Alcatel unveils two enterprise switches

In a move that shows its commitment to serving the enterprise LAN market, Alcatel SA introduced two new switches designed to carry both voice and data traffic.

Borrowing and implementing a number of technologies from its Paris-based carrier division, the Calabasas, Calif.-based enterprise networking division of Alcatel on Tuesday introduced two new members to its OmniSwitch product family.

The switches, dubbed OmniSwith 8800 and 6600, feature what Alcatel calls “smart continuous switching.” Ostensibly, smart continuous switching is the idea that failover occurs automatically and is done without dropping a packet. This feature, say Alcatel executives, provides enterprises with the ability and assurance to run mission-critical applications such as voice and data on the same network, concurrently, without worry of service interruption.

“Enterprises are getting rid of their borders,” said Eric Penisson, vice-president of product marketing for network infrastructure at Alcatel. “They are implementing an IP infrastructure that gives always-on availability.”

This feature, said analysts, is another good step toward improved availability, but technology for technology’s sake is not at the top of large enterprises’ wish lists.

“Alcatel’s new features, on paper, look promising,” said Chris Kozup, a senior analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group Inc. “But at a certain point technology is less a differentiator for enterprises. They are looking for service, support, company viability, and help with a complete solution offering.”

Kozup explained that with this announcement Alcatel has begun to better prove itself as exactly what customers want today: a solid company that has expertise.

“Alcatel [with this announcement] has shown commitment to addressing the enterprise LAN market in the U.S.,” Kozup said.

The commitment is seen is Alcatel’s OmniSwitch 8800. The 8800 is the company’s new high-end core switch that features a non-blocking 10GB architecture and as many as 384 gigabit Ethernet ports. The switch also has a 512Gbps fabric and delivers 240Mbps of throughput.

Meanwhile, the OmniSwitch 6600 series features both the 6624 and 6648. The 6624 has 24 fixed ports and a 12.8Gbps switching capacity, while the 6648 has 48 fixed ports and 17.6Gbps switching capacity. Both are rack-mountable and like the 8800, the 6624, and 6648 have a new feature dubbed “virtual chassis.” Virtual chassis, explained Alcatel officials, permits network administrators to configure a stack of OmniSwitch 6600s through a single IP address. This way each unit is seen as a slot in a chassis.

Additionally, Alcatel introduced “automatic recovery software” with the release of the new switches. The software detects configuration errors automatically and rolls back to the most recent configuration.

Another feature of both the 8800 and 6600 is a common operating system, the Alcatel operating system.