Nortel passes GO with switch

Nortel Networks last month announced the availability of its Passport 8600 Layer 2-7 Switching Platform, which offers customers more comprehensive traffic management and functionality, according to the company.

The Passport 8600 now comes equipped with the Alteon Web Switching Module (WSM), which integrates Layer 2-3 switching and routing functions with Layer 4-7 traffic management and switching capabilities. The switch is also able to serve various functions simultaneously because the operating system allows multiple applications to run at the same time.

“We were looking at how we could implement the Layer 4-7 technology, an advance in intelligent Internet traffic management and control, into the Layer 2 and 3 solution,” explained Chad Elford , Nortel’s San Jose, Calif.-based director, product marketing for the Alteon product line.

The company was looking to lower the total cost of ownership for the existing Passport 8600 customer, he said, adding that the current market typically features independent appliances doing different applications separately, such as firewall load balancing, server load balancing and streaming media load balancing.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve taken that technology which was separate, or a different box, a stackable solution, and put it on a modular blade into the modular 8600 chassis,” Elford explained. “And by doing that, we turn on all ports so they can take advantage of this Layer 4-7 content intelligence. And at the end of the day what we’re really looking to do here is enhance [the customer’s] ability to understand the traffic that’s on their network, (and) deal with it appropriately.”

According to the company, the Passport 8600 is a 10-slot, chassis-based system with a 128Gbps switching capacity which aggregates up to 128 gigabit Ethernet and 384 Fast Ethernet ports. Each WSM blade is configured with four 10/100/1000Mbps ports, and each port features 10MB of memory through dedicated application-specific integrated circuits, according to the company.

While geared toward the carrier space, the company is targeting the communications-dependent enterprise as well, according to Marie Hattar, chief architect for Intelligent Internet at Nortel in San Jose.

Hattar explained that this product announcement was designed to fit in with the company’s Intelligent Internet strategy.

“The Intelligent Internet is really a strategy of what we’re trying to bring into our data portfolio, and that is to, in a nutshell, make it more intelligent, make it more scalable, more agile, (and) more efficient.”

In the past year, Nortel has been active in building out the optical core, she said. But now, the next build-out seems to be at the metro edge, and bringing a lot of that high bandwidth to the enterprises and closer to the end users.

“In that area, we focused very much on our Passport 8600 product offering gig E, and soon 10 gig E interfaces and allowing us to hook into our OPTera metro products so that we can provide end-to-end Ethernet,” she noted.

Technical evolutions have allowed for Ethernet to be taken across the MAN and WAN as opposed to just being stuck in the LAN segment, Hattar said.

Lauri Vickers, senior analyst, data and voice networking at Cahners In-Stat in Scottsdale, Ariz., said she sees this announcement as being a logical progression forward for Layer 4-7 capabilities.

“What [the announcement] is really designed to do is bring those capabilities and make them available to the enterprise,” she explained. “And also allow people to get the kind of port density they couldn’t get out of the previous versions.”

The only comparable offering in the marketplace that she was familiar with are offerings from Cisco Systems.

“This is definitely good news, but it’s not earth-shattering,” Vickers noted. “[But] it’s good that Cisco’s got some serious competition in this area, it’s good that they’re bringing the Alteon technology to the enterprise user.”

The Alteon WSM blades are available now, and are priced at US$35,995. For more information, visit the company at