Alcatel seeks to unify net management

Managing hundreds of thousands of nodes on a daily basis is likely to make a network operator’s head spin. In an attempt to ease some of the complexity associated with managing the elements of large service provider nets, Alcatel has announced upgrades to its remedy for the virtual vertigo.

The Paris-based network equipment manufacturer recently released version 5.0 and 5.1 of its 5620 Network Manager – acquired by Alcatel when the company purchased Kanata, Ont.-based Newbridge Networks Corp. in 2000. The 5620 acts as the cornerstone of the company’s network management products for data networks, and is the element manager of both wireline and wireless broadband services originating on access devices and transported over edge and core switches.

The company said its new versions of the 5620 address the need for service providers to combine the management of their legacy services with new IP and MPLS (multi protocol label switching) services.

The 5620 version 5.1 features: statistics on network traffic, volume, congestion and error conditions; fault isolation across both Layer 2 and Layer 3; IP auto-discovery of routers, label switch paths and IP links; automatic rerouting functions activated on link or logical failures. It can manage over 500,000 nodes, the company said.

“What is happening is that we have this unified platform and we unify everything through common functions,” said Johanne Mayer, director of solution marketing for Alcatel’s Carrier Networking Group in Kanata. “If a service provider has different technologies from [Alcatel] that they manage, we now have a central place to gather all the alarms and a same common way to handle [events].”

Mayer continued that with the 5620, Alcatel is reducing the number of steps service providers must endure in order to perform different functions such as provisioning trunks or signalling increases in capacity for MPLS.

“The big advantage with the 5620 is if you have a problem, for example…if a physical link goes down, it will let you know right away and which customers are affected,” Mayer said. “Service providers look good when they can trace the point-to-point connection and are able to reroute customers somewhere else.”

Although many industry experts maintain that managing equipment should be left up to independent software vendors (ISVs), Alcatel insists that without an element manager provided by the equipment vendor, the carrier will end up with niche applications that have to continually send requests to the nodes for information. The result is that the node stops doing its job because it is processing so many different requests.

“If you have the element manager there, those ISVs sitting above it are going to go and pound the element manager for that information,” she said. “The 5620 reduces the load of the information and synchronization that is required from the ISV. Plus, the equipment providers know our own equipment the best and we can provide the latest version for it.”

According to Mark Quigley, it is no secret that Alcatel has had some tough times penetrating the North American market. The company had been plagued by losses and layoffs, and after last year’s highly publicized Lucent-Alcatel merger fiasco, the company seems to have found its footing.

“The company faces the same challenges in North America that a Nortel or Lucent does in Europe,” said Quigley, research director with the Yankee Group in Canada, also in Kanata. “Prior to the Newbridge purchase, the company was faced with the challenge of trying to build its brand. Certainly the acquisition of Newbridge has done a great deal to help push that forward.”

In Canada, the majority of service providers relied on Newbridge equipment for their ATM businesses, said Leona LeChance, director of OSS for Telus Corp. in Calgary. LeChance, whose team has been running and supporting the 5620 within Telus for the last five years, said the 5620 provides the company with a graphical view of all its ATM and DSL infrastructure.

“We use it for not only just a view of what is going on, but also for provisioning,” LeChance said. “We provision our PVCs using the 5620. We also use it for getting alarms out of the network. Various alarms that can come out of the network will go through the 5620. We have built an interface in so we can get an automated alarming out of the 5620 into our trouble ticketing system.”

In terms of the new upgrades, LeChance said Telus is currently in the process of deploying MPLS at its core. She said that although Telus is not using Alcatel equipment for MPLS, having IP/MPLS capability in the 5620 can allow for simplicity in migrating traffic from ATM to MPLS or vice versa.

“It gives us an interface basically to bridge between the two networks,” she said. “The 5620 is used for a lot of things from service assurance, to activation, to bridging between activation and automation type systems and network elements themselves. With any network hardware that is out there, the network element system that is coupled with it will always be predominantly the best because they work directly with the hardware.”

The Alcatel 5620 version 5.1 is available this month.