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Alcatel-Lucent launches enterprise network product blitz

Alcatel-Lucent is launching a raft of new and upgraded enterprise network products, hoping to move beyond past corporate troubles.

Alcatel-Lucent launched an all-out attack on the large enterprise networking product market this week, releasing a new data center switch and branch-office router, as well as a raft of updates to unified communications (UC), Web 2.0 and contact center solutions.

The company's marketing line is that the enterprise network product blitz aims to integrate networks and centralize converged communications and business applications while optimizing use by both on-premise and remote workers. In other words, the company wants to shake off its image as a carrier equipment provider and prove its enterprise chops.

But the product blowout -- about two dozen releases and upgrades -- is also about showing the world that Alcatel-Lucent has brushed off the dust from its messy merger in 2006 and a more recent executive shake-up. Infighting and performance troubles resulted in the resignation of CEO Patricia Russo

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and nonexecutive chairman Serge Tchuruk in July and the appointment of new CEO Ben Verwaayen in September.

Enterprise network solutions "are growing faster than the rest of the market," said Hema Ganapathy, director of large enterprise solutions marketing at Alcatel-Lucent. "What we're reiterating here is regardless of what you're seeing in terms of media coverage, we're doing very well."

Ironically, the brightest spot in terms of corporate media coverage this year was the company's reported third-quarter loss of $51.8 million -- a big improvement over last year's loss of $437 million. But Wall Street analysts applauded the improvement, already crediting it to Verwaayen.

"We have a new CEO and he has the focused execution" necessary to steal market share from Cisco and other competitors that have end-to-end networking portfolios, Ganapathy said.

Ganapathy stressed that Alcatel-Lucent has not, in fact, had a problem growing market share, having signed 5,000 new enterprise customers over the last two years in deal sizes that have grown 20%.

"Projects range from $1 million to $10 million, with some customers ranging to the tens of millions," she said.

Alcatel-Lucent expects market share to keep growing with the new releases. The most notable new product is the OmniSwitch 9000E data center switch, which enables virtualization and introduces Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) into the data center, enabling segregation of various applications of multiple protocols.

"The 9000E next-generation chassis provides enhanced memory and routing and switching," Ganapathy said.

There's also a new branch-office router, the Omni Access 5510, a unified services gateway that integrates network services, voice calls, WAN connectivity, VPN and intrusion prevention and detection.

As part of the convergence push, Alcatel-Lucent released version 9 of the OmniPCX Enterprise IP PBX, which supports up to 15,000 IP users and 100,000 users across several subnetworks. The OmniPCX also includes a native SIP controller. Alcatel-Lucent's package also enables secure VoIP with an Enterprise Session Border Controller for IP telephony over an untrusted WAN, as well as VPN firewalling.

On the UC front, applications can now be centrally hosted in blade centers. Upgrades to the OmniAccess 700 gateway provide secure connectivity to remote branch offices. The OmniSwitch 6855 extends LAN switching to environmentally challenging locations in the field, and the network edge OmniSwitch 6400 brings 10 Gigabit Ethernet closer to the user.

Alcatel-Lucent hit the contact center with release 9.0 of the OmniTouch Contact Center Premium, which expands endpoint options for agents with cellular and Wi-Fi extension for off-site and roaming.

The company also upgraded its real-time communicator, the OmniTouch MyInstant Communicator R5.1. The communicator enables users to conduct multiple sessions of voice, IM, video or other media simultaneously, and it better supports presence, contact and collaboration from Alcatel-Lucent's IP Touch phones.

Partners say the enterprise network product blitz is a sign that the company may finally be on course and stable.

"It's been an interesting ride to see them have North America and European infighting" between the American and French merging companies, said Glenn Conley, CEO of Metropark Communications, an Alcatel-Lucent partner in St. Louis, Mo. "It's good to see them streamline a little bit and focus their attack externally instead of internally."

What's more, the economic downturn may be just what the company needs to make market inroads.

"If Cisco could lose half their stock value [as it has this year] … anything could happen," Conley said.

For Bryan C. May, director of sales at Alcatel-Lucent partner Morse Communications in Melbourne, Fla., the new enterprise network products and feature sets can expand the potential customer base. It also puts Alcatel-Lucent in a better competitive position against Cisco and others.

"Their product line has been a full product line since we became a partner in 2001, and then each one of these iterations just keeps stepping us forward," May said.

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