Verizon looks to Alcatel's new core router for capacity, efficiency

The carrier is first to say it will use the 7950 XRS platform announced on Tuesday

Verizon Communications on Tuesday became the first service provider to say it will use Alcatel-Lucent's upcoming 7950 XRS core routing system, which will bring the French-American equipment vendor into the carrier core routing business for the first time in about a decade.

Alcatel announced the 7950 XRS (Extensible Routing System) at an event at its Santa Clara, California, campus on Tuesday. It will be offered in three versions, which will accommodate between 32 and 160 100Gbps (bit-per-second) ports. The first of those will begin shipping in the third quarter this year. Ihab Tarazi, vice president of Global IP (Internet Protocol) and Transport Planning and Technology at Verizon, spoke at the event, which was webcast.

Verizon said consistency between the 7950 and other Alcatel products already in its network will make it easier to integrate the 7950 than another vendor's router might have been. Verizon already uses the Alcatel 7750 SR edge router. The new routing system will be part of Verizon's solution to fast-growing wired and wireless network traffic. In addition to speed, the 7950 will provide flexibility and efficiency, Tarazi said. It will allow the carrier to extend MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching), a technology for prioritizing different streams of IP traffic, from the heart of its global transport network to the cores of its metropolitan networks in specific cities.

With the 7950, Alcatel is diving into a market dominated by Cisco Systems and Juniper. Alcatel is pinning its hopes on its internally developed FP3 chipset, which can route traffic at 400Gbps, and its SROS (Service Router Operating System), which is consistent across its carrier product line. Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel's IP division, didn't say how soon he expects Alcatel to grab a significant share of the core router market but expressed optimism in response to the question. "We have a real opportunity to gain share ... in the core," Alwan said.

As for Alcatel's advantages over the bigger players, Alwan said Alcatel used an identical form of SROS across all its carrier routers. For operators of both wired and wireless networks, such as Verizon, it also helps that Alcatel makes cellular RANs (radio access networks) as well as the wired networks that backhaul traffic from the wireless systems, he said. "There are some real benefits, and the benefits are tangible," Alwan said.

Verizon plans to use the 7950 in the core of metro networks, where a variety of traffic types converge for residential, enterprise and wireless subscribers. The 7950's high capacity will help the carrier deliver 100Gbps services directly to enterprises and support future deployments of small LTE wireless cells, Tarazi said. Verizon aims to make 100-Gigabit Ethernet, now used in its backbone network, into a commonly used connection type for large enterprises. The company's mobile subsidiary, Verizon Wireless, plans to have LTE networks deployed in 400 markets across the U.S. by the end of this year.

Also at the event, Alwan announced that Alcatel will offer a four-port 100Gbps interface module for the 7750 edge router, which is also based on the FP3 chipset. The module is scheduled to ship in the middle of next year, according to Lindsay Newell, vice president of marketing for Alcatel's networks business. Alcatel already offers a two-port 100Gbps module for the 7750.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is

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