AlcaLu makes core router play

Alcatel-Lucent has made its expected play for the $4 billion (€3.1 billion) core router market.
The company has unveiled a new line of core routers that promises not only better scalability and efficiencies, but more manageable evolution of the metro core, and opex savings at least 43% better than the competition.
Alcatel-Lucent unveiled the 7950 XRS core router family at an analyst/media event in Santa Clara Tuesday, and demonstrated the flagship XRS-40, which supports 32-Tbps capacity and 160 100-Gigabit Ethernet ports in two telco racks linked by an optical backplane.
AlcaLu claims the XRS-40 features five times the density of current core routers and - thanks to its FS3 network processor unit (claimed to be the industry’s first NPU to support 400 Gbps per slot) – uses 66% less power than the competition.
Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s IP Division, said the XRS is designed to deal with the changing bandwidth economics of the core network as video, cloud services and mobile broadband drive growth of IP/MPLS core network traffic at growth rates of over 50% a year, and as metro cores need to support video traffic and localized data center storage and connectivity.
“When you look at the cost of taking metro traffic to centralized resources in the core network, service providers need to think about how to push the core closer to the user,” Alwan said. “They think it makes more sense to put a VoD service, say, in various metros and not go to the core. That requires a little more storage at the edge, but it also means less bandwidth, and the economics work.”
Alwan highlighted the XRS’s ability to allow operators to build metro cores with the future flexibility to move resources when they want without sacrificing capacity. “To do that, you need scale and efficiency, but you also need the versatility to be able to do MPLS LSR switching, IP routing and Internet peering data center interconnectivity and infrastructure services, and you need the ability to think through and live-manage your evolution of the metro core,” he said.
Alwan said the XRS “delivers all those services and the flexibility so they can navigate the evolution of the edge.”
The XRS line also includes the XRS-20 (16-Tbps, supports 80 100GE interfaces in a single rack, can be upgraded to the XRS-40) and the XRS-16c (6.4-Tbps for smaller PoPs or nodes, supports 32 100GE interfaces, designed to accommodate 1-terabit per slot).
“We’re taking orders from customers now, and customers have run full configurations on it,” Alwan said. 
The XRS-20 is already in several trials, and will be the first core router product to be commercially available in Q3 this year. The XRS-40 and XRS-16c won't be available commercially until the first half of next year.
AlcaLu has its work cut out for it as it enters an equipment segment already dominated by Cisco Systems, which controls close to 65% of the service provider core router market, according to Synergy Research Group.
Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics Research, said that Alcatel-Lucent’s core router pitch addresses the key concerns operators face in scaling to 100G without increasing their opex costs.
“Service providers face a serious problem as they tackle 100G, the next great inflection point in their routing, switching and optical networks. If they keep adding more of the same equipment to their networks, they will end up multiplying space and power requirements,” Howard said.
A TCO analysis from AGC Research says that the 7950 XRS offers between 43% and 46% lower opex compared to integrated core routers, and 56% lower opex than a hybrid solution that implements P-Router and LSR functions in separate chassis.
AlcaLu’s announcement came the same day Juniper Networks announced it has increased capacity of the TXP multi-chassis system for its T4000 and T1600 core routers from 6.4-Tbps to 16-Tbps.