Alcatel Takes a Fling at a Ring
Light Reading got wind of the project way back last summer, when it was first launched (see Native Secures Its Survival). Since then, Alcatel and Native have been quietly working to put Native's packet ring technology onto a couple of cards that can slot into the Alcatel 1640, 1650, and 1660 Multiservice Metro Nodes. The cards are scheduled for shipment by the middle of this year, according to Jean-Luc Beylat, VP of marketing strategy for Alcatel's optical networking division.
Alcatel already has cards for these boxes that support Ethernet point-to-point connections, but Native's cards will support packet rings -- something that a growing number of carriers are interested in these days (see Who Knew? Big Carriers Like RPR).
However, Native's technology is not based on the upcoming resilient packet ring (RPR) standard, IEEE 802.17. It's based on "Ethernet over MPLS over SDH," according to Colin Evans, Native's director of marketing and business development.
Alcatel's Beylat says the combination of Native's cards and Alcatel's SDH boxes does everything that RPR does, and then some. Specifically, the use of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) enables carriers to offer services that extend outside the local ring. This would apply, for instance, to virtual private LAN services (VPLS).
Siemens Information and Communications Networks Inc., in contrast, is putting both RPR and MPLS switching fabrics into its newly announced multiservice provisioning platform, the Surpass hiT (see Siemens Is Shaping Up).
Siemens expects RPR to be used for applications within a local ring, such as linking multiple DSLAMs to a broadband remote access server, but it expects MPLS to be used for applications that extend beyond a single ring.
RPR has advantages over the MPLS-based rings that Alcatel will get from its collaboration with Native, according to Matthias Lahr, senior VP of technical sales support for Siemens' optical networks division. RPR rings are resilient, MPLS ones less so, he contends.
This is refuted by Alcatel's Beylat, who says Native's technology is just as resilient as RPR. "We are not anti-RPR," he adds. But in Alcatel's view, RPR isn't ready for implementation in systems. "Today, RPR is a standard more for a chip."
In Lahr's view, Alcatel was slow to develop its own RPR technology, so partnering with Native to get the next best thing makes a lot of sense.
From Native's viewpoint, the Alcatel partnership is a godsend. Alcatel has deployed more than 50,000 nodes of its metro gear, which represents a huge potential market for Native's cards. Native is hoping to sign a similar deal in the U.S. with a major metro Sonet player, according to Evans.
(When Light Reading first reported the partnership between Alcatel and Native last July, Native's quondam CEO, Steve Harbour, had recently left the company and was trying to persuade his wife to go with him on a Harley Davidson from Chicago to Los Angeles. Harbour is now working as an independent management consultant in the high-tech equipment side of the healthcare industry, and business is booming, he told Light Reading today. The ride on the Harley has been put on hold.)
— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading