Alcatel-Lucent Enters Core Router Market Dominated by Cisco, Juniper

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2012-05-22

Alcatel-Lucent Enters Core Router Market Dominated by Cisco, Juniper

Alcatel-Lucent officials are gearing up the company to make a run at Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks in the $4 billion core router market, hoping to see a story similar to the one they've had in edge routers.

At Alcatel-Lucent€™s annual Technology Symposium 2012 on May 22, company executives unveiled a core routing platform, the 7950 Extensible Routing System (XRS), that they said will offer better performance, power efficiency and lower cost than competing systems. The company is hoping to leverage the rapidly growing demand on carrier networks caused by cloud computing and the explosion of video.

Officials also are hoping to see the same kind of success that they€™ve had in edge routers, a market the company entered eight years ago. Alcatel-Lucent€™s edge router unit is about a $2 billion business, with more than 400 customers and about 24 percent of the market, according to Basil Alwan, the company€™s president of IP networks.

€œEight years ago, we weren€™t really at the table,€ Alwan said during a Webcast press conference announcing the 7950 XRS. €œWe were the new guys knocking on the door.€

The 7950 XRS represents more than three years of development, and is built on Alcatel-Lucent€™s FP3 processor, a 400G-bps chip that initially was used to bring 100 Gigabit Ethernet capabilities to the company€™s edge routers. According to the company, the FP3 is aimed at high-performance public and private networks, with a single FP3 processor being able to handle 70,000 simultaneous high-definition video streams or 8.4 million simultaneous retail cloud sessions.

Alwan said the 7950 XRS will offer sizeable performance and power benefits over routers from Cisco and Juniper. The company said its router will be five times faster and 66 percent more energy-efficient than competing products, and that it will take 10 to 12 routers from Cisco or Juniper linked together to equal a single 7950 XRS node.

€œWe€™ve fundamentally redefined what a core router is,€ Alwan said.

The 7950 XRS comes in three models. The high-end 7950 XRS-40 offers 32T-bps of routing capacity in two racks, and can run up to 160 100GbE interfaces in a single core router, 400 40GbE interfaces or 1,600 10GbE interfaces. It will be available in the first half of 2013.

The midrange 7950 XRS-20 is a 16T-bps router that offers up to 80 100GbE interfaces in a single rack, and can be configured into a 7950 XRS-40 by linking two chassis together. Like the 7950 XRS-40, it also can be offered in a multichassis configuration. Currently in trials, it will be available in the third quarter.

At the low end is the 7950 XRS-16c, which offers 6.4T-bps capacity and up to 32 100GbE interfaces. It will be available in the first half of next year.

Alcatel-Lucent officials said the new core router platform already is getting interest from carriers, including Verizon Wireless, NTT Communications and BT. Ihab Tarazi, vice president of global IP and transport planning and technology at Verizon, appeared on stage with Alwan.

Analysts See Both Challenges and Opportunities for Alcatel-Lucent


The company faces a daunting challenge, but some analysts said there€™s also opportunity. Nomura Research analyst Stuart Jeffrey said in a research note May 16, when word of Alcatel-Lucent€™s core router push began to spread, that he expects Cisco€”which currently owns 54 percent of the core router market€”could see that number drop by as much as 10 percent by 2014, with Juniper€™s share dropping by 4 percent.

"Alcatel-Lucent has captured a 24 percent share of the edge router market over the past 10 years,€ Jeffrey wrote. €œIf the company can launch a compelling solution and leverage its customer relationships, then it may see faster share gains in the core routing market.€

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said the company€™s experience in edge routers will give it some momentum in its core router strategy.

€œThey€™ve been building router technology for a while,€ Kerravala told eWEEK, adding that companies he€™s spoken with have said Alcatel-Lucent€™s edge router platform €œis a good product. It€™s on par with Cisco and Juniper.€

Alcatel-Lucent officials also could combine the edge and core router platforms to offer carriers €œsome kind of end-to-end story€ similar to what Cisco offers, he said. For its part, Juniper doesn€™t have that same sort of story, Kerravala said.

However, Juniper officials are already pushing back. The company May 22 announced a capacity upgrade to its TXP routing system for its T4000 and T1600 core routers. According to Juniper officials, the TXP system upgrade more than doubles the routers€™ capacity and extends the lifespan of the products.

"Service providers are dependent on the infrastructure they build to deliver profitable services, but they must also be nimble and flexible to scale these services,€ Daniel Hua, senior vice president and general manager of Juniper€™s Core Business Unit, said in a statement. €œInvestment protection, operational continuity and future-ready scalability are critical components in infrastructure purchasing decisions. Expanding the capabilities of Juniper's TXP multi-chassis system, which is deployed in numerous networks worldwide, is clearly aligned with this strategy."

Cisco officials also have been touting their accomplishments. In a May 18 post on the company€™s CiscoHome blog, Surya Panditi, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco€™s Service Provider Routing Group, said the vendor€™s core router business has gained market share for the past seven quarters, and 12 of the last 13 quarters.

€œThe continuing explosion in IP traffic and the proliferation of connected devices and applications is dramatically transforming network traffic patterns, making network intelligence more important than ever,€ he wrote in the blog, nothing that the CRS-3 router has hit $1 billion in total orders and that Cisco has shipped almost 3,000 systems.

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