Alcatel-Lucent Adopts Linux, Adds Carrier Features for New Enterprise Switch

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Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) is taking aim at the enterprise with a new 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) switching platform that is the cornerstone of its new Application Fluent Networks strategy.

The OmniSwitch 10K platform can scale up to 256 10GbE ports, delivering up to 5.12 TBS of total switching capacity. The new switching platform includes technologies from Alcatel-Lucent’s experience with service providers. The OmniSwitch 10K is also the first enterprise platform from Alcatel-Lucent to leverage its new Linux-based AOS 7 network operating system.

“Application fluency means that networks are not just aware of applications, they actually can adjust themselves based on the context of the application being delivered,” Cliff Grossner, marketing director at Alcatel-Lucent told

Grossner added that the three core components of Alcatel-Lucent’s application fluency vision include having a resilient architecture, streamlined operations and integrated automatic control mechanisms. Steve Melahn, product manager on the OmniSwitch 10K at Alcatel-Lucent told that the OmniSwitch 10K is the first milestone in the new application fluency vision.

One of the key features in the new OmniSwitch 10k is support for virtual output queuing, which is a technology that Alcatel-Lucent is bringing from its carrier expertise.

“What it means is we’re storing traffic on the input side and then and we’re waiting for the output side to say when it is ready to receive the traffic,” Melahn said. “So all the packets are stored on the input side and then are sent across the fabric. So that eliminates dropped traffic within the fabric.”

Alcatel-Lucent is also bringing in technology called Ethernet Ring Protection to help improve bandwidth efficiency and utilization. In a ring protection topology, multiple switches are connected in a ring, providing enhanced recovery capabilities.

Another technology coming from the carrier world is multi-chassis link aggregation (MC-LAG) specified in the IEEE 802.3ad protocol. Melahn noted that With MC-LAG spanning tree limitation for multi-chassis bandwidth usage can be overcome.

From a control perspective, the OmniSwitch 10K will include support for profile-based policies.

“It’s our ability to identify a user, device, application or location,” Melahn said. “Then we’re able to apply policy based on that.”


With the OmniSwitch 10K, Alcatel-Lucent is also shifting its core AOS network operating system to a Linux base. Previously AOS had been based on Wind River’s VxWorks embedded operating system. In 2009, an Alcatel-Lucent spokesperson first revealed to that the company was planned to move to Linux.

According to Melahn, Alcatel-Lucent is rolling its own underlying Linux distribution based on a Linux kernel. As to why the company moved from VxWorks to Linux, Melahn noted that there were a number of reasons.

“Memory protection and modularity [have] improved, but there were other business reasons why we moved away from VxWorks that have to do with licensing of components,” Melahn said.

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

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