Alcatel-Lucent Unveils SDN Platform for Carriers

The company, which is being bought by Nokia, is using its own tools as well as those from Nuage and Bell Labs to build its Network Services Platform.


Alcatel-Lucent over the past few years has built out its software-defined networking capabilities through its Nuage Networks subsidiary, touching on the data center as well as branch offices.

Now the company is setting its sight on carrier networks. Alcatel-Lucent next month will launch its SDN-based Network Services Platform (NSP), a unified offering for service automation and network optimization that can manage both the IP-based and optical layers while using hardware from a range of third-party vendors.

The result is on-demand carrier networks that can more quickly develop and provision services, enabling them to meet the growing demand in cloud-enabled environments for faster, more flexible and programmable networks. Developing and launching services in current networks is difficult and time-consuming, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

With the NSP, which was announced May 20, carriers can design services more than 58 percent faster and with 56 percent fewer resources, the company said. The new services can then be instantly provisioned across multiple layers, domains and vendor platforms. At the same time, according to research from the company's Bell Labs, service providers can support 24 percent more traffic as the platform automatically distributes new connections across the network.

With NSP, carriers don't need to touch the network, according to Manish Gulyani, vice president of product marketing for Alcatel-Lucent's IP Routing and Transport business.

"It's a new software platform to bring on-demand services on top of the existing infrastructure," Gulyani told eWEEK.

NSP uses SDN software that leverages Alcatel-Lucent's capabilities around service management, IP and MPLS routing and optical networks, according to company officials. The platform uses code from Alcatel-Lucent's 7750 Service Router lineup, 1830 Photonic Service Switch and 5620 Service Aware Manager, the company said. A REST API interface with Nuage's SDN controller links the carrier platform to a business' data center network, officials said.

Adaptive routing algorithms developed by Bell Labs take data gained from the network—such as traffic levels and use as well as network topology and state—and bring greater visibility to the network, enabling the platform to find the fastest route for the data and avoid bottlenecks. Paths can be moved to avoid congestion or unlock bandwidth to enable additional customer services to be added, the company said.

The SDN and network virtualization space is a congested one that includes not only established vendors like Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Hewlett-Packard and VMware, but also smaller startups that continue to make inroads into the market. However, Alcatel-Lucent's Gulyani said competitors offer SDN strategies that are incomplete or are cobbled together from products both homegrown and gained through acquisitions. Alcatel-Lucent's NSP leverages technologies from the company itself, its Bell Labs research arm and its Nuage subsidiary, he said.

"This is the only product that has built from the ground up," Gulyani said.

The new platform also comes as Nokia goes through the process of buying Alcatel-Lucent. Speculation about Nokia's interest in Alcatel-Lucent, which has seen its fortunes rise and fall since its creation in 2006, began two years ago after Nokia bought out Siemens' half of a joint venture and then sold its handset business to Microsoft.

The companies are looking to create an entity to challenge such top-tier networking vendors as Cisco, Ericsson and Huawei Technologies. Alcatel-Lucent will bring a strong SDN and NFV portfolio to the deal.