Huawei Bites at the IP Core

Chinese vendor lifts the lid on its clustered core IP router platform, claiming up to 10-Tbit/s switching capacity

April 30, 2008

4 Min Read
Huawei Bites at the IP Core

LONDON -- Sofnet -- Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. today made its latest bid to challenge Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) in the IP core router market by unveiling a multi-chassis cluster system the vendor claims can achieve up to 10-Tbit/s switching capacity at full throttle. (See Huawei Unveils Core Router.)

News that the system was being launched didn't come as a big surprise -- Light Reading unveiled the bones of the news yesterday -- but today Huawei was able to provide more detail, and announce China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) as a customer. (See Huawei Joins Router Newsfest.)

The hardware platform at the center of Huawei's pitch isn't new -- the Quidway NetEngine 5000E core IP router was first launched in 2004 with 1.28-Tbit/s switching capacity, and by 2006 the vendor had engineered a dual chassis platform that doubled that capacity to 2.56 Tbit/s.

Now it has put together a system that enables up to eight NE5000E routers to be deployed at the edge of the network, each of which hook up to two centralized controller routers via optical connections. Those two centralized router platform are also connected to each other, creating a distributed but clustered architecture that, theoretically, provides up to 10 Tbit/s of throughput.

Huawei claims this formation cuts out the need for an aggregation layer between the access and the core, cutting down on the number of boxes that need to be deployed as data traffic demands put pressure on IP capacity, and also cutting down on the number of interconnections that need to be managed.

According to the Chinese vendor, the equivalent "traditional multi-router network" required to deliver 10 Tbit/s of capacity would involve 16 boxes (four core, four aggregation, and eight access routers) and 30 links that would require 60 interfaces. By contrast, the Huawei cluster architecture has 10 boxes (two core and eight at the access layer), 17 links, and 34 interfaces.

Clustering routers for greater capacity and redundancy is not new -– both Cisco and Juniper enable their routers to be grouped together this way. Huawei, though, claims it is the first vendor to achieve a theoretical capacity level of 10 Tbit/s in a managed router cluster.

Another trend Huawei has followed in developing its own ASICs for the new implementation: Cisco, Juniper, and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) have all turned to their in-house teams for the chips at the heart of their recent switch/router releases. (See AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers, Cisco Takes Hold of the Edge, and Chipmakers Unfazed by Vendor Chip Shops.)

Huawei says it went with an in-house development to enable minimum power consumption -- just one of the attributes, along with "efficient cooling," and a small and relatively light chassis, the vendor is pushing as part of its more environmentally friendly credentials.

Now comes the hard work, though, as Huawei attempts to expand its installed base of core IP router customers well beyond its domestic market.

China Telecom has already deployed the new system (starting with a two-chassis cluster metro core in some major cities) to support the rapidly increasing data volumes generated by its broadband customers. The carrier says it had nearly 36 million DSL customers at the end of 2007, having added more than 7.3 million broadband lines last year, and has been upgrading those lines from 1 Mbit/s to 2 Mbit/s and 8 Mbit/s to meet demand, something it has been able to do with more core IP capacity.

With access bandwidth and broadband customer numbers growing fast, the operator expects to be deploying a full 10-Tbit/s-capable cluster within three years.

But China Telecom is Huawei's biggest customer, so it comes as no great surprise to hear that the carrier is using the NE5000E, even if it is already using Cisco's CRS-1 core router. (See China Telecom Selects Cisco.)

It's also no surprise that Huawei's roll call of other NE5000E router customers (though not yet for the cluster version) include China's other main fixed-line carrier, China Netcom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CN; Hong Kong: 0906), and both the country's two main mobile operators, China Mobile Communications Corp. and China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU).

Outside its domestic market, only Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. (SingTel) (OTC: SGTJY) and Saudi operator Etihad Etisalat Co. (Mobily) are NE5000E users.

That leaves Huawei plenty of work to do to catch up its core router rivals in terms of market penetration, but Huawei is strong in the so-called emerging markets, and will be confident of picking up additional customers in Asia/Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America -- markets that are driving its relentless growth. (See Huawei Sets Bumper Sales Target and Heavy Reading Homes In on Huawei.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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