Alcatel Goes Mid-Range

The new version of TiMetra's box fills a gap in Alcatel's mid-sized offering, but it still doesn't have B-RAS

April 12, 2004

4 Min Read
Alcatel Goes Mid-Range

Tomorrow, Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) plans to release the latest system based on the former TiMetra Networks multiservice edge architecture; but in keeping with TiMetra's original plan, the box still doesn't have broadband aggregation capabilities.

The 7750 SR-7 is the first release from the former TiMetra since being acquired by Alcatel, but it doesn't hit any new highs (see Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal). Rather, it's an intermediate box, with seven slots and a total throughput of 200 Gbit/s. That makes it about half the size of the SR-12 (12 slots and 400 Gbit/s) but larger than the SR-4 (four slots, 120 Gbit/s).

The overall architecture still omits the functions of a broadband remote access server (B-RAS). Alcatel officials say they're intentionally separating B-RAS from the Internet Protocol (IP)/Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) consolidation the 7750 is intended to perform, the same philosophy TiMetra pursued.

"While a few platforms support both edge routing and B-RAS, the market norm is for service providers to deploy separate platforms for IP/MPLS services and B-RAS," says Lindsay Newell, Alcatel's director of product marketing.

Some companies are doing just the opposite. Laurel Networks Inc. beefed up the B-RAS power of its edge router with a recent software upgrade. And last year, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK) added B-RAS functionality to their respective 7600 and SmartEdge platforms. (See Laurel Steps Up on the Edge, Investors Search for OSS Success, and Redback Sharpens SmartEdge.)

The SR-7 widens Alcatel's multiservice edge reach in what promises to be a contentious battle among Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco, Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), Laurel, Network Equipment Technologies Inc. ( (NYSE: NWK), Redback, and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA).

Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) will enter the fray with its CBX 3500, and Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) is readying its Neptune router for this market (see Lucent's WaveSmith Killer and Nortel's Soft Sell).

These companies are chasing a market for edge boxes that would feed multiple traffic types into a single IP/MPLS core, a strategy being pursued by large carriers. The bigger equipment vendors such as Cisco are matching the strategy with equipment for building that IP/MPLS core, as noted in a Heavy Reading report last year (see Edge-Router Evolution and HR Sets Course to Convergence).

The SR-7 gives Alcatel four options in the ex-TiMetra family (there's also a one-slot configuration ingeniously named the SR-1). In a sense, the SR-12 overshot the competition -- offering 400-Gbit/s throughput while most others sit at around 160 Gbit/s -- so Alcatel had a gap in what could be called the mainstream range.

"I haven't heard that as a criticism about Alcatel's offering, but a lot of the competition has boxes that do fit into that range," says Kevin Mitchell, analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. Having multiple sizes of SR might come in handy when dealing with large service providers that have multiple sizes of POPs -- the types of deals that tend to be more lucrative and more enduring, Mitchell notes.

The SR-7 does offer a few advances over previous models, such as channelization -- interfaces can be split into as many as 512 channels of DS3/E3 speed -- and the option of CWDM optics.

Alcatel has also added support for H-VPLS, which allows routers to connect in hub-and-spoke fashion rather than linking every router to every other router. It seems natural the SR line would stay strong in VPLS, as Vach Kompella, an author of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) Lasserre-V.Kompella draft for VPLS services, was a TiMetra employee (see Kompella vs Kompella).

Last week, Alcatel named Spanish utility Iberdrola as a customer for the 7750 (see Iberdrola Selects Alcatel Router). Two pending customer announcements include an ISP using the 7750 for peering connectivity, and a European cable operator building an IP/MPLS network for interactive TV services and Ethernet services, Newell says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For more on the multiservice edge and the IP/MPLS core, see the Heavy Reading report, "Setting a Course to Convergence: The Incumbents' Wireline Strategies."For more about VPNs and the multiservice edge, see these Light Reading Webinars:

  • Multiservice Edge Platforms: Empowering 21st Century Services – US Event

    • Multiservice Switches: Approaches to Network Design

    • Multiservice Switches: Future-Proofing the Public Network

    • VPLS: Ethernet Virtual Private Networks, Made Real

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