SAN JOSE, Calif. – Alcatel-Lucent has designed a network processor capable of handling 400 Gbit/second data flows, twice the throughput of the best chip from archrival Cisco. The FP3 will appear in edge routers in mid-2012 and ultimately will spearhead the company's drive into core routers.
The chip is the latest volley in a long standing war among top routers makers including Ericsson, Huawei and Juniper. Each company develops its own network processors with competing Silicon Valley teams.
Cisco rolled out its 100-200 Gbit/s CRS-3 router chip in November. It is said to have a next-generation chip in the works called Pita with as many as 200 cores to handle 400 Gbit/s flows, and Huawei is working on a similar chip due next year.
"Alcatel-Lucent will have a clear advantage for now in throughput," said Shin Umeda, a vice president for router market research at Dell'Oro Group.
What's less clear is how the chips compare in their abilities to inspect and manage data flows for security and other functions. Umeda said Alca-Lu may have an edge because its new FP3 chip is a third-generation effort, and as such has a longer history than some competitors' offerings.
Cisco owns the edge and core router markets, but its share has been slipping in recent years. Cisco commanded 42 percent of the $5.9 billion edge router market last year, down from 57 percent in 2006, according to Dell'Oro. It had a 58 percent share of the $2.7 billion core router market last year, with Juniper in second place at 30 percent.
Alca-Lu and Juniper were nearly tied for second place in edge routers last year at 22 and 20 percent respectively. Alca-Lu does not currently have a core router offering, but is expected to design one around the new FP3 chip. Juniper announced its latest router chip in late 2009.