The top-end of networking speeds today is 100 Gigabits per second. To enable that kind of speed, networking vendors require chips that can handle 100G streams. That’s where new network silicon from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) comes in.
Alcatel-Lucent today officially announced the FP3 chip, which is a 400 Gigabits per second network chip. The FP3 is the successor to the 100 Gigabits per second FP2, which was announced in March of 2008 The FP3 has 288 array cores, while the FP2 has 112 cores.
“Silicon is a key part of the operations of a high performance router,” Houman Moderres, IP marketing director at Alcatel-Lucent told InternetNews.com. “By owning the silicon we have a faster time to market,”
Moderres added that by having a 400 Gigabit chip, Alcatel-Lucent will be able to help accelerate the adoption of 100 Gigabit Ethernet (100 GbE). With FP3, Alcatel-Lucent will be able to build higher density line cards that can support multiple 100 GbE interfaces. The FP3 will also be used in a 20 port, 10 GbE card and a six port 40 GbE card.
The first FP3 powered line cards will be available for Alcatel-Lucent’s in-market routers including the 7750 Service Router (SR), in early 2012. Moderres noted that FP3 provides for investment protection for current Alcatel-Lucent equipment owners to help meet the need of the next generation of traffic.
“This is only the beginning as having the FP3 silicon allows us to use this technology in other configurations that benefit from the density,” Moderres said. “For example, as we look beyond 100 GbE to what is likely to be the next natural interface, which will likely be 400 Gigabit Ethernet.”
Moderres added that 400 Gigabits per second in a nice number as it is also divisible by 10, 40 and 100, allowing for the perfect density based on current interface technologies.
The first generation of FP3 chips will be deployed in a bi-directional configuration, so one chip can handle 200 Gigabits ingress and 200 Gigabits on the egress. With the FP2 the first generation was similarly bi-directional in 2008 and has since evolved to a uni-directional card deployment with two chips on a card.
“Without a 100 Gigabit chipset, other vendors have had trouble where they have had to distribute the traffic across multiple processors,” Moderres said. “By having the silicon innovation, we have simpler board designs with higher yields that use less power.”
The new FP3 silicon comes as rivals Juniper and Cisco are already talking about their next generation routing platforms. Cisco has announced the CRS-3, while Juniper announced the T4000. Juniper has its own silicon too on its MX 3D edge routing platform called the Junos Trios while Cisco has its QuantumFlow silicon on the ASR edge routing platforms.
“We welcome the comparison in terms of density,” Moderres said. “The 7750 compares favorably.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.