AlcaLu Preps Grand Convergence Plan
Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) plans to interweave its optical and routing technologies more closely, as part of a strategy designed to accommodate the converging of carrier networks.
And Basil Alwan, who runs the IP routing business consisting of the 7750 Service Router and 7450 Ethernet Service Switch, is one of two men guiding that direction. He's developing the plan along with James Watt, chief technology officer for AlcaLu's Carrier Product Group.
"There's a very well-thought-through agreement on what belongs in the optical layer, what belongs in the IP/Ethernet layer, and how they interrelate. We actually have an upcoming announcement that's going to talk in detail about that," Alwan tells Light Reading, without giving away the juicy details. "We have a five-year vision of where the network goes."
It's a reflection of how networks are being used. Many carriers aren't interested in building separate wireless and wireline networks, or separate packet and optical transport; they want hybrids. All that "convergence" people talked about for years is actually happening.
This doesn't mean the layers mash into one gooey paste like chewed-up food. (And aren't you glad we didn't put a link in that sentence.) But as their roles overlap, network equipment has to be defined differently, Alwan says.
"It used to be easy to draw hard lines: I want a Sonet ADM. I want an IP router," he says. "Now all these services are coming together. That's a big change inside Alcatel-Lucent. There's a recognition among our customers that they want convergence, and that means we have to think across these layers."
The emergence of packet-optical transport systems (P-OTS), for instance, shows a melding of the optical and IP layers. The trend is taken to more ambitious levels in optical burst switching, which uses wavelengths to assign packets' destinations; Matisse Networks has been developing such a technology, and now Intune Networks appears ready to come to market as well. (See Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers and InTune Lands Irish Gig.)
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is definitely taking the trend to heart, crafting requirements for a new breed of long-haul optical equipment. And the apparent absence of an optical strategy at Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has prompted analyst Ed Zabitsky of ACI Research to start picking on that company. (See Verizon Rethinks Long Haul and Is Juniper Junior-Grade?)
Alwan's prominent role in this plan -- he's got a second title at Alcatel-Lucent that involves "portfolio development" -- shows how important his division's routers and switches have become to the company.
"The technology is finding its way into those other nodes," he says, referring to the other divisions that make up the carrier group: optical, wireless access, and wireline access. "That's our OS, our software operating system. Pieces of our hardware technology are actually in those other places now."
The former TiMetra Networks has grown up quite nicely for AlcaLu (Alcatel bought TiMetra in 2003), garnering a second-place market share in edge routing, by many estimates. Big-name wins include two announced today, with Cox Communications Inc. and NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT). (See Cox Picks AlcaLu and NTT Deploys IPv6 With AlcaLu.)
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading