Datacenter switching isn't a two horse race; remember Lucent?

Alcatel-Lucent improves their play for the end-to-end datacenter infrastructure
Written by David Chernicoff, Contributor on

As much as it seems these days that datacenter switching infrastructure architectures are going to be either HP or Cisco, there are still a large number of significant players offering end-to-end enterprise networking solutions for corporate enterprises. And Alcatel-Lucent has stepped up to the plate with their new architecture to address the future of datacenter enterprise networking.

Back in the last century, in the heady days of the first major boom in widespread computer technology, Lucent was a name to conjure with. With its history as Bell Laboratories, the renowned research facility of AT&T (prior to the anti-trust breakup) it had moved into the commercialization of its core competency, communication, with its rebranding as Lucent, and its position as the preeminent communication technology R&D center.

But Lucent didn't really survive the early 21st century technology crash and in 2006 merged with the French company Alcatel, forming Alcatel-Lucent, and in 2007, Bell Labs was merged with Alcatel's own R&D facility, and in 2008, officially moved away from doing basic science research into directed research on technologies more immediately marketable.

Alcatel-Lucent hasn't ben invisible in the marketplace; they have been a solid top 10 contender in many networking technology categories, with a #2 market share in edge servers for the last few years. But with their new switching solution they look to leverage their broad portfolio into a single vendor solution for end-to-end switching.

The Alcatel technology is based on a mesh and pod arrangement, using a high-performance mesh topology network to connect datacenter pods which contain the server hardware, optimizing server-to -server traffic without requiring a core server switch. The top-of-rack switches are able to communicate directly, with Alcatel promising the capability of delivering 14,000 10GbE server ports with only two core switches and end-to-end latency better than 5 milliseconds.

The hardware is complemented by a full suite of the software technologies demanded by the modern datacenter, from application and traffic prioritization to virtual machine management, with hardware support for shortest path bridging and fiber channel over Ethernet, catching the latest technologies that datacenter operators and large corporate customers are investigating for future-proofing their snear-term purchases.

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