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Alcatel-Lucent boosts capabilities of service provider SDN platform

Alcatel-Lucent introduces a service provider SDN platform designed to improve response times in making changes to corporate networks.

Alcatel-Lucent launched a software-defined networking platform that lets carriers adjust network services to changes in corporate data centers.

The networking company introduced its Network Service Platform (NSP) this week. The software will be generally available next month.

Service providers like AT&T and Verizon are using software-defined networking (SDN) to cut costs, create new services, and deliver faster, more agile corporate networks. NSP is designed to deliver the benefits of SDN in a single commercial product.

NSP covers more processes than competing service provider SDN software. A carrier first defines a network service, such as bandwidth on demand or network slicing, then sets up automatic provisioning and monitoring of the service.

Doing all of this from one platform is "different from other offerings," said Paul Parker-Johnson, analyst for ACG Research. "This is actually an improvement."

For example, NSP could be used to make changes to an enterprise's high-speed wide area network links. Modifications might be needed if an enterprise integrates cloud services into a data center or load-balances computer resources across multiple facilities.

Carriers could also use NSP to adjust their wireless networks to accommodate surges in demand for bandwidth. If Apple decided to release a device that consumed twice the content of older products, carriers could allocate a portion of their networks to the additional traffic in a week or two, Parker-Johnson said. "They wouldn't need months and months to prepare."

What's different about NSP

Cisco and Juniper Networks sell multiple products in delivering the same capabilities as NSP, Parker-Johnson said. As a result, a network operator has to devote the time and energy to deploy each product separately.

NSP has software modules for automating responses to network congestion. Such features help operators increase revenue by getting more traffic over the network infrastructure, said Parker-Johnson.

NSP runs on commodity x86 servers and supports a number of standard protocols for communicating with switches and routers, said Manish Gulyani, vice president of product marketing for Alcatel-Lucent. The vendor developed the software using code from its 7750 Service Router, 1830 Photonic Service Switch and 5620 Service Aware Manager. The latter is a network management platform.

NSP complements technology from Nuage Networks, a company Alcatel-Lucent launched about two years ago. NSP is carrier-grade SDN, while Nuage is for mainstream enterprises. The latter provides products that automate provisioning of virtual networks across data centers. Nuage technology uses OpenFlow controllers to direct virtual switches and routers.

Carriers using Alcatel-Lucent products could have access to a much larger portfolio by the end of the year. That's when Nokia is expected to complete the $16.6 billion purchase of Alcatel-Lucent. The combined company would be the world's second largest provider of carrier-grade networking equipment, behind Ericsson.

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