Alcatel-Lucent to bring 40G to mesh


Alcatel-Lucent will expand its data center fabric solution to handle 40 Gigabit per second traffic later this year by adopting Shortest Path Bridging and other technologies in its top of the line switch to make what it calls a cloud-ready data centre.

The network equipment maker said Monday at the Interop Las Vegas conference that two 40Gig Ethernet line cards will be available in the third quarter for its OmniSwitch 10K network core switch, which, combined with software upgrades will fill out its fabric architecture.

The software will support Shortest Path Bridging, which optimizes server-to-server connectivity over multiple paths; virtual edge port aggregation (VEPA), a switching management platform that controls quality of service; support for virtual chassis architectures and what it says is lossless Ethernet.

There isn’t a lot of demand at the moment for a 40GigE mesh, acknowlegedCliff Grossner, Alcatel’s Ottawa-based senior director of network solutions.

“What’s important for the market to understand is we have it when they want it, and they don’t have to change out equipment they have today.”

That kind of speed from top of rack switches to servers may not become popular for at least a year, he said. But it may be needed soon within the network fabric.

The modules won’t be cheap: An 8-port 40GbE module will sell for US$67,000, while the four-port version will go for US$47,000.

There is also a 40GbE solution for Alcatel’s OmniSwitch 6900 top of rack switch.

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research, said the announcement is a logical follow-up to Alcatel’s enterprise mesh announcement a year ago.The manufacturer is building its mesh through what it calls pods of switches, which he said is an easier solution than offered by some competitors.

Using Shortest Path Bridging (SPB), a standards-based technology, will also lower the risk for customers, he said.

The latest draft of the SPB, version 4.6, was approved by the IEEE last month, Grossner said, and should be finalized this year.

The race for supremacy in data centre network fabric is being fought with open and semi-proprietary standards. Avaya Inc.’s solution is based on SPB, while Cisco Systems Inc. is using a technology called FabricPath, derived from TRILL (Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links) or derivatives. Juniper Networks’ solution is called Qfabric.

Grossner said Alcatel chose SPB is a cloud-compatible protocol that can scale to hundreds of switches and it provides the elasticity to support moving virtual machines between data centres.

Among SPB’s advantages, he added is that MAC addresses of an endpoint is carried as a “payload” and tunneled through the network, also called “MAC in MAC”.

Grossner also said the Alcatel solution has been certified for Citrix.

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