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Ciena and Tellium Go Feudin'

Dueling claims and dirty tricks mar the Supercomm tradeshow, as the rivalry between Tellium and Ciena heats up

June 5, 2001

3 Min Read
Ciena and Tellium Go Feudin'

ATLANTA -- Supercomm 2001 -- At the Supercomm 2001 trade show here in Atlanta, Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) announced plans to expand its MultiWave CoreDirector optical switch from 256 ports to 3,072 ports of OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s), a move designed to fend off the competition from newly public rival Tellium Inc. (Nasdaq: TELM) (see Ciena Upgrades Products).

Steve Chaddick, Ciena’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer, says this new announcement should silence Tellium’s claims that the current CoreDirector lacks scalability.

“I think this announcement will blow Tellium away,” he says. “They’ve been saying for a long time that we couldn’t scale. I’ve tried to tell Richard Barcus [Tellium’s president and chief operating officer] not to go down that road, and now we’ve shown them.”

But words were not the only signs of rivalry between the two companies. This morning on the tradeshow floor, a Ciena employee allegedly interrupted Tellium’s marketing presentation using a wireless microphone to tap into Tellium's sound system and ask attendees to leave the Tellium booth and visit Ciena.

“We went down there right away and asked them about this,” says Barcus. “They said that it wasn’t any of their people. But come on -- the guy had a ‘CIENA’ logo slapped on his shirt.”

As for the CoreDirector announcement, Tellium executives say they expected it, but they point out that Ciena is still at least six to nine months away from a commercial deployment.

“We are shipping 512 ports of OC48 today and we’ve been shipping OC192 ports since March,” says Krishna Bala, chief technical officer of Tellium. “This looks like a knee-jerk reaction to what we’ve already been offering.”

Tellium has been shipping its 512 OC48-port Aurora switch for the past several months. According to Bala, Qwest Communications International Corp. (NYSE: Q) and Dynegy Inc. (NYSE: DYN) have already accepted shipments of the product. But they are still testing the gear, and neither carrier has committed to buying it for commercial deployments.

According to Bala, Tellium is also working on a bigger switch. He says that the company has already completed the chipsets that would allow it to build a system to support up to 8,192 ports of OC192 (10 Gbit/s), quadruple the capacity of Ciena’s planned system.

Ciena points out that no matter what Tellium says it has up its sleeve, it still lacks one key attribute: granularity. Ciena’s CoreDirector supports OC48 interfaces, but it can also groom traffic down to the STS1 (51.8 Mbit/s) level. This more finely grained control of traffic allows service providers to peel traffic off the long-haul transport network. Tellium’s Aurora switch does not support STS1 grooming. It only supports grooming down to OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s, requiring additional devices to be added to perform more granular grooming.

“The problem with a big optical crossconnect like Tellium’s is that it only allows carriers to switch bigger circuits,” says Ciena’s Chaddick. “And that doesn’t make for a very flexible solution.”

While Tellium may not offer STS1 grooming in the core, another Ciena rival now does. Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) announced plans to expand the capacity of its optical crossconnect, the SN 16000 (see Sycamore Intros Grooming Switch). The company says the product, which also grooms to STS1, will eventually scale to 1,024 OC48 ports. It also announced that it is currently shipping a 512-port OC48 or a 128x128 OC192 version of its product.

But Tellium execs contend that attempts to turn current equipment into a more scalable solution may not be as easy as it sounds.

“Carriers can’t afford to have their systems taken down to upgrade the equipment, and it’s very tricky to increase that scalability in service,” says Barcus.Ciena expects to test the scaled-up CoreDirector in Q4 of this year and shipments will likely begin early next year, according to Chaddick. As for Tellium, the announcement has give them something to think about.

“Competition always worries me,” says Barcus. “But it will be interesting to see how Ciena executes on this plan.”

- Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For more information on Supercomm 2001, please visit the Light Reading Supercomm 2001 Site.

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