Alcatel stacks up convergence with its new switch

With its latest switch, Alcatel says it wants to be a global leader in network convergence. And according to one industry analyst, the company is in the right place at the right time to realize its vision.

Alcatel late last month released the OmniStack 6124, a 24 port 10/100 Ethernet switch and a new addition to the firm’s OmniStack family of products. This box succeeds its predecessor the 6024 in a number of ways, said Philippe Ginier-Gillet, Alcatel’s OmniStack product manager in Calabasas, Calif.

The 6124s, stackable in groups of six and upgradeable to a total of 150 ports, come together in a ring stack for greater reliability, instead of a daisy chain configuration. Its predecessor only connected together in groups of four at most, but the new box works fine alongside the 6024, Ginier-Gillet said.

The 6124 also employs distributed management functions, so even if the main management module in a stack goes offline, network managers maintain control over the grouping. Like the predecessor, stacks of 6124s are controlled through a single IP address.

The 6124 addresses quality of service (QoS) through Layer 3 classification based on Differentiated Services and Layer 2 classification through 802.1p and 802.1q.

The device also supports virtual LANs (VLANs) through the latter protocol. VLANs give network managers greater control over information priority, Ginier-Gillet said. They could send voice communication over one LAN and data over another to ensure QoS.

The 6124 comes with Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP) snooping capabilities for multicast management, and it supports SNMP and RMON.

Gillet-Ginier said Alcatel has been gunning for a leadership position in network convergence, wherein one network carries voice, video and data all at once. And according to Stan Schatt, vice-president and research leader with Cambridge, Mass.-based Giga Information Group, Alcatel might do well where other network gear vendors have failed.

“I think they have a chance,” Schatt said of Alcatel. “Most of the very large enterprises have a short list of vendors: Cisco, Nortel, and Lucent got to be the third one for a while. But Lucent imploded and Nortel is going the same route…Alcatel could emerge as a logical global alternative to Cisco.”

But one current Alcatel customer said he’s happy with the company’s previous offering and won’t likely trade up to the 6124.

“I don’t think I’m using the 6024 to its fullest,” said Farhad Engineer, the systems engineer at Sequenom Inc., a San Diego-based biotech firm. “Essentially the 6024 for me has very good manageability and I like the features. I stack them up four-high, which gives me 96 ports. I have a management module slapped into the top and manage all four with a single IP address…(But) I’m not using it for VLANs or some sort of security authentication.”

Still, Schatt said Alcatel’s future lies with new customers, instead of current ones. “I don’t think the product will make or break based on the install base upgrading, so much as selling this as another product in new sites… They (Alcatel) aren’t even a blip on the radar screen in terms on the install base.”

The 6124 starts at US$1,495. To learn more about Alcatel’s latest device, see the company’s Web site at