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Ciena Thinks Small

Ciena announced a mini-version of its CoreDirector switch for metro area networks today

May 15, 2000

3 Min Read
Ciena Thinks Small

With second quarter results only a couple of days away, Ciena Corp. http://www.ciena.com announced today a miniature version of its MultiWave CoreDirector switch. The device is designed to be used in telco carrier central offices where rack space is limited.

With the same hardware and software as the original 256-port CoreDirector product, the new CoreDirector CI has only 64 ports and fits into half a 7-foot telco carrier rack. The goal is to provide carriers with the same functionality as the CoreDirector in one-fourth the space, the vendor says.

Some observers weren't exactly bowled over with the announcement, however. "This isn't some new revolutionary design," says Scott Clavenna, principal analyst at Pioneer Consulting http://www.pioneerconsulting.com. "It's just a smaller, cheaper version of the CoreDirector."

And competitors say that this announcement might signify trouble with Ciena's original CoreDirector product.

"It seems like they are struggling to get the 256-port version out the door," says Grace Carr, vice president of marketing for Tellium Inc. http://www.tellium.com, which has its own 32-port optical switch. "It looks to me like a marketing ploy to get more visibility before SuperComm."

Other competitors, such as Sycamore Networks Inc. http://www.sycamorenetworks.com, have accused Ciena of being late with its roll out plan for the CoreDirector.

Despite the bantering, Ciena says that it is right on schedule with production of the CoreDirector.

"This [the announcement] isn't some kind of gimmick," says Denny Bilter, a Ciena spokesperson. "Our customers were specifically asking for this. We have an obligation to our shareholders to tell them about new product developments. Besides, if we were going to announce something for SuperComm we would do it the week before the show, not now. "

While competitors may be skeptical, customers are confident. Qwest Communications http://www.qwest.com likes what it has seen of the larger CoreDirector in its testing lab. The carrier plans to deploy the switch in its network later this year and has been pushing for a smaller version for its metro applications.

"We need to provide a way to switch wavelengths between the metropolitan area and the broadband network," says William Bridges VP of transport engineering for Qwest. "At one-fourth the rack space, [thisproduct] costs less than 25% of a full blown 256-port system. In some cases it's more cost effective to deploy three of these mini CoreDirectors, than to buy a big CoreDirector."

Because the CoreDirector CI has all the same grooming capabilities as the the original CoreDirector, it eliminates the need for big costly Sonet multiplexing equipment, which helps service providers reduce equipment costs even further.

With these two products, Ciena is positioned well in both large and small deployments, says Clavena of Pioneer. With the optical switching market just opening up, there is plenty of room for competition, but so far no one else has announced a product with the same functionality and size advantages as the CoreDirector CI.

Tellium is the only competitor currently shipping a small port density switch, but it doesn't have the same grooming functions as the the CoreDirector CI (see Optical Switches Go Into Commercial Use). Sycamore's SN 16000, announced in December 1999 scales from 64 ports to 1,024 ports, but the foot-print is larger than the CoreDirector CI.

Ciena will have the CoreDirector CI on display and will be demonstrating the 256- port CoreDirector at SuperComm in June, and will ship the CoreDirector CI in Q4 of this year.

-- Marguerite Reardon, senior editor Light Reading


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