Light Reading

Ciena Stirs Up the Metro Market

Dan O'Shea

The metro market is quickly being redefined as the data center interconnection market, and Ciena is rolling out a new metro transport platform aimed at not only providing the optical foundation for the metro, but also capable of multi-terabit switching of traffic between data centers.

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) today introduced its 8700 Packetwave platform, which integrates 100 Gigabit Ethernet and MPLS-TP packet switching with 100G coherent optics and photonics technologies. The platform also can be used with Ciena's V-WAN software for on-demand cloud service connectivity.

The platform, which generated some speculation last week when it was hinted at by Ciena executives during the company's earnings conference call, will be commercially available this summer. At least one Ciena customer -- Fibertech Networks -- already plans to deploy it. (See Ciena Unveils Packetwave Switching Platform and Ciena Hints at Big Product Announcement.)

Ciena appears to be making a bid to further shake up its traditional image as an optical specialist, and be considered more of a packet-optical player, but also to prove it can provide value in the fast-growing metro Ethernet market.

"We've taken the best of the data center and the best of metro optical, and put them together in one platform whose sole purpose in life is to aggregate and switch Ethernet traffic over DWDM between data centers," says Mike Adams, vice president of product and technical marketing at Ciena. "Metro networks need to be built differently, and we believe this product helps create a new marketplace."

Ciena is clearly excited about that data center connectivity marketplace, as are others, including other vendors with an optical heritage, and those that have a more packet-oriented view of the world, such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) (See Eurobites: ADVA Targets Inter-Data Center Connectivity and Transmode Intros Coherent 100G Metro 100G Plug-Ins.)

Ciena's timing is also significant, as metro networks appear on the verge of moving to 100 Gigabit Ethernet to support explosive bandwidth demand for data center interconnection and other applications. (See OTN Innovation Boosts Metro 100G.)

Anyone thinking Ciena was going to be taking on Cisco's NCS 4000 or Juniper's PTX3000, though, will probably be disappointed, believes Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin. (See Cisco Unveils Carrier SDN Network Fabric and Juniper Aims Big With 100G Optical.)

While the new 8700 product does boast both packet and optical capabilities, it's a "simple product -- a high-density Ethernet switch with DWDM optics attached, and I'm not sure how much demand there will be for those DWDM capabilities," says Perrin.

Perrin was expecting something a bit more exciting. "I think Ciena may have set expectations a bit too high. This is a simple product -- it doesn't have the higher-level packet functionality I was expecting -- MPLS-TP is not setting the market alight right now. Ciena seems to be going for simplicity and low cost. It's not the next-generation 6500, though to be fair that's maybe not what Ciena was aiming for."

What's not in doubt is that the metro market is hot and that data center connectivity is the application driving demand and excitement. It will also be fertile ground for the transport SDN debate that is raging currently, and which will be addressed in detail at the Big Telecom Event in Chicago (June 17-18).

Ciena has its own take on that topic, with its OPn architecture strategy making the case for greater optical layer programmability. As Adams puts it, "SDN networks are useless without a programmable hardware foundation." (See OFC: Ciena Smartens Up Photonic Layer.)

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see the agenda.

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User Rank: Light Sabre
6/11/2014 | 1:41:40 PM
Ciena infatuation?
Just noticed that the last THREE daily news emails in a row all led with a Ciena story.  "Ciena Soars on Strong Demand", "Ciena Hints at Big Product Announcement" and now this.  Should we conclude that Ciena boosted their advertising budget on LR recently, or just that you guys are in love?
User Rank: Lightning
6/10/2014 | 4:42:00 PM
Re: Seems decent to me
My comment on "simple" needs some elaboration. First, simple to explain and simple to make are 2 differnt things. Second, operators often prefer simple so it's not necessarily a knock.

What I was trying to get at with that comment was that the initial reaction is to compare the 8700 to new P-OTS products such as the NCS 4000, Coriant mTera, etc. The P-OTS value proposition tends to be a Swiss Army Knife with lots of modular features. The 8700 doesn't have alot of these features.

However, Ciena has told me that the 8700 is not aimed at these applications so the comparison could be unfair. But I'm still trying to get my head around the addressable market for this product/product type.

User Rank: Light Sabre
6/10/2014 | 12:34:12 PM
Seems decent to me
I think most of the traditional transport vendors have kind of given up on developing a full IP/MPLS/transport platform just like the router vendors have kind of given up on integrated photonics.  The density for the size of the platform is good, 20x100G coherent DWDM in a 10RU platform is higher density than the PTX3K, with the PTX3K supporting 16x100G.  You can get 4 of each in a standard rack.   

The pictures show CFP plugable optics in the platform, so I'm curious if they have built their own with the Wavelogic chips.   The PTX3K has integrated optics in the PIC based on a NTT coherent chipset.  

The NCS4K right now is kind of vaporware and the true IP/MPLS support is maybe coming next year.   The 4K right now is just an OTN switch, the packet functions of the platform do not exist.  The 100G DWDM cards for the NCS4K are just transponders, you can't terminate traffic coming in the ports to other ports across the fabric.   It's really a glorified 15454/M6 at this point until they add additional functionality to it.  

Datacenter is the right play.   You know what you need if you want to do Nx100G between remote datacenters?   Another transport platform to do transponding to go along with your Ethernet switches, which this eliminates. 


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