Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals

The good news: Recent contract wins by Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) could mark it as a survivor in the market for multimedia content switches. The bad news: The market could morph yet again with the advent of sophisticated edge routing and MPLS switching technology.

Today, Nortel announced that Retecal, a cable telecom provider in Spain, will use Nortel's Passport 8600 multiservice WAN switches, outfitted with Alteon Web Switching Module blades, to create a new 15-node broadband multimedia network spanning a four-city area in Spain's large Castilla y León region (see Nortel Wins Spanish Cable Deal). While the carrier is just offering data at rates to 1 Gbit/s today, it plans to add voice over IP (VOIP) and higher rates in the future, according to Nortel spokespeople in Spain.

Separately, last week Nortel announced the signing of a one-year deal involving multiple products for India's Reliance Infocomm Ltd., which offers a range of services over a 60,000-km, 2,700-site network. Along with other gear, Nortel will supply standalone Alteon Web Switches and a variety of Passport multiservice switches, including the Ethernet-based 8600 (see Nortel Supplies Reliance in India).

Analysts say the use of Nortel multiservice switches with Alteon add-ons highlights a couple of key trends and signals Nortel's strength in a market niche.

It's probably much cheaper for some cable operators (such as Retecal) to use Ethernet-optimized products like the Passport 8600 in place of traditional routers, because the routing involved isn't as complex as Internet routing, according to Scott Clavenna, president of PointEast Research LLC and director of research at Light Reading. In addition, features such as traffic prioritization, key in multimedia networks, can be accomplished without the expense and complexity of a full-blown router, Clavenna says.

This tack seems have caught on. "Many service providers are using and considering a number of L2 and L3 technologies to deliver more services more simply in their networks," writes Michael Howard, principal analyst and cofounder of Infonetics Research Inc., in an email.

Another trend revealed by the recent announcements has to do with content management, which is the specialty of Nortel's Alteon line, offered as both a standalone unit and a blade for other platforms, including the 8600. At least one analyst says Nortel is building on its position as market leader.

"The Alteon box is still the industry leader," says analyst Irwin Lazar of the Burton Group. He says other vendors aren't showing content networking as a strong suit. F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) has backed away from the space, he says, while CacheFlow has migrated into a new area (see CacheFlow Puts on Blue Coat) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is playing catch-up (see Cisco Does Content Switching).

If Nortel can show some momentum in sales of its Alteon wares, Lazar says, the vendor just might wind up as the "last person standing" in the content-switching market.

But despite such a position, Nortel may not have long to cherish the role. A host of competing solutions for managing multimedia content are proliferating. Multiservice routing switch competitors such as Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN) are making their own inroads. And a range of other gear, notably products that use MPLS as a means of content delivery and quality of service, loom on the horizon (see IP Quality of Service).

Notably, though, in both recent announcements cited, the emphasis isn't on content management, or even on multimedia services, alone. For Retecal, Nortel also is providing OPTera Long Haul 1600 gear that will give the cable provider a way to offer wavelengths wholesale to other carriers. And Nortel's Reliance gig involves a slew of other gear, including the OPTera Connect DX optical switch, the OPTera Metro 4000 platform, and a range of security, system and network management, and voice products.

Bottom line? While the value of the Retecal and Reliance contracts remains undisclosed, they both seem sizeable enough to warrant a bit of boasting on Nortel's part. On the broader front, both deals offer an interesting reference point for gauging the progress of the content networking market.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
zettabit 12/5/2012 | 12:51:31 AM
re: Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals The Nortel press release quotes the deployment of the OPTera LH1600 with a capacity of 320 Gb/s. This is weird, as the LH1600 has always been quoted with a total capacity of 1.6 Tb/s, thus the "1600" designation (even thoughit became apparent that it would never do more than 800 Gb/s).

320 Gb/s sounds more like the MOR Plus amplifier. Is that what Retecal bought? And at how much - was it given away as part of a factory cleaning activity?
TelCoEngineer 12/5/2012 | 12:51:29 AM
re: Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals Nortel never got the LH1600 past 32x10G. Higher capacities require an entirely new amp, which they don't have because they abandoned the effort in deference to the LH4000 and LH5000, which are now shelved. So...32x10G is all they have to sell.

I hear Nortel is now telling their customers that they will be spinning a Raman assist amp for the LH1600 to make it an ELH box, but no word on capacity increases.
Petabit 12/5/2012 | 12:51:18 AM
re: Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals OPTera LH1600 is the name of the whole line system, with 2.5 and 10G line rates. You can fit one of two amplifiers, which will give you different capacities.

OPTera MOR plus will handle 16 channels in each direction down a single fibre, so is 32x10G

OPTera LH 1600G amplifier will handle 40x10G single direction out of the box, with upgrade options that take you to 160x10G. From gossip I understand that more than $2 billion worth of 1600G amps have been sold. The upgrade options exist, and were trialled with key cusotmers, however I don't believe that many upgrades were sold - since no-one has that much traffic on a single fibre.

There are Raman and FEC upgrades to LH1600 which will take the reach past many competitors ULR systems for the lines that actually need the reach...

bucardo 12/5/2012 | 12:51:18 AM
re: Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals zettabit wrote
Is that what Retecal bought? And at how much - was it given away as part of a factory cleaning activity?

I don't have the answers. What I can tell is that this is a result of an old vendor financed relationship (June 2000). From


"Retecal, Caja Espa+¦a (a bank) and Nortel Networks signed an agreement for the concession of a 100M€ loan to finance the Retecal network buildout."

And, anyway, Retecal is a small operator in Spain, with under 1% market share and recent financial troubles.

uknetworker 12/5/2012 | 12:51:16 AM
re: Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals
I think that Retecal may be MOR+ (its a small regional network after all) but Reliance is definitely 1600G as in the full 160 lambda amplifier.

Note that the 1600G amp is unidirectional and supports 80 lambda in each direction (i.e. 160 on two fibres). The development to make it do 160 lamda bidirectionally is the part that was never developed because in the end no one has that kind of capacity need yet.

Raman has been around for about a year and has been deployed in a number of 'stretched span' applications.

TelCoEngineer 12/5/2012 | 12:51:16 AM
re: Nortel Closes Content Switch Deals Wow, Petabit. I am assuming that you are one of the last remaining Nortel marketing guys. Marketing charts are the only place that more than 32 channel support exists on the LH1600.

The rest of that stuff has been on PowerPoint since 1997, but has never come to pass.

I especially love the part about 160x10G. Look at the architecture and you will know that there is no way that without major surgery that basically replaces everything but the rack, the LH1600 does not go past 32 channels.

Even if you decided that this was the way to go, Nortel moved the resources doing the development over to the LH4000 and LH500 projects (which are now dead) meaning that the hardware is not available anyway.

Nortel is at least 2 years away from any palatable capacity extension on the 1600.

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