Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Sharpens SDN, SMB Social Strategies5:05 PM EST Thu. Dec. 06, 2012
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, which is continuing to build a channel presence even as its Paris-based parent grinds its way through restructuring, made major recent announcements concerning both its software-defined networking (SDN) strategy and a new set of products and resources for SMB customers.
Specific to SDN, Alcatel-Lucent said it would continue extend its so-called Application Fluent Networking strategy, which it originally unveiled two years ago to offer customers more flexible data center solutions and address the burgeoning fabric concept for virtualized and cloud-ready networks.
The latest additions to that strategy, which thrust the company further into the SDN battle, include that Alcatel-Lucent's OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager is now classified as "VMware-ready," meaning it has the tightest integration possible with VMware environments. Now, Alcatel-Lucent's OmniSwitch platform and associated products can not only detect virtual applications and adjust network resources based on virtualized traffic but also be configured for individual user policies and the types of devices and applications being used.
A set of RESTful APIs -- that is, representational state transfer (REST) technologies that enable easier data transfer -- allows other applications, controllers and platforms such as OpenStack and CloudStack to interact with the Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch tools to speed and make more efficient overall application delivery. Alcatel-Lucent is also offering application performance analysis of how virtual machines are working together.
Cliff Grossner, Alcatel-Lucent senior director, networks solutions marketing, said both solution providers and customers have heard enough about SDN at this point, and they want to cut through hype and get down to brass tacks.
"What we're providing is basic capabilities that enable SDN to be built into the network fabric itself," he told CRN. "You can't have it be these pieces that fit together in a complex way -- that doesn't help anything. It's all got to be simpler and more automated, especially for smaller enterprises that don't have complex needs. For us, it's a pretty natural extension of our AFN strategy."
According to Grossner, a big difference between Alcatel-Lucent and other vendors is that there's less emphasis spent on individual communications protocols like OpenFlow and more on enabling programmability in its own platforms while creating interoperability with other platforms using the RESTful and other techniques.
"We want our fabric to recognize all necessary objects [in a network] and boot them," Grossner said. "We want to be practical about it and bring elements in the data center and switches from other vendors."
OpenFlow, Grossner said, has been overhyped. He likened it to the industry frenzy over Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) going back a few years, noting that the FCoE attach rate in the industry is only about 15 percent now, and alternative data center technologies like iSCSI are chugging along just fine.
"We can't wait around for OpenFlow to be pervasive," Grossner said. "It's nice, but there has to be a good complement between the application world and network world and more compatibility [overall]."
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Alcatel-Lucent will be launching a number of training and marketing programs specific for its roughly 350 enterprise partners around the world, as well as customers.
"I think the market is still predominantly confused around SDN," Alcatel-Lucent's Grossner said. "This is a practical approach to SDN and more specific than any one whiz-bang technology. We'll be doing internal webinars and lots of outreach to help everybody get more familiar around how we're automating the network."
The various capabilities Grossner described, along with other updates, will be included on refreshes of Alcatel-Lucent's OmniSwitch 10K and 6900 platforms in the new year. The company will support OpenFlow, it said, but not until 2014.
Among other recent moves, Alcatel-Lucent this week launched a new version of its UC platform for small businesses, OpenTouch Suite for SMB, including a number of enhancements specific to social media interaction.
Social media is so pervasive at this point that its use -- and the demands it places on business networks -- has to be taken in account when solution providers are pitching customers, Katerina Cerny, SMB solutions director, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, told CRN.
"More than 80 percent of SMB communications are made toward external contacts," she said. "We also have an obvious tight border between consumer and professional tools with an evolution of user behavior. Social media is being used more and more in the business landscape."
The updated OpenTouch Suite for SMB includes the latest version, 9.0, of Alcatel-Lucent's OmniPCX Office Rich Communication Edition, as well as new tools such as My IC Social Networks, which synchs social media feeds like Skype, Facebook and MSN with Outlook directories and presence.
In addition, Alcatel-Lucent is also adding a new IP DECT Access Point that includes features such as universal directory access from iPhone and Android devices and video options, including through the My IC Video client or using a LifeSize Unit 50 unit Alcatel-Lucent offers via a resale agreement from LifeSize Communications.
Other new features include additional SIP capacity of up to 120 SIP phones on the OmniPCX, smart call routing and browser-based UC and call-setting services via a client called My IC Web for Office.
According to Cerny, Alcatel-Lucent has more than 660,000 SMBs in its installed base of OpenTouch technologies with more than 17 million total users.
Alcatel-Lucent in the past year has continued to build up its enterprise group channel focus, especially in North America, even as rumors persist that the parent company will look to unload the enterprise unit as part of its restructuring effort. The global enterprise business represents between 10 and 12 percent of Alcatel-Lucent's overall revenue, according to analyst estimates.
PUBLISHED DEC. 6, 2012