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AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers

Craig Matsumoto
3/27/2008
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Not to be outdone by its fiercest rivals, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is today announcing a major router upgrade, giving a long-awaited boost to the 7750 Service Router and 7450 Ethernet Service Switch.

A new processor gives the boxes a capacity that crosses into the "terabit router" range -- though that boast can only be achieved by counting both the ingress and egress traffic, each of which has a maximum rate of 500 Gbit/s.

AlcaLu is also adding features to the boxes, most notably deep packet inspection (DPI), firming up the vendor's heritage as a pioneer in the "service router" category.

The 7750 hasn't had a major upgrade since its introduction in 2003. And the competition has been on the move with new routers -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) with its new ASR 1000, and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) with the MX family that was first introduced in 2006. (See Cisco Takes Hold of the Edge and Juniper Antes Up on Ethernet (Finally).)

So an upgrade to the 7750 and its derivative, the 7450, isn't a particular surprise -- in fact, many people have been expecting it. (See AlcaLu's Edge Upgrade.)

The interesting part is that the upgrade doesn't require a new router. It's just a matter of new line cards for the 7750 and 7450, as the switch fabric that's been in the 7750 since 2003 can absorb the extra traffic.

"We originally had told all our customers they weren't going to have to change the switch fabric to get to these speeds," says Basil Alwan, president of AlcaLu's IP business, referring as far back as Alcatel's 2003 purchase of his router startup, TiMetra. (See Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal.)

Alwan adds that those customers are probably going to be surprised to see this actually happen.

AlcaLu's product launch parallels the recent launch of Cisco's ASR, in that a processor is the star of the show. (See Cisco Touts Chip Breakthrough.)

In this case it's called the FP2, and it's a chip AlcaLu designed itself, just as Cisco designed its QuantumFlow for the ASR, and Juniper designed its own chips for its MX and EX systems.

The FP2 can handle 100 Gbit/s of traffic (using the double-counting that's conventional for routers). With 10 slots in the 7750 SR-12, the largest system of the family, that adds up to what could be called 1 Tbit/s of capacity.

And in a bit of one-upmanship, the FP2 packs 112 processors compared with 40 on the Cisco QuantumFlow. (It's like neighbors competing with their barbeques and lawn mowers, isn't it?)

Cisco boasted of integrating services into the ASR, and AlcaLu isn't being left behind on that front either. Its Application Assurance card announced today adds deep packet inspection (DPI) to its routers, mirroring one of Cisco's ASR moves. An additional card for IPSec encryption is being announced for the 7750 and its smaller cousin, the 7710 Service Router.

The usual problem with these features is that, once they're activated, the router slows down substantially. Cisco's ASR 1000 demonstrates this, as the data sheets show. The QuantumFlow can normally process 20 million packets per second, but the activation of services and encryption can bring that figure to 2 million.

AlcaLu says the 7750 has been built from the start to keep routing and services running at line rate. "We didn't build a CRS, which does blazing fast core routing but little else," Alwan says, referring to Cisco's biggest router. "We continue to focus on the fact that highly classified traffic, or traffic with a lot of features turned on, should run at speed."

AlcaLu is also jumping on the "single OS" bandwagon. Juniper prides itself on having only one version of Junos in all its routers, but it's still got separate operating systems in other product lines. Cisco made a big deal of the ASR running multiple services on one OS, but competitors love to point out that Cisco's Internetwork Operating System (IOS) has dozens of versions scattered around its customer base. AlcaLu, whose IP portfolio is based entirely on the 7750, wants to point out that it's really got only one OS out there.

The enhancements to the 7750 and 7450 are due to ship in the third quarter, but AlcaLu won't tell the press what the prices are. "Pricing is upon request, but you have to have a check in hand," Alwan says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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douaibei
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douaibei,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:46 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
Looks all the vendor are trying to develop the latest chipset to cope with the application challenge.

Lucent and cisco has the best chipset design capability,

can anyone guess, what's going to happen with the startups? are they any room for the startups to do anything posh?

timjjjj
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timjjjj,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:46 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
Only Cisco, Let's see... Juniper MX960. True 960G. No it is 480G - Oh but that's none redundant. Only 440G Redundant. It should be called the MX880. So you are correct Cisco double counts, just Juniper double counts plus throws a few more in for good measure. ALU was the only real player that didn't double count.

BTW, yes that is 1T over the switch fabric. Sorry to disappoint.

As for LR. They were more then fair. They even gave Juniper the credit for in house developed hardware for the MX. Unless Juniper purchased EZchip and it's network processor, the statement "Juniper designed its own chips for the MX" is very graciously.
chechaco
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chechaco,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:46 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
"The FP2 can handle 100 Gbit/s of traffic (using the double-counting that's conventional for routers). With 10 slots in the 7750 SR-12, the largest system of the family, that adds up to what could be called 1 Tbit/s of capacity."
Well, firstly, double counting is not really conventional for all routers but for Made in Cisco.
And when calculating aggregate throughput one need not to forget about the backplane. Upgrading NPU is nice and cool but wouldn't that move the bottleneck to the backplane? Or LR eats from AlcaLu palms and repeats numbers that can not be achieved in real-life networks (1T calculated without any significant number of flows crossing the backplane).
gocowboys
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gocowboys,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:44:45 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
I guess that this means that I can have 1Tb of traffic coming in and nothing coming out. :-)

Personally, I hate this type of performance math. A 1Tb device should be capable of full duplex at 1Tb under normal operating conditions.
timjjjj
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timjjjj,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:45 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
Only Cisco, Let's see... Juniper's MX960. True 960G. No it is 480G - Oh but that's non-redundant. Only 440G Redundant. It should be called the MX880. So you are correct Cisco double counts, just Juniper double counts plus throws a few more in for good measure. ALU was the only real player that didn't double count.

As for LR. They were more then fair. They even gave Juniper the credit for in-house developed hardware for the MX. Unless Juniper purchased EZchip and it's network processor, the statement "Juniper designed its own chips for the MX" is very gracious.

BTW, yes that is 1T over the switch fabric. Sorry to disappoint.
desiEngineer
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desiEngineer,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:44 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
Craig,

You said that ALU caught up with JNPR. You aren't implying that JNPR has a 40G or 50G clear channel NPU. I thought their ASIC (is it an NPU) was 10G and they had multiple of them on a board to achieve a max of 40G.

Also, the number you published for cisco's QuantumFlow is 20 mpps. Is that 64 byte packets or 1500 byte packets? At 64 bytes, that's roughly 10G. At 1500, it's 240G. I'm guessing it's either i-mix or 64 byte so it would be either 10G or 40G.

That would be better characterized as catching up on capacity, but leapfrogging on capability, at least vs. JNPR, considering the 10G NPU from ALU is 5 years old?

-desi
desiEngineer
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desiEngineer,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:44 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
Craig,

You mention that the performance drops from 20 mpps to 2 mpps. I searched the archives for any other info you might have published on this and I didn't find any.

Now, I'm all for this kind of real performance numbers but what did you have to turn on to make a 10x performance degradation? Not IPv6 or ACLs, I presume. DPI? IPSEC?

I presume the convoluted reporting of Basil's statement can be deciphered to mean ALU said their numbers don't degrade. Was that a like for like comparison?

Enlighten us please.

-desi
yarn
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yarn,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:44:44 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
In fact the ballyhooed Cisco QuatumFlow processor relies on commercial silicon design from Tensilica, while as mentioned on another post Juniper used EZ-chip. So ALU has no match really.

Another interesting design competition would be on router OS design. ALU managed to evolve their feature set using one OS only. That's hardly jumping a bandwagon because that feat is unmatched as well.
chechaco
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chechaco,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:44 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
"BTW, yes that is 1T over the switch fabric. Sorry to disappoint."
Disappoint? Not at all. I just prefer straight and quite simple throughput calculation to marketing talk.
BTW. 1Tb switch fabric would not sustain 1Tb of ports at line rates. Even for unicast without any multicast. Been there, done that.
Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:44:42 PM
re: AlcaLu Beefs Up Its Routers
Desi -- The 20 vs 2 mpps comes from Cisco's own data sheets. You get down to 2 mpps if you turn on "all baseline services combined and encryption enabled" or "numerous services and firewall enablement combined." (Quoting from the data sheet.)

I don't have a like-for-like comparison of the numbers but will try to pin something down. I agree it would be enlightening.
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