Sources: Alcatel Plans IP Growth
The French vendor has made great strides in the edge router market during the past year with its 7750 and 7450 products, both based on technology that came with Alcatel's acquisition of TiMetra in 2003. (See Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal.) That progress culminated in quarterly sales that showed more than triple-digit sequential growth during the third quarter of this year. (See Alcatel Router Revenues Surge.)
Now the vendor is set to provide greater product variety to carriers and even stiffer competition to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR), according to sources who wish to remain anonymous.
The new product, expected to be unveiled during the first quarter of 2006, is believed to be a cousin of the 7750 Service Router (SR) and 7450 Ethernet Service Switch (ESS). The 7450 is, essentially, an Ethernet-only version of the 7750 Service Router that sits deeper into the network. (See Alcatel Pushes Ethernet-Over-MPLS .)
Both products, often deployed together, with multiple 7450s aggregating access traffic and feeding it back to the 7750, have proved increasingly popular as enterprise Ethernet and residential broadband traffic has grown, and as carriers prepare for triple-play (voice, video, data) service deployments. (See Mais Alors! Alcatel Bags $1.7B SBC Deal , Alcatel Eyes Video Market, BT Unveils 21CN Suppliers, Alcatel Serges on Triple Play , Alcatel Lands KPN, NTL Deals, and Telus Selects Alcatel.)
According to our source, the new product, dubbed the 7420, is believed to be more closely related to the 7450, which is currently available in a single-slot (ESS-1) chassis -- 1.5 rack units high and with a switching capacity of up to 20 Gbit/s -- or a seven-slot (ESS-7) chassis, 8 rack units high and with a switching capacity of 200 Gbit/s.
Those configurations don't quite suit the specific needs of some major customers, says the source, and the new product has been developed as a condensed but high-throughput "mini POP [point of presence]" version of the 7450. Specific technical details are unavailable, however.
Having a product that sits between the single-slot and seven-slot products would make sense, though, says Heavy Reading senior analyst Stan Hubbard, who also asked to remain anonymous. Having a platform with a switching capacity of, for example, 80 Gbit/s, "wouldn't be too surprising given the diverse scale requirements of Alcatel’s customer base and the competitive pricing battles that are likely. I'll be interested to see how this new platform differs from the baby [single-slot] 7450," says Hubbard.
Alcatel says it can't comment on any products that have not yet been officially launched.
Separately, another industry source says experienced industry executives from outside Alcatel are being headhunted to join a new IP platform R&D team that is believed to be separate from the TiMetra-based development group.
While some vendor rivals suggested this development could stem from deficiencies in the 7750 product, one industry analyst, who didn't want to be identified, trashed that theory, saying that carrier feedback on the 7750 has been positive. He suggests instead that new blood might be sought to help develop next-generation IP equipment.
Criticisms that the 7750 might lack some robustness stems from an unsuccessful deployment at the old AT&T, now merged with SBC to create the new AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). The 7750 was initially chosen for a multiservice edge router deployment, but, according to industry sources, was eventually usurped by Cisco. (See AT&T Edge Deployment Slips and New AT&T Launches.)
That replacement, though, is regarded as an anomaly created by the highly specific requirements and constraints placed by the carrier.
Alcatel declined to comment on any such plans.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, and Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading