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Managing Editor

Deja vu all over again

May 12, 20043 mins
Cellular NetworksMPLS

Nortel stresses Neptune is not a "me too" service edge

Nortel has yet another IP router play, and this time it thinks it has a winner.

Nortel has yet another IP router play, and this time it thinks it has a winner.

The Multiservice Provider Edge 9000 platform – codenamed “Neptune” – is what Nortel calls a next-generation IP/MPLS service-converged edge system, as opposed to a router or a switch retrofitted to collapse Layer 2/3 services for transport over an MPLS core.

MPE 9000 features two models, scalable from 2.5G bit/sec to 80G bit/sec, targeted primarily at services such as IP-VPNs, Internet access, Layer 2 circuits over MPLS (Virtual Pseudo-Wire), any-media Layer 2 interworking, virtual private LAN and broadband aggregation. The MPE 9200 is targeted at small and midsize central offices and offers 20G bit/sec of switching capacity in 5U of rack height. The MPE 9500 is designed for medium to large central offices. It provides 40G or 80G bit/sec of throughput in 14U of rack space.

Sounds like another multi-service router or switch, right? Nortel is very careful not to classify the MPE 9000 as either/or.

“We’re not going after the router or switch business” with the MPE 9000, says Sue Spradley, president of Nortel’s Wireline Networks business unit. “This is a new category of device designed to go after the edge where services converge.”

In other words, the same thing only completely different. Should Cisco, Juniper, Laurel Networks, Alcatel/TiMetra, Tellabs/Vivace and Lucent with its upcoming CBX 3500 beware?

The thing that makes MPE 9000 “very unique,” according to Spradley, is its carrier-grade DNA inherited from Mother Nortel. Features such as non-stop routing, hitless software upgrades and customer-specific service-level agreement configurations are the progeny of this DNA, she says.

The system also runs a carrier-grade Linux kernel, borrows some softswitch technology from Nortel’s Succession product line, and can be deployed in wireless as well as wireline data networks, Spradley says.

And though she maintains Nortel is “not going after” the router or switch business with the MPE 9000, Spradley admits Nortel “struggled” over whether it can take on Cisco or Juniper in this space. Four previous attempts have failed.

The result of this most recent struggle is a CLI Cisco and Juniper aficionados will be familiar with.

Equant, Infonet and Telus are currently putting the MPE 9000 through trials. The product will ship in the fourth quarter.

And the future of Nortel’s Shasta IP service switch and Passport frame/ATM switches for the edge are secure… for now. Spradley says the MPE 9000 will “complement” those products initially but become the “vehicle of choice” down the road.

MPE 9000 is currently undergoing interoperability testing with Avici’s TSR core router in Nortel labs in Ottawa, the company says.

Managing Editor

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 28 years, 23 at Network World. He covers enterprise networking infrastructure, including routers and switches. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy and at

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