Cisco Hatches Cerent 'Mini Me'

Cisco is attacking the multitenant and office building market with a smaller version of the ONS 15454 platform

January 15, 2001

4 Min Read
Cisco Hatches Cerent 'Mini Me'

Cisco's Cerent box has a baby brother.

On January 31, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) will officially launch its ONS 15327, the smaller relative to the Cisco ONS 15454, its wildly successful Sonet add-drop multiplexer. (see Cisco's Optical Shipments Soar). The product will be ready to ship to Cisco’s carrier customers on the day it's announced, Cisco officials say. The company also confirmed that the new product was developed by the same engineering group that came to Cisco from Cerent -- the folks who built the ONS 15454.

On the morning of the announcement, Cisco will treat service providers to a Webcast, titled "IP+Optical Live!" hosted by comedian Dennis Miller. And, though Miller's peppery rants are always a treat, the star of that show will be Cisco's shiny new box.

When contacted by Light Reading, Sanjay Pol, director of marketing in Cisco's optical transport business unit, confirmed today that the ONS 15327 is designed to bring higher bandwidth applications -- up to OC48 (2.488 Gbit/s) -- closer to the edge of the network. While the ONS 15454 eases bandwidth bottlenecks between the Internet's fiber optic backbones and the copper telephone networks, the ONS 15327 is designed to extend that bandwidth all the way to office buildings and other multitenant units.

"What we are doing is super-charging the optical edge," says Pol. "We’re taking the same value proposition as the ONS 15454 to the edge of the network. And, if you take it a step further, we think the success of the ONS 15454 will be comparable to the success of the ONS 15327 at the edge.”

Pol confirmed that the new box is three rack units high (one rack unit is 1.75 inches), 19 inches wide, and 12 inches deep. The box aggregates several kinds of connections, including TDM (DS1 and DS3), data (10/100-Mbit/s Ethernet), and optical (OC3, OC12, and OC48). Like its big brother, the ONS 15327 is designed to support point-to-point, ring, mesh, and linear add/drop network topologies.

What isn't yet known about the ONS 15327 is whether it will handle data as elegantly as some of its new competitors in the space (see Redback Unveils Siara Product). Pol wouldn't say. He only pointed out that a lot of the software code and engineering had been shared between the ONS 15454, which does packet-over-Sonet capabilities, and the ONS 15327.

What will make the ONS 15327 palatable at customer premises, however, is its smaller size and its price, which is expected to be thousands less than the ONS 15454. Cisco has confirmed that the ONS 15327 has an eight-slot chassis versus the ONS 15454's 17-slot chassis. Cisco's mum on pricing details right now, but Pol says that, like the ONS 15454, the ONS 15327 will cost up to 50 percent less than comparable legacy equipment in networks today.

Light Reading sources say that Qwest Communications International Corp. (NYSE:Q) has been testing the ONS 15327 for months. Cisco, however, won't say who its test customers are until later this month. Qwest could not be reach for comment before this article went to press.

Rumors surrounding Cisco's metro-edge efforts have been circulating for about six months, and Cisco's likely been talking it up to service providers for at least that long. When equipment startups pitch their products to service providers, they always compare themselves to Cisco's Cerent product, says Rick Malone, principal at Vertical Systems Group, a research and consulting concern.

"Cisco started to feel the pressure and realized that they had to start visiting carriers before carriers began designing their networks around other edge products," he says.

Of course, Cisco won't find themselves alone in their efforts. Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. targets the same space with its 150ADX box, and so does Astral Point Communications Inc., with its ON2000 product. Ocular Networks Inc., Mayan Networks Inc., and Lucent Technologies Inc. (through its acquisition of Chromatis) are also attacking the same part of the network (see Ocular Sees a Single Fabric).

One source says Cisco is bragging it has $400 million in pre-orders for the ONS 15327 and its managers expect it will have a $1 billion annualized run-rate once it begins shipping to customers. That estimate means that in a relatively short period of time, sales of Cisco's ONS 15327 will rival its ONS 15454, currently Cisco's flagship optical networking product.

In a Jan. 10 speech to investors and analysts, Cisco CEO John "Sunshine" Chambers said he would be "very disappointed" if Cisco didn't hit his goal of $3 billion to $7 billion in revenue by the end of 2001. When asked what to watch to chart Cisco's progress towards that goal, Chambers hinted at a smaller version of Cisco's ONS 15454. "You'll want to watch our momentum with the 15454 and then if we come up with a lower end of that product, which we probably will, [watch] how we do within that lower-end product area." (See Chambers: Cisco's Ready to Brawl.)

We're watching.

-- Phil Harvey, senior editor, Light Reading

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