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Wednesday, 29 June 2011 16:32

Alcatel-Lucent ups the stakes in edge routing with 400Gbps processor


Alcatel-Lucent appears to have stolen a march on its competitors in the high end edge router market with the launch of a new processor, the first capable of processing data at 400Gbps, four times faster than the fastest IP networks currently available.

Alcatel-Lucent quotes Michael Howard, co-founder and principal analyst for carrier and data centre networks at Infonetics Research, saying: "This 400G chipset is a generational advance that will improve router 100GE density/cost and will attract the eye of service providers'¦ I'm impressed that any company could develop such a high capacity network processor, solving 400G in the electrical domain before the industry solves 400G for light waves."

Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel-Lucent's IP Division, said: "This technology puts us a generation ahead of today's fastest IP core routers." The new chip, the FP3, also requires half the power per gigabit of throughput of the company's current FP2 100Gbps processor.

Alcatel Lucent is now demonstrating the new processor and says it will be commercially available in mid 2012, initially in a range of new line cards for its 7750 SR series edge routers: 2 port - 100GE, 6 port - 40GE and 20 port 10GE cards.

According to the company, "the FP3 processor is designed to address tomorrow's demand for ultra-high performance public and private IP networks. For example, a single FP3 processor could handle 70,000 simultaneous high definition video streams or 8.4 million simultaneous retail cloud sessions."

According to Geof Heydon, digital economy director at Alcatel Lucent Australia, the company has had at least a two year lead on rivals since Alcatel bought startup TiMetra Networks in 2003 (Alwan was TiMetra's president and CEO) which had a 10Gbps processor that became the FP1. (At the time the $US150m paid, in Alcatel stock, was seen as way two high. One venture capitalist was reported saying "What a ridiculous price. I'd like that banker representing TiMetra to be on my team! He can sell ice to Eskimos!")

Post acquisition Alcatel evolved the FP1 to the 100Gbps FP2 in 2007, when rivals had only managed to produce 20Gbps processors Alcatel-Lucent claims. Now, it says rivals are just starting to ship 100Gbps processors.

Heydon said: "We got a major benefit in the market place, and our market share and revenue [in edge routing] grew very rapidly when we first went to 100G way ahead of our competitors, in 2008. Now everybody is starting to get 100G capability'¦And a real advantage for is to do our own R&D and produce our own chipsets."

This all begs the question of whether Alcatel-Lucent has any plans to compete in the high end core router market, dominated by Cisco and Juniper Networks. It has given no indication of such plans, but nor has it said specifically that it has none.


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Interviewed at the FP3 launch by Light Reading, Alwayn was asked "Can we call you a core router company now?" He replied: "You have asked me that many times...From a silicon point of view the FP3 has intercepted core silicon in performance'¦So we now have what is required to build core routers'¦However, core routing needs a few more pieces: multi chassis and those sort of things, and we are not announcing any of that today."

While the 400Gbps throughput of the FP3 will not be needed for some time, the company says its processing power 'overhead' will enable service providers to add value to 100Gbps streams, such a QoS, that are not possible today because processors are not able to both pass traffic at 100Gbps and undertake tasks such as deep packet inspection.

"[The FP3] will dramatically enhance the infrastructure needed to access rich new online services, from broadcast-quality high-definition video conferencing to applications in the business and professional world," Alcatel-Lucent said. "The new 'FP3' chip will eliminate the bottlenecks preventing such services from taking off today, widening the Internet's digital highways while enabling dramatically higher data speeds and improving traffic flow."

According to Heydon, "In the simplest sense it enables us to do good quality of service management at 100G speed, which you would today see as just a dumb transmission speed. You can start to do all the things you need to do in the NBN construct with layer 2 and layer 3 VPN capabilities that are not available today because of those limitations."

CEO, Ben Verwaayen, said: "We have scarcely scratched the surface of [the Internet's] potential. This chip creates tremendous potential, not just in terms of technology, but in terms of how people connect and interact with each other."

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