In April 2013, Alcatel-Lucent formally announced the formation of a new venture, Nuage Networks, to facilitate the growth of Software Defined Networking (SDN).
Houman Modarres, senior director of marketing at Nuage Networks, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that in the last year, just over 30 customer trials have been conducted using the Nuage technology. Some of the initial launch customers, including UPMC, are now using Nuage in production.
"One of the things we set out to do in the beginning was to be agnostic and take the data center as it stands," Modarres said. "We want to address hybrid environments with multiple hypervisors and be network equipment agnostic."
The promise of being network equipment agnostic is one of the key reasons why Alcatel-Lucent set up Nuage as a separate business instead of running SDN efforts itself. In contrast, Cisco also set up a separate business, Insieme Networks, but has since rolled Insieme back into the main Cisco corporate structure.
Moudarres noted that many Nuage customers use multiple vendors. In the case of UPMC, he said that they use HP servers running VMware, as well as Cisco Catalyst switches with some Alcatel-Lucent OmniSwitch components in their infrastructure.
"Even though Nuage is wholly owned by Alcatel-Lucent, the reason why we were set up as a separate business is to make sure we are completely independent of hardware," Moudarres said. "There is absolutely no dependency or expectation that any of the gear in a Nuage deployment would be Alcatel-Lucent."
Though Nuage does not require Alcatel-Lucent networking gear, Moudarres said that to date, more than half of Nuage's customers have had some previous Alcatel-Lucent infrastructure. There actually is some technology overlap between Nuage and Alcatel-Lucent as well.
"We use the exact same service router operating system (SROS) that runs on our routers today," Moudarres said. "So we were able to take that code base and build an abstraction and policy management layer to allow for virtualization and automation."
One of the key messages that has emerged in the SDN space over the course of the last year is that of putting applications first. Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is one of the most obvious examples of that trend. It's a trend that Alcatel-Lucent had been pushing on its networking side through its Application Fluency message since at least 2010.
When it comes to Application Fluency for Nuage, Moudarres said it's a message that still has merit, to a limited degree.
"We appreciate application fluency and the whole idea of application centricity, but they're really just talking about health and happiness, motherhood and apple pie," Moudarres said. "At Nuage, we want to be agnostic to the underlying network and have efficacy across a mixed environment."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist