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IPoDWDM the Star of Ericsson-Ciena Show

Dan O'Shea

One of the stars of last week's Ericsson-Ciena partnership announcement was IP over DWDM, a technology convergence the industry hasn't heard much about recently. Ciena traditionally hasn't championed it, but Ericsson is clearly excited about it.

"This is about unification and convergence of optical and IP," Jan Haglund, head of IP and broadband at Ericsson, said on a conference call with reporters and analysts last week. He called IP a roughly $15 billion market today and WDM a separate $10 billion market. "There is market going forward where optical and IP are growing together. We estimate that, by 2020, north of 30% of the market will be influenced by IP over WDM convergence. If you want to be a strong IP player or a strong optical player or both, you need to be addressing that part of the market."

That's why a key focus of the joint development between Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) will be to create IPoDWDM interfaces (Ericsson called it IPoWDM, but we'll stick with the more common acronym) between Ciena's optical modules and Ericsson's SSR 5000 routers. (See Ciena, Ericsson Embark on SDN, Optical Love Affair and Ericsson's Ciena Tieup: It's a Migration Thing.)

Haglund's comments represent fairly heady enthusiasm for a technology approach long championed by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) that has had a relatively quiet couple of years. The most notable IPoDWDM adopter in the last two years was Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), though Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) and others have conducted trials. (See DT's All-Cisco, No-Optical Network, Telefónica & Cisco Run 100G IPoDWDM, and Doubts Still Dog IPoDWDM.)

The IPoDWDM interface also is a surprising development for Ciena. The optical vendor has spent years marketing alternatives to fully converged IPoDWDM.

"Ciena's historical positioning has been not to do IP over WDM," Sterling Perrin, a Heavy Reading senior analyst, told us. "They came up with alternatives to it because they only had the optical systems. They would do a router bypass with OTN switches, for example, where optical traffic would not touch the router."

It seems like Ciena is changing its architectural thinking. However, Ciena senior vice president Tom Mock told Light Reading that isn't the case; Ciena believes that doing IPoDWDM with Ericsson will allow Ciena to target more IP-centric deployment opportunities.

"Even though there is a router component to this, it doesn't indicate a change in our view or a change in what we think the best architectures are," Mock said. "What we and Ericsson both realize is that there are a whole range of network architectures out there, and what any individual operator chooses is going to have much more to do with the individual services it's trying to offer."

Somewhere, Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers is smiling about IPoDWDM finally getting its due attention. Nevertheless, he might also want to consider the potency of an Ericsson-Ciena pairing on IPoDWDM before he gets too happy. The Ericsson-Ciena approach offers a multi-vendor take on IPoDWDM in competition to the all-Cisco approach, and like so much else these days, that option comes courtesy of the SDN movement.

"Cisco has been offering this since 2005 on the CRS, and now it's on all its high end platforms," Glen Hunt, principal analyst for transport and routing infrastructure at Current Analysis, told us. "But what has been missing is the ability to manage it in a multi-vendor environment. SDN offers some relief here."

Perrin said SDN can now be the control and management mechanism for IP routers and WDM equipment to work together more seamlessly. "If that is the case, they can still be physically separate boxes," and nothing is keeping other vendors from pursuing the same kind of IPoDWDM path.

"I don't think a lot of operators are interested in a single-vendor integration of IP and WDM," he said. "They want to be able to mix vendors, so if Cisco or Ericsson or whoever wants to be a single vendor for IPoDWDM, I don't think that would gain much traction."

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 11:36:17 PM
Re: IPoDWDM rolls off the tongue!
I guess Ericsson thought they were doing us all a favor by dropping one D and shortening it to IPoWDM, but it hasn't caught on yet.
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 11:35:00 PM
Re: Multi-vendor madness?
Very little is known so far about how far they will go with the joint development. Ericsson is very much driving the development of the interface, and isn't offering a lot of details yet on what exactly it will be and how they are doing it. Maybe there's the possibility for it to be an open interface that works with other vendors.
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/19/2014 | 8:02:30 PM
Density lacking
So the problem with IPoDWDM is the density isn't very good for 100G, and that's always been the rub on it.  We are just now finally seeing tunable 10G DWDM SFP+ available.  By the time tunable Xenpak came along everyone had moved to SFP+...  Cisco has a 1x100G tunable card for the CRS vs. a 4x100G grey module.  They absolutely could not do tunable on the NCS6K because they are doing 10x100G on a single line card.  ALU has also passed on doing coherent 100G on the routers for the same density reasons.   Juniper has parity with grey optics on the PTX, but not for long.   Some vendors have claimed to have tunable CFP2 but I will believe it when I see it, no one ever came out with a tunable CFP because the power draw is too high for the router linecards.  

Cisco also is not really pushing integrated router optics much anymore, they are pushing low cost interconnects between routers and transport equipment with control/management plane integration.  nv-Optical on the ASR9K allows the M6/NCS2K shelf to look like a transparent extension of the router, the line side coherent ports are configured as 100GE DWDM ports on the router and see everything the transport system would see in regards to optical performance.   I think it's the right approach and it does play well into SDN.  No reason you couldn't do that with gear from different vendors, because you still have a standard interface sitting in the middle.   

Juniper has done work to make their PTX DWDM ports look like part of an Adva or Coriant transport network as a "virtual transponder", but again the density isn't going to be there for large carriers.   The real compelling case is for datacenter interconnect or lower bandwidth metro applications.  


Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 4:10:07 PM
Multi-vendor madness?
Ericsson and Ciena seem to be promising to deliver the kind of efficiency that usually locks service providers into one vendor's solution while also backing open source SDN. Are they walking the walk here and not just, well, you know, blah, blah, blah?
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 3:14:20 PM
IPoDWDM rolls off the tongue!
Woah, and we thought DiMoWiNe was a tricky acryonym...http://www.lightreading.com/do-you-know-dimowine/v/d-id/705145
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