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Alcatel-Lucent to put edge router functions on x86 by 2015

Posted: 13 Nov 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:edge routers? x86? ASIC? VSR?

Alcatel-Lucent is set to deliver all functions of its custom-built edge routers on x86 by the end of 2015. The news is part of an industry trend towards virtualised networks that do not require specialised silicon such as the ASICs.

The telecom's Virtual Services Router (VSR) does not require its FP3 ASICs or other merchant comms chips used in its custom-built routers. However, it still uses the company's proprietary software environment, not emerging open applications programming interfaces on Linux.

Alcatel-Lucent claims VSR provides four to eight times greater performance than its closest competitor in a control-plane task of converging route reflector data between two systems. VSR can forward packets in one direction at up to 320Gbit/s on an Intel Haswell two-socket server and up to 2Tbit/s in one specific app, it said.

The performance levels, though significant, remain below the multi-terabit/s peak data rates of its custom routers. In addition, server throughput will decline as more features are added to the server-based systems.

In the long term, the industry will continue to make custom chips and systems for big core and aggregation networks. However, Sri Reddy, general manager of Alcatel-Lucent's IP networking group, told us as much as half of edge routing jobs could migrate to x86 servers over the next five years.

Control-plane functions such as route reflectors "make perfect sense for the x86," he said. However, more complex work handled on subscriber management systems will stay on custom hardware when quality-of-service requirements are high.

Reddy expects the company to continue devoting about 10 to 15 per cent of its engineering resources to custom chip and board design. About 85 per cent of its engineers focus on software development, "and that's been the case since day one." His start-up, TiMetra, was acquired by Alcatel-Lucent in 2013, forming a group whose revenue now approaches $3 billion.

Alca-Lu is splitting the edge router functions into seven offerings: two available now, three that will be available early next year, and two more that will be available in late 2015. Initial products are being tested in 20 trials.

Route reflectors

Alcatel-Lucent says route reflectors run up to 8x faster on VSR than on the nearest competing system.

The VSR software is based on Alca-Lu's in-house router operating system and uses its management software. That allows VSR products to work with the company's current hardware-based routers. However, it falls short of the industry goal of moving to software based on open standards, running on Linux.

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