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Optical/IP

Alcatel Bids for IP Core

Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) has announced an overhaul of its 7770 core router, upping the ante in its bid for a slice of the core IP router market.

Alcatel’s newly renamed 7770 Optical Broadband Exchange (OBX) is roughly half the size of its original core routing product and features ACEIS (Alcatel Carrier Environment Internet System), a technique Alcatel claims speeds reconnection around failed links (see Alcatel Unveils New Routing Technology). The new kit is being trialed by SingTel, Alcatel says, and should be adopted by existing 7770 customers Beijing Telecom and European Research Network (ATRIUM).

Can these changes boost Alcatel's market share? Don’t be so sure they can’t, analysts say.

By most accounts, more than 90 percent of the segment Alcatel’s targeting is ruled by two leading router players, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR). Avici Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: AVCI; Frankfurt: BVC7) has come in as a tiny but persistent third for years, with less than 3 percent of the market in most research reports. Depending on whom you ask, Alcatel’s 7770 may or may not share a minuscule sliver of the “Others” piece of the pie.

Infonetics Research Inc., for instance, figures Alcatel got 1 percent of worldwide core router sales last quarter -- not a lot, given the research firm’s calculation of market size as $306 million in that period (a 4 percent sequential shrinkage).

But Alcatel's claim can't be dismissed, says Kevin Mitchell, directing analyst at Infonetics. "They're a major worldwide supplier and they've been working on this for awhile."

Others agree. "I think there's room for other contenders in this market. Alcatel is thinking long term... and they recognize the deficiencies in present products," says Mark Bieberich, senior analyst at Yankee Group. Bieberich says Alcatel's pitch hits squarely at performance and reliablity, two problems that have haunted core IP router vendors, particularly as the downturn has worsened.

Indeed, some pundits worried earlier this year that carriers, fed up with installing two routers at every node to achieve redundant backup, will hold off buying core routers until they see better architectures emerge (see Rotten at the Core? ).

“I think Alcatel’s IP reliability technology will be a very compelling feature for major IP operators. It looks good enough to get them into labs and perhaps help them win business down the road,” Bieberich asserts.

Alcatel isn't alone, though, in tackling carriers’ complaints. Cisco announced nonstop forwarding and instant switchover in its Globally Resilient IP marketing pitch last spring (see Cisco Intros Globally Resilient IP). Juniper's shrunk its product, too, and says it's been on the reliability case for months (see Juniper Shrinks Its SuperCore Router). “We haven’t given our strategy a marketing name -- we stick with terms the carriers use like 'graceful restart' and 'five nines reliability,' " says Kevin Dillon, director of product marketing at Juniper. He says issues of redundancy and high-speed forwarding are top priority at Juniper. "We are totally committed on all fronts and we continue to add R&D."

The table below shows how Alcatel's claims stack up against comparable claims for its key rivals:

Table 1: Comparing Core Routers
Vendor/product Density Backplane Description
Alcatel 7770 OBX OC48: 48; OC192: 12 320 Gbit/s Single shelf chassis, 38.5 x 23 x 23.6 inches; 470 pounds
Cisco GSR 12416 OC48: 64; OC192: 16 320 Gbit/s Single chassis; 72.5 x 18.75 x 24 inches; 390 pounds
Juniper T640 OC48: 128; OC192: 32 640 Gbit/s Multi-chassis; half rack measures 37.45 x 17.43 by 31 inches; 565 pounds
Source: Optical Oracle and respective vendors


Alcatel has much to prove. Its first 7770 OBX customer, SingTel, is also both a Cisco and Juniper customer. Further, Alcatel hasn't validated its new router or ACEIS technology with industry testing, while Cisco and Juniper continue to participate in third-party and open forum tests (see MPLS Vendors Demo Fast Reroute).

An Alcatel spokeswoman says it's currently testing ACEIS with BTexact Technologies but couldn't say when results might be available.

Still, it would be a mistake to discount Alcatel too soon, sources say. "I think what Alcatel announced today is a dramatic improvement over the previous incarnation of this product," writes program director Mark Seery of RHK Inc. in an email today. "Alcatel has the ability to support this product over an extended period of time if they so choose... plus their legacy base earns them a seat at the table."

Seery also points, as others have, to chinks in the armor of major players (see Juniper's Kriens: RBOCs Are Ours and Multiservice Cisco ). At the very least, Alcatel could help build a fire under Cisco and Juniper. "The incumbent IP vendors are not where they need to be with respect to key issues going forward," he writes. "They need to make sure they attack these problems quickly and effectively, if they wish to close the window of opportunity for a company such as Alcatel."

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
www.lightreading.com
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reoptic 12/4/2012 | 9:20:10 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core This thing has one third of the density of the T640. It is also worse than Cisco and Avici on Density. How can they compete on h/w?

They just delivered RSVP today...how can they compete on S/W features? Who has validated the robustness and interoperability of their BGP -- Singtel? Can Alcatel even spell IP?

There are not any serious deployments of this product and it doesn't look like there are going to be either with this kind of product.

If this were a startup and not a European make-work project this thing would have been shot long ago. Amazing it has survived all the Alcatel cuts.
skeptic 12/4/2012 | 9:20:09 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core Alcatel isn't alone, though, in tackling carriersGÇÖ complaints. Cisco announced nonstop forwarding and instant switchover in its Globally Resilient IP marketing pitch last spring (see Cisco Intros Globally Resilient IP ).
--------------------------
Cisco's "nonstop forwarding" and "instant
switchover" could be called something else:

"Stealth reboot"

Cisco (and Juniper's) solution involves hiding
router crashes from the network and forwarding
packets blindly until the router software has
restarted.

Cisco knows that their solution is inferior
and that most of the large service providers are
rejecting it. Their marketing strategy is
to use the IETF and "interoprability testing"
as a shield. The thing is that the alcatel
/avici style solution doesn't change any of
the routing protocols.....while (of course)
cisco's does.

So we have a company (cisco) hiding behind
IETF and interoprability when they are the ones
offering a solution that requires fundemental
changes to protocol standards.....while their
competition does not.

deer_in_the_light 12/4/2012 | 9:20:09 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core That product has the backing on some very large service providers, they will trial it just to bug Cisco. Why do you think Alcatel keeps this program alive while they are cutting pretty much every new program, even in DSL ?
Business is there for them if they can deliver and the platform is now complete enough is term of routing/MPLS features to be actually deployed in the field.
fw23 12/4/2012 | 9:20:09 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core >Bieberich says Alcatel's pitch hits squarely at >performance and reliablity, two problems that >have haunted core IP router vendors, >particularly as the downturn has worsened.

Whatever the pitch says, the product doesn't
deliver either. The routing software is
second-rate, feature-poor and not (in my opinion)
ready for the internet.

I stopped by their booth at supercomm and asked
to see their reliability demonstration. They
declined to give the demonstration. And even
when I asked if there was a later time I could
come back and see it, they said no. Given
what happened at supercomm and the endless
delay in releasing information from btexact
(it was promised at supercomm as well) really
makes me doubt them.

Because they are alcatel, they will be able
to get in a few doors. But once they get in,
the limitations of the product are going to
be clear.

The fact that this thing is so late and being
re-launched is probably a sign that customers
were not dazzeled by it anyway.





konafella 12/4/2012 | 9:20:08 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core The root question is this:

Would you rather take a scaleable routing platform with a non-redundant architecture and add redundancy to it, or take a fully redundant platform from the ground up and add scale to it.

Given both dilemnas, I would prefer to have the latter problem. Availability, and not lack of bandwidth, is the major problem facing the service providers in attaining significant revenue from IP services at the moment.

KF
Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 9:20:05 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core So where is the 7770 being developped?

By the way, it does have higher density than the Cisco (which requires a full bay). Also the Alcatel needs a 23" rack unlike the routers from the competition.
deer_in_the_light 12/4/2012 | 9:20:04 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core Used to be developed in virginia and belgium, then transferred to ottawa since Alcatel USA does not really develop any products anymore and has pretty much been converted to sales and customer support in Plano.
jamesbond 12/4/2012 | 9:19:55 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core They just delivered RSVP today...how can they compete on S/W features? Who has validated the robustness and interoperability of their BGP -- Singtel? Can Alcatel even spell IP?

-------------------------------------------

Nobody gives a shit about RSVP. As far as
IP goes, I think they hired Alex Zinin who
is quite knowledgeable guy in IP routing.
fw23 12/4/2012 | 9:19:54 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core >Nobody gives a shit about RSVP. As far as
>IP goes, I think they hired Alex Zinin who
>is quite knowledgeable guy in IP routing.

Great. Go out and try to sell a core router
without RSVP-TE. You can maybe get into one
large provider without it, but even thats
questionable.

And unless Alex is rewriting
all their routing code, I dont think its going
to help much in practical terms. Too little,
way too late.

ip-eng 12/4/2012 | 9:19:39 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core deer-in-the-light
care to share your source with us?

(wishful thinking I guess)

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