 – at 3.1Tbps – and Cisco's Nexus 7010, at 1.7Tbps. And in wire-speed 10G density, the Alcatel-Lucent switch tops both competitors' switches as well: Cisco's Nexus 7010 comes in at 184 wire-speed 10G ports, according to Alcatel-Lucent, while Juniper's EX8208 supports 64.

In Ethernet switching, Alcatel-Lucent hasn't exactly been hibernating, but it hasn't been on the radar of late either. It's been almost two years since the company made a major OmniSwitch announcement and its share of the $16 billion market in 2009 has remained relatively flat over the past few years at 1.4%, according to Dell'Oro Group.

The OmniSwitch 10000 may be Alcatel-Lucent's alarm clock for the industry.

"It does answer the question, 'What have they been doing for the past couple of years?'" says Zeus Kerravala of the Yankee Group. "It's a pretty beefy box."

Chart comparing switches from Cisco, Juniper and Alcatel

For the enterprise core, indeed it is. The switch features a 12-slot chassis – eight are for line cards – that's 16-RU high. It supports redundant chassis management, switching fabric and AC and DC power supplies, and features front to back cooling. Energy consumption is 15 watts per 10G port, which also compares favorably against Juniper and Cisco.

Line cards include 32-port 10G SFP+, 48-port Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 copper and 48-port Gigabit Ethernet SFP. Future line cards will include a 16-port 10G SFP+ module with large MPLS forwarding tables, a six- to eight-port 40G Ethernet QSFP+ board, and a two- to four-port 100G Ethernet CFP. Alcatel-Lucent officials say these capabilities will emerge in about a year.

The switch also supports flow-based quality-of-service with variable flow control and virtual output queuing; traffic management based on 5GB per blade of packet buffering; profile-based policies for user, device, location and application, including those for virtual machines (VM); dynamic provisioning and tracking of VMs; and policy-based enforcement of network access control.

Alcatel-Lucent officials say they will tune the switch and its family – the 10000 is the first in a line of OmniSwitches based on this architecture – for data center duty by adding supports for Data Center Bridging/Converged Enhanced Ethernet, Fibre Channel-over-Ethernet, and TRILL-like multichassis/virtual chassis linkage next year, likely around the time the 40/100G Ethernet modules emerge. At that time, the company may also introduce a top-of-rack OmniSwitch for data center server access, company officials hinted.

For now, though, the OmniSwitch 10000 is currently available at a $60,000 base price for the chassis. 10G ports are priced from $1,875 to $2,200.

After being off the map for a couple of years, Alcatel-Lucent may find it hard to crack the U.S. market with the 10K, especially with Cisco's dominant installed base, Kerravala says. But in Europe, the company has more success owing to brand recognition for its telecom gear.

"It's a surprisingly good announcement from Alcatel-Lucent, who you don't think of as an enterprise player," Kerravala says. "But they need lighthouse accounts and show demand. From a technology perspective, they're in line with where the industry is going. But execution hasn't been their strong point."

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