Alcatel Sticks to Core Plans

The former TiMetra CEO expounds on why the 7750 suits the core, and why Alcatel won't seek a Procket-like product

July 2, 2004

3 Min Read
Alcatel Sticks to Core Plans

Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) has faced some questions about its core-networking strategy since halting development on its 7770 Optical Broadband Exchange core router. But company officials say they're happy pushing the former TiMetra Networks as a core IP play.

"On the carrier side, we're comfortable with our roadmap," says Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel's IP division and former CEO of TiMetra.

Alcatel froze the 7770 last year and has since said the 7750 Service Router series developed by TiMetra will be its core-routing play, in addition to being a multiservice edge router (see Alcatel Redraws Router Strategy). That leaves Alcatel without a multichassis router along the lines of the Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) TSR or the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) CRS-1. The vacancy is emphasized by the fact that at least one core play was on the block recently: Procket Networks Inc., which recently sold assets to Cisco (see Cisco to Pay $89M for Procket Assets).

But then, a lot depends on what you mean by "core router." The 7750 doesn't pack a terabit punch, but it can stuff 60 OC192 ports into one 7-foot rack (that is, 20 ports per 7750 SR-12, and three SR-12s per rack). That puts it on a par with the Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR) T640, which boasts 64 OC192s per rack, Alwan notes.

That's plenty for many customers' core needs, Alwan says. "If we go to a customer that's not one of those 'super' cores, the 7750 is every bit a core router," he says.

Still, doesn't Alcatel hear the call of that "super core" market? Alwan doesn't dismiss the possibility, but he suggests that it's not an imperative for Alcatel: "I don't feel huge pressure just because people are asking about the 'whole solution,' " Alwan says.

Alcatel might have its hands full with the 7750 anyway. The company's announced plan is to move some of the 7770 features to the 7750, but that could prove tricky, according to Geoff Bennett, chief technologist for Heavy Reading.

One problem is that the 7770 was being built from scratch to accommodate high availability, including a feature called the Alcatel Carrier Environment Internet System (ACEIS). It prevents disruption among a router's neighbors even if the entire control plane fails (see Alcatel Bids for IP Core). That kind of functionality "cannot be bolted onto the 7750 -- it has to be designed into the core of the product," Bennett writes in a Heavy Reading report titled, "Ethernet over IP/MPLS Service Delivery Platforms" (see Ethernet/MPLS Growth Up for Grabs). Adding features such as ACEIS to the 7750 isn't impossible but is time consuming and risky, he writes.

Alwan responds by noting that ACEIS is shipping on the 7670 Routing Switch Platform and will, indeed, be added to the 7750. "We're taking that same set of guys that have done this on two platforms, and [creating] what I would say is a third-generation implementation on the TiMetra platform."

Alwan adds that he doesn't consider high availability to be an exclusive attribute of core routers; rather, he thinks it's something that edge routers will need to adapt as well.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For more on this topic, check out:

For further education, visit the archives of related Light Reading Webinars:

  • Core Routers: What Next?

  • Edge Routing: Evolution and Economics

  • The Service Edge

  • IP Reliability: Adding Five 9s Resiliency to IP Networks

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