Alcatel-Lucent Launches Wired Networking Mesh

How do you keep latency down and still serve over 10,000 server ports?

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Apr 6, 2011
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Mesh isn't just for wireless networking anymore. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) this week is debuting its mesh approach for wired networking as part of its broader strategy of delivering application fluency for networking gear.

The Alcatel-Lucent mesh update includes an updated AOS (Alcatel-Lucent Operating System), which is based on Linux. There is also a new OmniSwitch 6900 top-of-rack switch, and the OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager is being introduced as part of the overall update.

At the core of the mesh architecture is the Alcatel-Lucent pod construct. Cliff Grossner, director of product marketing, networking at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise told InternetNews.com that the pod enables top-of-rack switches to be directly connected. Each OmniSwitch 6900 can have up to 64 ports of 10 GbE.

"The key thing is that the traffic can go through the top-of-rack switches without having to go through a core switch," Grossner said. "That makes it ideal for server to server traffic and we keep latency within two microseconds."

Going a step further, pods can be connected together through core switches, which is what creates the Alcatel-Lucent mesh. With five pods and two OmniSwitch 10K core switches, Grossner noted that you could have 14,400 server facing ports, with a maximum switching capacity of 169 Terabits per second while using only 7 watts per port. Aggregate latency of the mesh can be kept under five microseconds. The mesh can also expand across multiple datacenter sites creating a private cloud.

The Alcatel-Lucent mesh builds on the multi-chassis link aggregation (MC-LAG) specified in the IEEE 802.3ad protocol that AOS 7.0 introduced in October of 2010.

"Mesh is the concept of bringing together the top-of-rack switches and connecting them while MC-LAG allows the load balancing between the top-of-rack switch and the core 10K," Grossner explained.

While the term "mesh" is also used in the wireless networking industry, the Alcatel-Lucent mesh is not related.

"Here we use the word mesh as it's more related to the mathematical concept of a fully connected graph as opposed to anything to do with the wireless portfolio," Grossner said.

One of the key drivers of increased network utilization is virtualization, which is key area that Alcatel-Lucent is focused on. The OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager is a management platform for virtualization hypervisors. Additionally the new Virtual Network Profile (vNP) enables Alcatel-Lucent switches to automatically sense virtual machine locations and sense the application performance. The vNP system applies policies to deal with virtual machine movement and performance.

Grossner noted that vNP, pod and mesh capabilities are all part of the AOS 7.2 update, which will be available for the new OmniSwitch 6900 as well as the OmniSwitch 10K platforms.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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