Nortel Enters Edge Router Sector

Nortel is ready to battle Cisco, Alcatel, Juniper and Laurel on the metro edge with the release Monday of a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) edge router that provides switching capabilities.

May 11, 2004

3 Min Read
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Nortel is ready to battle Cisco, Alcatel, Juniper and Laurel on the metro edge with the release Monday of a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) edge router that provides switching capabilities.

The edge router sector is beginning to emerge as a battleground for carriers. Currently, Cisco commands the largest market share in the sector, but companies like Juniper and Alcatel (through its acquisition of TiMetra in May 2003) are trying to dethrone Cisco as the leader. Nortel is entering the fray with the release of its Multiservice Provider Edge (MPE) 9000 family.

The 9000 devices, which were known as the Neptune project inside Nortel, are converged Layer 2/3 boxes that deliver router and switching capabilities. These systems, which are powered by NextHop's GateD routing software, can be configured to handle IP, virtual private line service (VPLS), MPLS, and broadband remote access server (B-RAS) services.

"Through the 9000 family, we can provide one converged edge," said Sue Spradley, president of Nortel's Wireline Business Unit. "This system can converge L2/L3 services into one service platform."

Convergence isn't the only benefit that Nortel is touting with its 9000 family. The company has also designed the system to deliver the reliability requirements demanded by today's carriers.To make this happen, the system comes equipped with redundant power supplies as well as 1:1 or 1:N sparing on the hardware front. On the software front, the system delivers non-stop routing, graceful restart, and Sonet protection capabilities. Additionally, the system is developed around a carrier-grade Linux operating system.

The high-availability capabilities allow carriers to make some interesting moves at the services level. According to David Hudson, Nortel's vice president of data product strategy, the HA capabilities of the MPS 9000 family allow carriers to isolate services, to individually memory protect a service, and to individually replace software modules without taking the system offline.

Battling Cisco

While Nortel is hyped about its new MPS 9000 family, the company also knows that to win, they'll have to take Cisco head on. "Cisco absolutely has the share in the space," Spradley said.

To take Cisco on, Spradley pointed to the carrier-grade nature of the MPS 9000 family saying that this family has been crafted from the start for carrier deployments. "We were careful not to take an enterprise box and make it a carrier box," Spradley said. "We started with a carrier-grade box that can be scaled down," she added.Spradley also said the system will provide a significant operation expenditure saving to customers. "The MPS 9000 family will deliver a 40 to 60 percent savings in opex costs," Spradley said.

Nortel also said the system will provide a Cisco-like command line interface (CLI) that will make the box easy to use. Ultimately, Spradley said Nortel will turn to an open CLI, such as SNMP. But, to provide seamless operation today, Nortel opted for the Cisco-like CLI in its current products.

Two Flavors

Initially, Nortel is delivering two flavors of the 9000 family to market. The 9500 is a 14U box that is designed for medium-to-large central office applications. This system can deliver either 40- or 80Gbit/s throughput, depending on the switch card used.

The 9200, on the other hand, is a 5U unit designed for small- to medium-sized central offices. This system can also be used in enterprise and wireless networks.Equant has begun trials of the MPE 9000 series in its lab in France. Telus and Infonet also said they will conduct trials on the 9000 family.

Spradley said the 9500 system will be generally available in the fourth quarter of 2004. Initial network rollout should start in 2005, she added.

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