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
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ip-eng 12/4/2012 | 9:19:39 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core I thought they completed their RSVP-TE conformance testing -

Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 9:19:36 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core I thought they completed their RSVP-TE conformance testing -

It would mean a hell of a lot more if they had completed some kind of interop testing, preferably in a live network. You can't just look at RFC's and say "ok, looks like we conform" and then expect it to work in real life.

The 7770 still hasn't "shown us the money".
skeptic 12/4/2012 | 9:19:21 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core I thought they completed their RSVP-TE conformance testing -

They think so too, but the problem is that
it was tested at EANTC who has no credibility
at all. This is just a mutual european sort
of thing where alcatel sends a european product
to be tested (getting credibility for the
product) to a european test lab (getting
credibility for EANTC).

And, correct me if I'm wrong, but (as with
other alcatel testing) no report on the testing
was ever released. The only visiable result
of the testing was a press release.

deer_in_the_light 12/4/2012 | 9:19:18 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core Ip-eng,

There are no secrets there, I had quite a number of friends at Alcatel USA, unfortunately ALL of them have been let go over the last couple of months. So my information might be a bit outdated.

7770 was the only data product being developed in the US, I should say partially developed in the US as HW was built in Belgium and Virginia was only SW doing IP routing , MPLS SW and management system.
The development site in Virginia (ex-Newbridge US) was shut down and activities transfered to Kanata (ex-Newbridge).

Alcatel USA also shut down their GigE group in Spokane, Access group in Milpitas, DSL-Sonet in Raleigh and decided not to engage in any new development in the US. They are maintaining some level of activity in DLC, DSL and Sonet to support existing customers. They tried to sell ex-Xylan, enterprise gear, but they were no takers, so they might shut it down or more likely bring it back to Europe.

Plano is becoming a sales and customer support office with drastic cuts across the board, the only respected senior exec was Jay Hilbert, he left the company and sales to RBOCs will really suffer from that. The Australian running the company is a nice guy but is just a puppet in the hands of the CEO who decided to regroup in Europe until the recession is over.

I am trying to find out what's happening on the optical side but cannot get any real scoop, their CrossLight product has not been killed officially, the 1640 neither, I believe the 1680 has been shut down but I would like to know for sure. Any info is appreciated.

broadbandboy 12/4/2012 | 9:19:12 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core I also had friends at Alcatel USA, and many are gone. I heard they wiped out the marketing group in Plano, and then kicked out the head sales guy.

By the way, isn't it true that the 7770 uses third party BGP code? I bet Skeptic knows the source, and whether its any good or not. But can you really have credibility in routing if you can't roll your own?

That said, I think the Euro operators would like to buy something not invented in Silicon Valley, and that goes for the Chinese as well.

mr0carrier 12/4/2012 | 9:19:05 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core But it wont be much more than a bid. Alcatel makes some good telecom gear, but they are a packet with a destination address on the IP road. Cisco had the same problem with telecom gear but they scarfed up a bunch of escapees from Alcatraz to help give them a clue. If Alcatel could have got some Cisco dudes a long time ago, they could have told them go deep not wide.


ip-eng 12/4/2012 | 9:18:36 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core >Who has validated the robustness and
>interoperability of their BGP -- Singtel?

Good question - they need to post some interoperability and scalability of their routing protocols.

There was news a few months ago from Alcatel suppling China Telecom with the 7770.



deer-in-the-light ... do you know any more details about this from your contacts?
ip-eng 12/4/2012 | 9:18:36 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core I saw this too ... but I can't find the test results - hope they'll post them:


ip-eng 12/4/2012 | 9:18:36 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core >And, correct me if I'm wrong, but (as with
>other alcatel testing) no report on the testing
>was ever released

I looked around on their web-site and this is what I found - I'm not here to argue with you about their credibility or whether real network testing is important - just want to post what I found ...

ip-eng 12/4/2012 | 9:18:36 PM
re: Alcatel Bids for IP Core deer-in-the-light
thanks for the info - unfortunately you know more than I do so I can't be of much help for the info you're looking for.

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