Lucent Technologies yesterday made a major push to become a big player in Internet Protocol networks, announcing both an IP switch and its first customer, MCI Communications. The move is Lucent's boldest to date in competing with data giant Cisco and telecommunications rivals such as Northern Telecom.
MCI, which currently depends on Cisco routers and switches for its IP network, agreed to evaluate the new Lucent PacketStar IP Switch in June as part of its network upgrade plan. In a published press statement, Vinton Cerf, MCI's senior vice president of Internet architecture and engineering, said Lucent "has shown us a novel design that is an improvement over existing routing switch technology."
"We are specifically working with our friends at MCI in terms of how they are going to deal with the next-generation Internet," Dave Schriftgiesser, director of service provider markets at Lucent, said. "They understand the problems of why they can't get there with today's technologies. We need to have a whole different approach."
The Lucent strategy is to create a family of products that are high-quality IP switch/routers and access gear for wide area networks. They must have appeal to both new market entrants that are building entire IP networks and Lucent's existing base of telephone companies that need to integrate voice networks into an IP world. Central to that strategy is new technology Lucent has developed - and applied for patents on - that uses a two-stage process to offer quality of service (QOS) on an IP switch that can guarantee appropriate bandwidth to 64,000 different traffic flows at any one time. By guaranteeing QOS on an IP switch, Lucent can enable a service provider to support voice and video over the data network without concerns about latency or signal delay.
The PacketStar IP Switch will interoperate with Lucent's AnyMedia access product line and offers 32 megabits per second of throughput and a 128-gigabit-per-second backplane, with the promise to grow upward to terabit capacity in the future.
Lucent will also announce the PathStar Access Server, which would act as a switch-router for IP traffic at the central office of a telephone company and provide low-cost local and long-distance voice and data services. The system is set up to support today's standard voice services, including basic voice, coin phones and wireless services.