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Corvis Upgrades Optical Switch

Corvis and Ciena are both using Corning's technology for their all-optical solutions

March 20, 2002

3 Min Read
Corvis Upgrades Optical Switch

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- OFC 2002 -- Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) and Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV) now have more in common than a founder and a close address. The two companies are also both using dynamic gain equalizer technology from Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) in their all-optical products.

Today, Corvis announced it is using the technology for its newly upgraded all-optical switch, the Corvis OS. And earlier this week, Ciena announced that it was also using the Corning Dynamic Spectral Equalizer in its new optical add/drop multiplexer (OADM) product (see Ciena Cleans Up OADM).

While the companies are using the same technology, which allows them to selectively block and pass-through different wavelengths, the applications are slightly different (see Dynamic Gain Equalizers Diversify). Ciena is using the technology to build an OADM device that adds and drops wavelengths off of an individual fiber. The OADM is designed to sit alongside a Ciena CoreDirector, an OEO switch that grooms traffic down to lower speeds by converting the optical signal into an electrical signal.

On the other hand, Corvis plans to use the technology to build a four-port optical switch. Instead of a single fiber coming into the device and a single fiber going out, Corvis has cascaded the Corning technology so that it handles four fibers coming into the device and four going out.

The Corning technology used in Corvis’s switch fabric is replacing a proprietary implementation that the company had developed itself. Corvis, which has kept a tight lid on exactly how its optical switch works, already has deployed several of its original switches in the Broadwing Inc. (NYSE: BRW) network.

For Corvis, the biggest benefit to using the Corning technology is the new form factor. Because the dynamic gain equalizing technique used doesn’t require channels to be de-multiplexed, switched, and then multiplexed back, as some other approaches do, fewer components are used. And fewer components means that the size and power consumption are reduced. While the previous implementation took up four full seven-foot telecom racks and consumed over 3,500 watts of power, the newer version will occupy one rack and consume only 700 watts.

The Corvis OS has other new features, as well. For one, it is now able to switch individual wavelengths along with bands of wavelengths, making it more granular in its switching capabilities. This should provide carriers with greater flexibility in designing their networks.

Secondly, it will have a redundant switch fabric so that upgrades -- like adding additional line cards or replacing the switch fabric -- can be done without any interruption to service.

While all these features sound great on paper, the reality is that there is essentially no market for all-optical switching right now. The current lack of interest from carriers is what prompted Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) to cancel its all-optical switch project. “All-optical switches are a niche application,” says Simon Leopold an analyst with Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. “It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for it. But it’s going to be tough if you see a lot of players getting in this space right now.”

Corvis seems to have come to grips with this reality. The company plans to offer customers a migration path to all-optical networking through its new OEO switching platform, the OCS. This new switch will go head to head with Ciena’s CoreDirector and products from other big players like Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and Nortel.

“We’re offering customers choices,” says Bob Wohlford, senior vice president of marketing for Corvis. “The market for all-optical is small right now. But eventually carriers will migrate from point-to-point networking and electrical conversions to a fully optical mesh network.”

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.comFor more information on OFC 2002, please visit: www.nottheofc.com

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