Vendor Network Architectures�Part XIV: Alcatel

Alcatel's 5020 Softswitch is a modular, expandable, converged platform maxing out at 2 million ports, aimed a carriers, ISPs, and enterprises.

By Mark A. Miller | Posted Feb 28, 2006
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Continuing our look at vendor architectures, we again cross the Atlantic, but this time land in Paris, France, headquarters of Alcatel. Like many other European firms, Alcatel’s history dates back over a century, to May of 1898 when French engineer Pierre Azaria established the Compagnie Générale d’Electricité (CGE) with the objective of competing with firms like Siemens and General Electric. As CGE grew, it absorbed Compagnie Générale des Câbles de Lyon in 1928, and the Société Alsacienne de Constructions Atomiques, de Télécommunications, et d’Electronique—known as Alcatel—in 1966. Alcatel restructured in 1995, with a focus on telecommunications. Subsequent acquisitions included North American firms Xylan, Packet Engines, Assured Access, Internet Devices, and Newbridge Networks, which positioned Alcatel as a major player in the high speed and next generation networking business. Today, Alcatel has more than 58,000 employees, operates in 130 countries, and boasts sales of €13.1B (about $15.6B). Its business is focused on communications solutions for carriers, Internet Service Providers, and enterprises, including products for voice, data, and video applications.

Alcatel’s architecture for next generation networks is called OPEN, the Open Path to Enhanced Networking, which is designed to enable broadband services and provide an orderly migration from existing voice systems to converged packet networks. This portfolio includes a number of standards-based elements that address broadband access, network management, and integration capabilities required to support service provider deployments. This architecture focuses on two key business areas: cost optimization and new services. The cost side of the equation considers the price and margin erosion that has impacted the bottom line of most carriers, and how the migration to a lower-cost, converged network can help reverse that erosion. The new services part of the equation considers enhanced services, such as telephony, that incumbent ISPs and other providers can include, in order to improve the average revenue from their broadband access customers.

The 5020 Softswitch is Alcatel’s carrier-grade platform that provides call control functions in support of a wide range of next generation voice and multimedia applications. The 5020 is designed with a modular architecture, which can be deployed initially to support smaller initial configurations, and then later expanded to support a distributed architecture as the capacity requirements grow. In addition, both hardware and software upgrades and capacity enhancements can be undertaken without a disruption in network traffic. The 5020 is based upon SIP, and also embraces the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture. It is based upon four key components:

  • 5020 Media Gateway Controller (MGC), which supports interconnections to the PSTN. This element of the architecture is a carrier-grade softswitch, which offers Class 4 and Class 5 services, and which also meets the IMS architectural standards. It supports the SIP protocol for controlling end-user devices, and the MEGACO/H.248 protocol for interfaces to media gateways. In its maximum configuration, it can support 2 million ports at access gateways, 300,000 trunks at trunking gateways, 4,500 call attempts per second, and 16,200,000 busy hour call attempts.
  • 5020 Call Session Controller (CSC), which acts as a SIP Proxy, and also provides value-added services for Class 5 switch operation, such as PSTN simulation. This element is compliant with both H.323v4 and SIP signaling, and supports H.323 and SIP end stations.
  • 5020 Residential Gateway Controller (RGC), which interworks with H.248-based access gateways, including public access gateways, residential gateways, and Internet access devices.
  • 5020 Element Manager (EM), which provides centralized fault, performance, and topology management functions for the MGC, CSC and RGC, communicating through an intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI). The manager can also receive and process Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Trap messages from managed elements, and also display, log and forward alarms.

Further details on the Alcatel architecture and products can be found at www.alcatel.com. Our next tutorial will continue our examination of vendor architectures.

Copyright Acknowledgement: © 2006 DigiNet ® Corporation, All Rights Reserved


Author's Biography
Mark A. Miller, P.E. is President of DigiNet ® Corporation, a Denver-based consulting engineering firm. He is the author of many books on networking technologies, including Voice over IP Technologies, and Internet Technologies Handbook, both published by John Wiley & Sons.

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