Alcatel-Lucent Goes 40G End to End

Alcatel-Lucent announced at Interop Las Vegas it is doubling down on 40 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) hardware and the shortest path bridging (SPB) standard in a new data center mesh rollout today.

Network for the cloud

The 40G mesh networking platform provides high speed low-latency connectivity at the center of the network. It’s all part of Alcatel-Lucent’s larger vision of application fluency and enabling networking for the cloud era.

“The mesh is the fabric within each data center site that provides the super connectivity from Layer 2 to the core,” Cliff Grossner, director Networks Solutions Marketing told Enterprise Networking Planet said. “This is complemented by Data Center Connect that extends across multiple data center sites for inter-connection.”

To enable those efforts, new hardware enhancements are now coming to market. Alcatel-Lucent’s OmniSwitch 10K switch was first announced in October of 2010 with 10 GbE connectivity. That switch is now being enhanced with 40 GbE modules as well as software support for SPB. The upgraded OmniSwitch 10K, will complement the 40G capabilities of the 6900 that was announced in April 2011.

There are two new 40G line cards, including a 4-port and an 8-port model with QSFP+ optical as well as copper connectivity. The OmniSwitch 10K has an 8-slot capacity, which could potentially enable a customer to have 64 ports of 40G in a single chassis. Leveraging Alcatel-Lucent’s virtual chassis technology, a pair of OmniSwitch 10K’s can be connected together to deliver as much as 128 ports of 40G that can logically be managed as a single switch.

No TRILL’s here

From a software perspective, Alcatel-Lucent’s networking portfolio is also upgrading their Linux-based AOS operating system. The upgrade will provide SPB support as part of a mesh deployment to enable low-latency connectivity. SPB is an alternative to the older spanning tree protocol and it is competitive with TRILL (transparent interconnection of lots of links) effort that other vendors including Cisco are promoting.

In Grossner ‘s view, SPB provides scalability both within a data center and across data center sites and it’s also cloud compatible. With SPB the option for a customer identifier field in the header enables Alcatel-Lucent to support multi-tenancy in a data center or service provider environment. Grossner added that SPB is a superset of provider backbone bridging (PBB), which means that existing tools will work end to end providing visibility or application delivery control for service providers.

“With SPB we have the elasticity to provide automated virtual machine movement not only within a data center but across data center sites in a seamless manner,” Grossner said.

SPB is not yet an official standard, though it’s getting close. Grossner noted that the latest draft specification was released in March. Bit while there are multiple vendors that are backing SPB including Alcatel-Lucent and Avaya, other vendors including Brocade and Cisco have chosen to back TRILL as an alternative.

“Everyone has their own opinion on what is the right choice to make and right now it doesn’t look like all vendors are converging on a single technology,” Khurram Khawaja, director Networks Product Management at Alcatel-Lucent, explained. “When we compare SPB to some of the proprietary versions of TRILL like Cisco’s FabricPath, it looks a lot like SPB.”

Khawaja noted that TRILL is also undergoing a standards process and different vendors currently have some very different implementations. Over time, that differentiation will potentially lead vendors towards SPB in Khawaja’s opinion. “We believe that SPB will bring vendors together,” he said. “It may not be the first phase of SPB as standardized in the IEEE, it might be the next version or something in between.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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