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Alcatel-Lucent promises huge boost to data centre network efficiency

05 Apr 2013

Alcatel-Lucent has announced a new software product that uses software defined network (SDN) technologies to, it claims, achieve significant efficiency gains in data centres that make extensive use of server virtualisation.

In a virtualised environment applications can be fired up and shut down or moved to different physical servers almost instantaneously but the network that carries data to and from these applications is much more rigid and is unable to adapt to rapidly changing traffic patterns.

Alcatel-Lucent claims that its new software product, the Virtualised Services Platform (VSP) overcomes these limitations.

Alcatel-Lucent says it will enable large enterprises, ISPs and telcos to scale up their cloud based services offerings and provide instant, secure connectivity to multiple customers.

Newly appointed CEO, Michael Coombes, said: "We are very well positioned to help telecom and cloud service providers build large scale cloud infrastructure and services, opening up new revenue opportunities for [them] and ourselves.”

VSP has been developed by a start-up company, Nuage (French for 'cloud') Networks, set up just over a year ago by Alcatel-Lucent as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Nuage Networks' CEO, Sunil Khandekar, told TechDay that this approach had allowed Alcatel-Lucent to start the project with a clean slate, and to understand data centre networking problems from the perspective of IT managers.

"It also allowed me to recruit the best team in The Valley from the likes of VMware and Yahoo and to really bring IT and IP together and development and operations together," he added.

Nuage Networks' senior director product marketing, Houman Modarres, summed up the networking problems facing data centre managers, saying: "Virtualisation of computing and storage being virtualised triggered the move to cloud. It made these resources very easily consumable but it had implications on the network.

"Instead of having one connection per server you have a multiplicity and each of them more dynamic

"We feel that the network has fallen behind. It is not as responsive to application needs, it is cumbersome and constrained, and that makes it inefficient."

According to Modarres, "A lot of the assets that cloud providers invest in are being sub-optimally utilised mainly because the network cannot respond to movement of workloads.

"Our whole premise is that virtual machines that can be turned up in minutes should not have to wait days or weeks for network connectivity to be configured.

"The virtual machine should come up and the network should come up, in a policy-based way. The VM moves, the network should follow automatically, in a policy based way."

Alcatel-Lucent is claiming efficiency gains in data centre operation of up to 40 percent from its new technology.

Modarres said that VSP could be installed into any data centre with any vendor's networking equipment, because it relied only on IP connectivity and IP protocols.

"Whatever server hardware, whatever hypervisor there is, whatever compute management infrastructure is there and whatever network infrastructure is there, we will work with."

The product has also been integrated with the security and virtualisation capabilities of Citrix, F5, HP and Palo Alto Networks' products.

VSP, according to Modarres enables IT managers to set the rules under which the software will configure and manage the network. "We empower the CIO to define in their own terms and in their own language who are their users, where do they sit, what departments use what applications, who should have what rights under what circumstances.

"Once they have set the rules of the game any network requirements those groups have will be automatically instantiated."

Alcatel-Lucent says it already has customers gearing up to start trials of VSP this month. It has named these as UK cloud service provider Exponential-e, French telecoms service provider SFR, Canadian telecoms service provider TELUS and US healthcare provider, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). Worldwide commercial availability is planned for mid-2013.

According to Khandekar there is already an Australian trial customer. "They provide VPN and data centre services," he said.

VSP has three key components: the Virtualised Services Controller (VSC), the Virtualised Services Directory (VSD) and the Virtual Routing and Switching Engine (VRS). Alcatel-Lucent says all three will be available for trials in April 2013 and commercially available in mid 2013.

Stuart Corner

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