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Alcatel looks to dominate network convergence market

Hoping to steal market share from Cisco and Extreme, French telecoms equipment maker Alcatel has introduced an entirely new line of converged data and voice switches.

Based on a platform that will permit easy compatibility with existing Nortel and Cisco products, Alcatel believes it is the only company that has expertise in both voice and data.

"Cisco comes from a data background, not voice," said Tom Wilburn, senior vice-president and general manager of Alcatel's North America enterprise business. "Avaya and Nortel know voice, but we think we have the next-generation solution for convergence."

The new product line, which will be available in May, includes the OmniSwitch 7700, 7800, and 8800. Both the 7000 and 8000 series are built with a distributed switching architecture and allow continuous traffic processing even when the switch is in fail-over mode. This is a feature that the company claims is not found in its competitors' lower-end products.

"Continuous switching is a carrier-class availability function that allows for restoration in less than 10 seconds," said Eric Penisson, director of product marketing at Alcatel. Cisco's basic wiring closet switch does not offer redundancy and to get Layer 3 switching, customers must upgrade with a new module, he claimed.

The 7700 switch is an IP-based wiring closet switch, and the 7800 the 8800 are enterprise core switches. The 7800 switch provides as many as 192 ports and a throughput of 60mpps (million packets per second). The 8800 offers as many 384 ports and has a throughput of 240mpps.

The company will sell the new switches through its channel partners. The OmniSwitch 8800 will cost between $73,000 (£51,000) and $153,000 (£107,000); and the OmniSwitch 7700 and 7800 will cost between $33,800 (£23,700) and $42,000 (£29,350).

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