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

Alcatel-Lucent unveils its 7950 XRS core router platform, which will begin hitting the market in the third quarter.

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.