CenturyLink employs Alcatel-Lucent to build national common core network

CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) has brought consistency to all of the disparate core networks it acquired in recent years from Embarq, Qwest and Savvis by completing the deployment of Alcatel-Lucent's (NYSE: ALU) 7950 XRS core router into its network.

What drove the company to consider building out a new common core MPLS network was the ability to accommodate further traffic growth across what were once multiple backbone networks.

"As we were going through all of these mergers and acquisitions, we knew that the core would exponentially grow, not just because of traffic demands going up, but we were bringing multiple company backbones together," said James Feger, vice president, CenturyLink network strategy and development, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "That triggered this opportunity to look at the future state core architecture and we were looking for large capacity, power efficient, scale and something we felt comfortable with from an operational model."

When CenturyLink purchased Embarq, Qwest and Savvis, each of these providers had a version of their own national backbone.

While all of the locations of each core had various vendors, including Alcatel-Lucent, Feger said that the move to the 7950 platform was being done to create a common core network.

"We didn't view this as a vendor replacement, but really a core product rationalization, getting to a common platform for a common core network," Feger said. "There's locations where it may have been a legacy CenturyLink backbone PoP or a Qwest backbone PoP that's now just viewed as a CenturyLink backbone PoP that has these devices."

Feger added that what made them comfortable with the 7950 platform is that they have a lot of operational experience with Alcatel-Lucent's 7750 edge routing platform.

"We do have a lot of lot of Alcatel-Lucent 7750 products throughout the network along with our other vendors, but we have a lot of operational experience with the IP platform," Feger said. "When they introduced the 7950 XRS, we were impressed with the out of box capacity it had and we went ahead and became one of their launch customers."  

By introducing a common network core, the service provider will have a common managed IP/MPLS network that will have expandable capacity to handle growing bandwidth needs, including its 1 Gbps launch in 16 cities and the growth of its global data center network.

From a capacity standpoint, CenturyLink continues to light up more 100G circuits between its core locations. Looking forward, the service provider will use these same platforms to support 400G and Terabit links in the core.

These higher speed links will aggregate all of its edge router traffic between large cities like New York City to Chicago.

"As we're doing the migration, we're activating these massive 100G circuits throughout the country between our core locations," Feger said. "We had 100G in our network for a while, but this is purely looking at it from that standpoint of enabling that and as the technology becomes available this will become our 400G or Terabit service as well."  

One of the key considerations that made the 7950 stand out was that it could support 16 terabits per second (Tbps) while consuming only 1 watt per gigabit of power.

"With this platform it wasn't only the fact that it is capable of doing 16 terabits out of the gate, but it's also capable of doing that at lower power consumption," Feger said. "From a power consumption per-gigabit passed, it's a lot more efficient."

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