AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is announcing its own data center fabric on Tuesday, going up against Brocade One from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), the Unified Fabric from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and QFabric from Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR).

New pieces being introduced are the OmniSwitch 6900, which is a 10Gbit/s top-of-rack Ethernet switch, and OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), which helps track and move virtual machines around the data center.

AlcaLu calls its fabric the Enterprise Mesh, and it uses the OmniSwitch 10K -- which was launched in October -- at its core. The recipe for the largest Enterprise Mesh configurations is as follows: Start with six OmniSwitch 9600s arranged in a pod. Five such pods can share a connection to the OmniSwitch 10K (that connection consisting of five 40Gbit/s links). Twelve of these five-pod units can be served by a pair of OmniSwitch 10Ks.

That whole shebang has a switching capacity of 169Tbit/s, AlcaLu claims.

The fabric connections will use a protocol called shortest path bridging (SPB). It's a rival to Trill, the protocol favored by Brocade. SPB is already used by service providers in wide-area networks, says Cliff Grossner, an AlcaLu director of product marketing. That fits with AlcaLu's goal of stretching its fabric across multiple data centers.

Why this matters
A battle royale is brewing around the concept of a data center fabric. AlcaLu has proven itself a worthy rival to Cisco and Juniper in service-provider networks; now it's engaging them (and Brocade) in the virtualized data center, where the "product" has become the entire network.

"I think 2011 is going to be the year of the fabric war," Grossner says. In terms of marketing, at least, that's certainly the case.

For more
AlcaLu's application fluency announcement from October, and other missives from the fabric wars:

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

scottdTBR 12/5/2012 | 5:08:43 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

Hi Craig,

What's ALU's differentiator here? I know Juniper has said that their fabric cannot stretch across DCs, but I thought Cisco's could. Whatever it is, it will have to be pretty significant for them to get on the short list in these opportunities.


prinformant 12/5/2012 | 5:08:40 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too


The value of ALU solution is multiple folds:&nbsp;


1-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Scalable architecture with capability to scale from 240 server ports to 10,000+ server ports while reducing the CapEx and OpEx costs. Architecture and platforms ready to support 40Gig and 100Gig ready with no hardware change out required.

2-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Reduced latency with AFN architecture &ndash; 2usecs within the Pod

3-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Applications managed as a service with vNP profile. The network understands applications and automatically adapts

4-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Hybrid cloud is a reality. Data Center architecture scalable from intra data center to inter data center providing seamless private/public and hybrid cloud co-existence - A complete end to end solution



schlettie 12/5/2012 | 5:08:39 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

That topology has high oversubscription.&nbsp; For each cluster of 5 pods (30 switches), there are 1200 10GE ports, but only 10 40GE links to the core.&nbsp; The oversubscription ratio is 30:1.

scottdTBR 12/5/2012 | 5:08:39 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

Sounds great on paper, but what's ALU's strategy for getting enterprises to consider them over Cisco, HP, et al? ALU does have some differentiation in software and services which they can leverage. But like Cisco with UCS, they'll have to focus on winning smaller greenfield opportunities and using deep discounting to build their customer base.

prinformant 12/5/2012 | 5:08:38 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

Looks like an upcoming global webinar will have some more details.&nbsp; http://tinyurl.com/3d4n56c
I found a link&nbsp;at the bottom of this page&nbsp;for more info and participation.

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:08:37 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

Scott -- You've hit on a central point here.&nbsp; AlcaLu can probably point to the latency and a half dozen other things ... but that's just it: The product here is the entire network, not just one box, and there are dozens if not hundreds of ways to slice that.&nbsp; Comparisons are going to be difficult.

Moreover, they've got less of a data-center heritage than Cisco or Brocade, and I'd argue they're behind Juniper as well. (Real data center people are welcome to correct me there.) Uphill battle is a good way to put it.

somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 5:08:19 PM
re: AlcaLu Wants the Data Center, Too

The technical questions around all&nbsp;of the combined fabric&nbsp;talk&nbsp;involves the SPB vendors versus the Trill guys versus the homegrown flavors.&nbsp; What protocol will dominate?&nbsp; Who will support which ones -or better yet multiple ones?

If you are concerned with the company names at this point, you are best served not to make any purchases yet,&nbsp;IMHO.

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