Alcatel adds QoS

Alcatel announced in late April that it has added quality of service (QoS) features to its OmniCore 5000 series of backbone switches, to enable companies to better-run mission critical business applications, and voice and video over IP, according to the company.

According to Raymond Hanson, the assistant vice-president of product marketing for the internetworking division at Alcatel, at gigabit wire-speeds, the added features can also identify and speed up revenue-bearing traffic through e-business networks.

“That means we could look at all of this information, and make a QoS implementation based on that information decision at wire-speed,” he explained. “So at gigabit rates, through the box, you can make decisions about the packets and look at the depth we’re talking about.”

Part of Alcatel’s strategy is to look at the world as being heterogeneous by nature, he said, so the QoS strategy is heterogeneous as well.

“I think that is a key factor to any success they (Alcatel)have,” said Kathleen Dexter, a San Jose-based analyst with Dataquest. “Most companies are not [taking that approach], so that’s going to be very important going forward for any vendor…no one is going to go out and rip out every single one of their systems and replace it with a single vendor.”

The OmniCore 5000 family, which includes the 5052, 5022 and 5010, features IP performance of speeds up to 52Gbps. Alcatel’s Hanson said the OmniCore 5000 also provides Layer 2, Layer 3, Layer 4 and Layer 7 packet classification. The family of products is also able to prioritize traffic, such as video and voice, with the capability to probe 256-bytes deep into each packet.

IT departments looking into quality of service capabilities should be aware of companies which “aren’t doing QoS and using the same kinds of QoS mechanisms that are implemented in the end equipment,” according to Tim Smith, a San Jose, Calif.-based analyst with Dataquest. The QoS scheme “kind of falls apart. In other words, unless it truly exists from end-to-end, then you don’t really have a quality of service from end-to-end.”

He said that is a challenge not only for Alcatel, but for the entire industry. Preventing that kind of situation means selecting pieces carefully when putting the network together, Smith said.

“Certainly if we’re talking about a campus network, where the enterprise might be completely in control of all portions of that campus network, then the OmniCore products will deliver very capable QoS functions,” he explained.

If a move is made out into the wide area, more careful choices have to be made when it comes to service providers. Smith advised users to ensure that the way their service providers implement and manage QoS is compatible with how it might be managed through Alcatel products.

The Spokane Public School District has been using OmniCore 5000 products — specifically, two of the 5052s, and approximately 50 of the 5010s — for two years, with a previous version of QoS features. According to Dennis Schweilhardt, the manager of technology infrastructure for the school district in Spokane, Wash., all of the district’s voice communications are being run on the network, and so far he has had no problems.

“It is absolutely critical that that capability be in there,” he said. “The way we’ve been utilizing it is based on a port level, and now they have a lot more flexibility on how you can utilize it…we’re going to be depending even more on it as we begin to look towards video applications.”

Potential Alcatel customers should consider one possible problem, according to Dataquest’s Dexter.

“Their message has been very good lately,” she said. “However, they do not have a strong presence in North America. They are working to fix that, but if it should end up not working out, then they may pull out of North America again.”

Existing OmniCore 5000 customers can receive QoS for free through Alcatel service and support. For new customers, the OmniCore 5000 line is now shipping with QoS, with prices beginning at US$7995.

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