Alcatel-Lucent recently announced a sweeping set of enhancements across many of its switch and unified communications product lines. ALU, better known in the service provider arena, wants to send the message that it can compete with the likes of Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and 3Com as a total solution provider for voice and data services rather than a point product vendor. Is a single source necessary or the best option?The visibility problem is in the United States. Based in France, the company is better known to enterprises in Europe, but the company is barely on the lips of U.S. enterprises. Our own survey data show that ALU makes up less than 1% of switch deployments in the data center and the core, distribution, and access layers. ALU claims to be making inroads in fast-growing regions like Asia-Pacific where Cisco and 3Com/Huawei have a strong presence.
However, the company isn't focused on replacing bits and pieces of an enterprise network -- it wants to provide the total package. Enhancements to the company's OmniPCX Enterprise SIP/PBX gateway, OmniTouch Unified Communications suite, OmniTouch contact Center Premium, and its OmniSwitch switch/router line strengthens its assertion that ALU can replace a multivendor infrastructure. ALU Ethernet Swtich RFI response, Rolling Review: Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch, put the vendor on the short list of InformationWeek's recent Rolling Review Wrap-Up: Vendors' RFP Responses Make The Case For Switching.
ALU switch enhancements are incremental, adding VLAN stacking, traffic anomaly detection, and multiple virtual routing instances to the OmniSwitch 9000 platform. The biggest enhancements are to ALU's unified communications product lines.
OmniPCX Enterprise, OmniTouch UC platform, and OmniTouch Contact Center are the applications that combine traditional voice with SIP-based VoIP and collaboration. The enhancements include increasing scalability to handle more users and concurrent sessions, as well as integration with other collaboration tools such as IBM's Lotus Sametime UC platform and Microsoft's Office Communicator to provide presence and one-number location services. Being 100% SIP based, ALU's UC platforms should be able to interoperate with external systems with minimal difficulty and its own XML API's ease integration issues.
Other vendors in this area, such as Cisco and 3Com, also are hot on the unified platform trail. ALU is, to a certain extent, simply catching up to the rest of the field. ALU's strengths are in telephony with its service provider product lines, and the major enhancement to the UC product lines show that. Having a single provider for voice and data sounds great on paper, but the benefits of simplified administration and leveraging integrated services may not play out. Enterprises are used to multivendor IT infrastructures, where the plumbing comes from one vendor and the applications from others. The total solutions package is compelling for vendors since they can up-sell new features and ease integration, but the single vendor approach ties a company very closely to a single vendor, making replacement more difficult.
ALU can be that single vendor and you should consider its solutions if you like sourcing from a single vendor. But don't think you have to buy the whole enchilada.