Nokia aims for the data center with new switches, gear

Nokia is entering the data center switch market dominated by the likes of Cisco, but the company is betting that its Web scale approach will gain traction.

Nokia is launching a set of data center switches, routers, and a new networking operating system and has landed a series of high-profile customers such as Apple, BT, and Equinix.

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Steve Vogelsang, CTO of Nokia's IP and optical business, said the move into the data center switching market wasn't taken lightly. "We have been looking at the data center market for a number of years as we were working with Web scalers," said Vogelsang. "We think this is an opportunity to integrate DevOps tool chains and data center fabrics in an open way with IP networking, app, and microservices infrastructure."

Nevertheless, Nokia is facing a highly competitive market with data center switch giant Cisco, the market share leader, as well as Arista Networks, Huawei, HPE, and Juniper.

Nokia's core pitch is that the data center will increasingly blend with cloud and telecom provider networks. That reality means that developments like 5G and industry 4.0 will have to meld networks and data centers more. Nokia's Network Operating System, Nokia Service Router Linux, and Fabric Service Platform were co-developed with cloud giants that are expanding quickly.

Meanwhile, Nokia's network operating system aims to make it easier to upgrade and integrate in the same way that cloud giants do, said Vogelsang.

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The data center portfolio from Nokia includes:

  • Nokia Service Router Linux, which is built on the technology used in more than one million IP network routers, runs standard Linux and is hardware agnostic.
  • Nokia Fabric Service Platform, or FSF, is an intent-based automation and operations tool for multi-vendor data centers. Nokia FSP integrates with existing data center systems and has a sandbox for simulation, design, and testing.
  • New switches that include the Nokia 7250 Interconnect Router (IXR), Nokia 7220 IXR-H series, and Nokia 7220 IXR-D series platforms. The systems support 400GE, 100GE, 50G, 40GE, 25GE, 10GE, and 1GE interfaces.

Nokia's customer references for its data center gear all come from data center expansions. For instance, Apple is using Nokia's new system in its Viborg, Denmark facility. BT is using Nokia's architecture as it builds out 5G services. And Equinix is including Nokia in its global interconnection services footprint.

"The way we get into these networks is through new data center builds. We're landing and expanding, and our ambition is to build out more locations to support the edge," said Vogelsang.

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Vogelsang said that COVID-19 has already accelerated the type of workloads networks have to handle and edge computing, IoT and 5G will also add more volume. Toss in AI and machine learning and data centers will have to be reconfigured, he said.

SR Linux, 7250 IXR, and 7220 IXR-D series are available now and the FSP and 7220 IXR-H series will be available in Q4 2020.