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Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Data Center Management

Alcatel-Lucent takes up data center arms against Cisco, others

Cisco and other data center network combatants best prepare for an onslaught of meshes and pods.

Alcatel-Lucent this week is fleshing out its Application Fluent Network (AFN) architecture to better help customers optimize their data center fabrics for the applications running on top of them. The company will also unveil a new data center switch and management application to enable and control AFN.

Although Alcatel-Lucent had just a 1.2% share of the $21 billion Ethernet switching market in 2010, according to Dell'Oro Group, the company has grand ambitions in the new data center market. Last fall it launched the AFN architecture, and now it is elaborating on components of it, namely the Virtual Network Profile (vNP), Pod and Mesh.

The vNP enables IT shops to manage applications as services by enhancing the network's application awareness.

Supported in the OmniSwitch 6850E and a new Alcatel-Lucent 10G Ethernet top-of-rack offering called the OmniSwitch 6900, vNP allows the switches to enforce defined application profiles to prioritize, establish quality-of-service, attach security parameters and provision appropriate bandwidth and capacity for specific applications. This is intended to ready the network, applications and data center customer for eventual public, private or hybrid cloud-based service, in which the network is tuned to execute the application even though it may reside on a server hundreds or thousands of miles away from its target user.

The AFN Mesh comprises active Gigabit Ethernet and 10G Ethernet links between vNP-enabled top-of-rack switches and an Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch 10000 in the core. Currently, the AFN mesh incorporates the IEEE's Multi-Chassis Link Aggregation (MC-LAG) specification to inverse multiplex traffic over Ethernet links that terminate on multiple switch chassis.

MC-LAG is intended to replace the Ethernet Spanning Tree Protocol in the AFN architecture to improve resiliency and uptime, and reduce latency. It prepares the Alcatel-Lucent switches for successors to MC-LAG that are defined specifically for Ethernet data center fabrics, such as the IEEE's Data Center Bridging, Shortest Path Bridging and Ethernet Virtual Bridging specifications, as well as ANSI's FibreChannel-over-Ethernet standard, Alcatel-Lucent says.

All that, combined with 40/100G Ethernet switch-to-switch links, creates the AFN Enterprise Mesh. Within that mesh are AFN Pods, 10G meshes of 6900 switches with 2 microsecond latency. Four such Pods could connect to two OmniSwitch 10000s in the enterprise core over 40G Ethernet links to configure a mesh supporting 14,400 server ports and 169Tbps switching capacity across 10 48-unit racks with a latency of 5 microseconds, Alcatel-Lucent says.

In a 10G mesh with 6,000 server-facing ports, Alcatel-Lucent claims lower server-to-server latency than Cisco Nexus, Juniper EX, HP and Brocade data center switching schemes, but not lower than Juniper's new QFabric line. However, Alcatel-Lucent does claim lower latency than QFabric when AFN is configured in a 40G mesh.

The company also claims a significant switching capacity lead over QFabric, Cisco Nexus, HP, Brocade and Avaya with just two core switches. Alcatel-Lucent says Cisco would have to compile a core of 48 Nexus switches to reach 160Tbps of switching capacity.