Alcatel-Lucent Unveils 100GbE Network Interface

Alcatel-Lucent is announcing a 100GbE service routing interface aimed at helping service providers deal with the explosive growth in traffic, particularly video traffic. The announcement comes as other network equipment vendors are looking to add their products to the 100GbE mix. Juniper announced its first 100GbE interface card in June, and analysts expect Cisco to do the same soon. Despite the interest, mass adoption of 100GbE is a ways off, analysts say. Service providers are still migrating from 1GbE to 10GbE, with some beginning to adopt 40GbE. The first commercial 100GbE products won't be available until next year.

Alcatel-Lucent is entering the competition for 100 Gigabit Ethernet networking.

Alcatel-Lucent on July 16 is unveiling 100GbE line cards for the network core, as well as for edge of networks and metro networks. In addition, the company is announcing new 10-port 10GbE line cards for service providers that need greater density than 10GbE, but aren't ready for 100GbE.

The move comes a month after Juniper Networks introduced its first 100GbE interface card, and one analyst said this is only the beginning.

"There's a race on to get to [100GbE]," said Michael Howard, an analyst at Infonetics Research. "Juniper already had their announcement, and I'll be surprised if we don't hear soon from Cisco. Part of this is about the competition [among vendors] to get there, but there also are underlying needs."

In particular, the rapidly increasing amount of video traffic on networks, as well as the growing number of IP services, is fueling the need for greater capacity and performance from the networks.

And that traffic is coming from both the consumer and commercial areas, according to Lindsay Newell, vice president for marketing at Alcatel-Lucent's IP Division. For example, Alcatel-Lucent predicts that by the end of 2010, as much as two-thirds of consumer traffic on networks will include some form of video.

On the commercial side, such services as subscriber management, IP VPNs (virtual private networks), Ethernet VPNs and a host of Web 2.0 and cloud computing applications are driving up the demand for more capacity.

And for both consumers and businesses, mobile broadband traffic-fueled by multimedia-is expected to double every year.

"We believe that 100 Gigabit Ethernet is important and necessary for service providers to deal with the massive traffic growth," Newell said in an interview.

Alcatel-Lucent is looking to put its 100GbE service interface on its 7750 Service Router and 7450 Ethernet Service Switch. In addition, the new 10-port 10GbE line card also will be used with those routers and switches.

Newell said that while Alcatel-Lucent is making its introduction after Juniper, this is more than a "me too" announcement. The key difference is that while Juniper's 100GbE line card address the network core-the ability to speed up the traffic between major data centers-Alcatel-Lucent is looking to also bring 100GbE capabilities to the edge of the network-where Newell said most of the network intelligence resides and where decisions about individual services are made-and smaller metro networks.

"We believe speed is necessary, but it's not sufficient," he said. "[100GbE] is needed not just at the core, at the data center, but also at the edge [of the network]."

A key differentiator for Alcatel-Lucent is its home-grown FP2 silicon, which can support services at 100 Gigabits-per-second speeds. The company began working on the silicon in 2004, and started shipping it in 2008. For service providers already using Alcatel-Lucent service routers with FP2, they only will need to add the new line cards and get 100Gbs speeds.

"For our customers, it's a low-risk path to 100 Gigabit Ethernet because the silicon has been shipping for a year now," Newell said.

The Alcatel-Lucent interface modules also will help service providers drive down power, cooling and space costs. The enhancements to the FP2 silicon and thermal efficiency is driving down the power consumption to about 4 watts, a 70 percent drop from the levels found 10GbE and 40GbE products.

Infonetics analyst Howard said that while it's good to see Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper and others pushing development of 100GbE technologies, it will be a while before it becomes commonplace.

Currently networks are still in the transition from 1GbE to 10GbE, and service providers are only just beginning to buy 40GbE products, which won't take off until the price comes down. Eventually adoption of 100GbE will take off, but it will take a while, Howard said.

"Trials [of 100GbE technology] is important, but it won't be cheap," he said.

Juniper officials last month said they expect to get trials of their 100GbE line cards underway soon. Alcatel-Lucent will make its line cards available for demonstrations in the fourth quarter, with commercial availability in the middle of 2010.

Howard said he can see major service providers, such as Verizon and Google, being among the early adopters of 100GbE, but it will be expensive. Others may wait until the price comes down.