Cisco Starts Picking XFP

Bookham's Ignis acquisition wasn't just for products, it seems: Ignis seems to have won Cisco qualification

October 20, 2003

3 Min Read
Cisco Starts Picking XFP

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has picked at least one vendor that could provide it with 10-Gbit/s Ethernet optical modules that conform to the XFP design. The lucky winner is reportedly startup Ignis Optics, which was acquired recently by Bookham Technology plc (Nasdaq: BKHM; London: BHM) (see Bookham Buys Some More and Bookham Completes Ignis Buy).

Ignis did not get a design win with Cisco, but industry sources say its XFP module has been qualified for use, meaning Cisco engineers have tested the part and are confident it will work.

Cisco is likely to qualify multiple XFP vendors eventually, so Bookham/Ignis will still have to battle to secure design wins. Cisco officials won't elaborate on which products have been qualified or when it might begin shipping boxes with XFP interfaces.

XFP is one of four multisource agreements (MSAs) for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet modules floating around the industry. The other three -- Xenpak, X2, and XPAK -- split the 10-Gbit/s stream into multiple lanes, but XFP is a serial connection. That means it's more compact, but it's also a higher-end device, likely to start appearing later than the other three. Since Xenpak is only just getting going, it will likely be some time before any significant XFP rollouts begin.

Ignis was determined from the start to get in early. It chose to skip the other MSAs and go straight to XFP, and, by November 2002, the company claimed it was the only vendor showing live XFP demos.

Cisco has always been interested in XFP. "There have been groups working in the company on XFP since probably before the MSA [got started]," says Bruce Tolley, senior manager of emerging technologies. He won't disclose Cisco's schedule for ramping XFP, and he says availability of modules won't affect the timetable. He did note that Cisco has begun shipping gear containing Xenpak modules.

Since acquiring the optical components division of Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Bookham has been busily snapping up smaller morsels such as Ignis (see Bookham Buys Nortel's Components Biz, Bookham Gets Thin Film Filter Bargain, and Bookham Gets a New Focus).

These deals are helping Bookham cement its standing with some large OEMs, says SoundView Technology Group analyst Dennis Gallagher. The resulting business is worth the acquisition outlay. "Just what they're able to push to a Huawei or a Nortel justifies these small acquisitions," he says.

While the Cisco qualification doesn't guarantee tons of business for Bookham, the firm now has an early "in." Still, Cisco has about a dozen more candidates that could also gain qualification.

"We are in the mix and expect to be on the list," writes Mark Sobey, senior vice president of marketing at JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), in an email. Another likely pick could be Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR), which won Cisco's "Supplier of the Year" award recently; like Ignis, Finisar is skipping straight to XFP and ignoring the other "X" MSAs (see XFP Gets the Fast Track).

Other XFP vendors are concentrating on non-Ethernet markets, a strategy made possible by the XFP module's ability to be used with any protocol. E2O Communications Inc., for example, claims to have taken XFP orders from one of the major Fibre Channel switch vendors. That probably means Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) or McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like