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Alcatel Asks: Who Else Is As Switch-Committed?

Parisian equipment maker Alcatel announced Monday morning the launch of its non-stop routing platform using a breakthrough software schema on its 7670 routing switch platform.

Available to existing Alcatel 7670 switch users as a downloadable patch (the necessary card is already incorporated into the hardware), the Alcatel Environment Internet System (ACEIS) gives IP networks guaranteed uptimes of 100 percent when performing routine maintenance, something normally not possible.

The three most popular IP routing standards -- border gateway protocol (BGP), intermediate system to intermediate system (IS-IS) and open shortest path first (OSPF) -- are supported with the new technology, giving nearly every IP network administrator the tools they need to support ACEIS.

Helmut Leopold Telekom Austria managing director of product and technology management, said the new technology on his 7670 switches supports his carrier's vision to provide a network usable by all customers.

"We selected the Alcatel 7670 RSP for its ability to combine multi-protocol core implementation on a single platform with optimum performance and future-proof technological opportunities," he said. "The introduction of non-stop IP routing to the 7670 RSP further enhances the attractiveness of the platform and supports Telekom Austria's vision of a scalable, reliable converged network architecture.

Alcatel officials point to its ACEIS support as further proof the equipment maker is the only manufacturer truly committed to network switching, and expects they are a year-and-a-half ahead of the competition.

Jim Guillet, assistant vice president of Alcatel's switched data networks, said competitors have a long way to go to reach the point they are at today. He took time to elaborate on what he sees as their weaknesses:

  • Cisco Systems, Inc. : "Are they really serious about switching, or are they just trying to maintain a stake in the service provider space, but would rather be selling routers? They came out with a new switch (May 13), the MGX 8950, with a scalability of 1.2 gigs to 160 gigs, but it's across five platforms. Our definition of scalability is a single platform where capacity can be added where the shell is all integral to the platform."
  • Lucent Technologies : "Lucent's got other issues, though, and one of their big ones is the hostile installed base of customers. The number of (former) Lucent accounts we have now is incredible and they are all saying generally the same thing: it's hard to find technical support, the software quality is not good and their roadmap for ongoing development is very weak."
  • Nortel Networks : "Any time you go through an employee reduction of some 55 percent, you got to assume that it isn't business as usual. The challenge must exist within Nortel, and it couldn't have come at a worse time, is that they're trying to roll out a brand-new platform in the face of significant employee cuts. That will make executing on their roadmap a challenge."

Seemingly confident of market share victory, Guillet sees its biggest challenge in the rate of adoption with new customers taking a risk on IP over asynchronous transfer mode (ATM).

"Clearly, there is an evolution underway towards IP-based services, the challenge facing service providers is forecasting the service mix and growth rate -- in other words, the rate of adoption -- and based on that forecast making a network investment decision upon which these services are delivered."

So far, industry support for ACEIS has been marginal given the short-time frame ACEIS has been available (officials say 80 customers have signed aboard). Though time, and support for its non-stop routing technology from research lab BTexact Technologies, should boost interest soon.

The report concluded what Alcatel has been pitching for more than a month, that ACEIS on its router can deliver seamless connectivity for the carrier's customer.

"To support mission-critical IP services, operators need high levels of availability in their core networks, far different from the general requirements of the enterprise market from which routers emerged. "After thorough testing of the 7670 RSP, we can confirm that the product can achieve non-stop routing for BGP, IS-IS and OSPF* Internet protocols, a primary factor in achieving these availability requirements." -- Stewart Davies, BTexact chief executive officer.