Alcatel-Lucent raises the bar to 400G

Ovum The 400Gbps FP3 network processor unit (NPU), announced yesterday, is Alcatel-Lucent’s response to critics who say the 7450 Ethernet Service Switch and 7750 Service Router are old and tired.
By announcing this NPU now, Alcatel-Lucent tweaks competitors that are just beginning to incorporate 100G NPUs in their products.
While new FP3-enabled line cards for the 7450/7750 will not reach the market until mid-2012, Alcatel-Lucent has demonstrated the FP3 operating in a 2-port 100GE line card to Ovum. The FP3 will allow Alcatel-Lucent to reduce the cost, space, and power associated with 10GE, 40GE, and 100GE networking.
Perhaps more importantly, the FP3 supports platform evolution and customer investment protection as 100G networks evolve to 400G. Ovum expects the FP3 to be at the heart of upcoming networking platform announcements from Alcatel-Lucent.
The groundbreaking performance capabilities of the FP3 will force competitors to address 400G support in their product architecture and NPU plans. The device can support a clear-channel single 400G flow for use in a 400GE line card. It supports the service instances, buffer space, queues, traffic statistics, QoS capabilities, and packet filtering required for high-touch IP packet processing.
It implements active power management and operates with 50% less power per bit when compared to the 100G FP2. These capabilities put Alcatel-Lucent a step ahead of the competition.
The 7450/7750 platforms were introduced to the market in 2003. Initially they used the 10G FP1 network processor. In 2008, they were upgraded to the 100G FP2 network processor. With redundant 2Tbps switch-fabric common cards, an existing 7750 SR12 can support converged edge services with as many as 10 x 100GE ports.
The FP3 will power three new Integrated Media Modules (IMMs) for the 7450/7750 platforms: a 20-port 10GE IMM, a 6-port 40GE IMM, and a 2-port 100GE IMM. When deployed with new switch-fabric cards, the new FP3-powered IMMs will effectively double the capacity of new and deployed platforms.
The FP3 is a programmable device that supports a full range of mobile core, business, and residential services. This programmability lets customers evolve their networks to support new services. Alcatel-Lucent emphasizes the flexibility of the FP3 to support a broad range of functionality and capacity from the service edge to core transport, and will market this flexibility as providing investment protection for carriers.
The FP3 will certainly extend the life of the 7450 ESS and 7750 SR platforms. However, Ovum believes the real value of the FP3 will be as a foundation technology for new IP/MPLS platforms.
So far, Alcatel-Lucent has been coy about its plans for new platforms that might be enabled by the FP3. However, it is clear in describing the FP3 as very capable of efficiently supporting functions for the service edge, edge routing, network core, and network transport core. This leaves the door wide open to speculation about Alcatel-Lucent’s development plans.
Ovum expects that Alcatel-Lucent is already developing a new platform based on the FP3 that has the capacity and feature set to extend the company’s reach into the network core and compete directly in that market with Cisco and Juniper.
David Crozier is a senior analyst at Ovum. For more information go to