Alcatel to give switch

Most people think of fluency in terms of a foreign language. When network equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent talks of application fluency, it means the ability of the network to talk the language of what’s running on the network.

The company said this week that in a few months it will extend its analogy to allow its OmniSwitch 6850 access switch to see multimedia applications and apply Quality of Service (QoS) terms on them.

The switch already can attach a profile to users and devices on the network, said Cliff Grossner, Ottawa-based senior director of network solutions for Alcatel, but this so-called multimedia fluency will let the OS6850 see SIP headers of voice and video traffic so the streams can be tagged for QoS.

“It’s really the ability to tag traffic based on a particular application and make sure it gets proper treatment end to end in the network,” Grossner said.

In addition, he said, the switch will be able to save metrics from SIP clients on packet loss, jitter and other performance indicators.

Also coming is the ability to detect users from a Windows login to apply more precise network profiles. The OS6850 can already detect the MAC address of a tablet or notebook on the network for provisioning. Soon it will have the ability to bind a profile also to a user, so if more than one person shares a computer the network will detect who they are from the login and apply access permissions and other controls appropriately.

This new capability will work with any device with a MAC address, Grossner said, which will help a bring-your-own-device strategy.

These changes, part of Alcatel’s converged network strategy, will be added through software to the OS6850 in the fourth quarter.

Andre Kindness, an enterprise network analyst at Forrester Research, said the upcoming changes are for now ahead of what competitors are doing to automate networks.

“This is an area that’s going to have to be tacked,” by other network equipment makers he says. “For Alcatel, this is a major differentiator and they’re taking the lead on it.”

Few organizations realize the capability is coming, he said, “but when A brings it out they’ll embrace it. Anything that improves operational efficiency, cuts down manual labour they’re starving to have.”

At the same time Grossner revealed the coming enhancements he also said Alcatel [NYSE: ALU] will shortly release 24 and 48-port versions of its OS6450 Gigabit Ethernet access switch for the campus.

The 1U-sized stackable switch comes in Fast and Gigabit versions, with or without Power over Ethernet. They come with two 10 GbE SFP-ready uplink ports that can be enabled by buying a licence. An optional two-port module can be configured for additional 1 GbE uplinks or 10 GbE stacking. They also have Metro Ethernet functions that can be turned on with a licence for service providers who use them for managed services.

The OS6450 ranges in price from US$1,600 to US$4,700 depending on configuration.

It will ship in the second quarter.

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