New N-Series is also based on open COTS-based hardware and uses a Linux operating system to appeal to large Internet content providers.

February 11, 2015

4 Min Read
Cyan Targets DCI With 34 Terabit Platform

Cyan is launching an ambitious play for the burgeoning data center interconnect (DCI) market Wednesday, targeting the largest Internet content providers with a new hyperscale transport platform and Linux-based software management tools.

The Cyan Inc. N-Series Open Hyperscale Transport Platform is a new family of high-density, high-capacity optical transport boxes that compete immediately with Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN)'s CloudExpress -- launched last September -- and a host of other metro optical company products expected in the months ahead. (See Cyan Launches Hyperscale Transport Platform.)

Cyan is touting two specific advantages -- fully loaded with 200-gig line interfaces, it can support 34 terabits per second per rack at a 30% energy savings for the lowest cost per gigabit, and the system is built on best-of-breed open hardware versus proprietary hardware for greater flexibility and faster upgrades. (See {doc710946}.)

That maximum 34 Tbit/s compares with the CloudExpress max of 21 Tbit/s, says Cyan CMO Joe Cumello. The savings gained from that advantage matter greatly to Internet content providers operating at massive scale to deliver the rapidly growing volume of content over data networks, he says.

"The N-Series offers the lowest cost per gig when moving traffic between data centers, which is what the hyperscale ICPs care about," Cumello says. It also operates in a single rack unit, versus Infinera's two rack units, with 800 Gbit/s per RU.

Cyan is already selling into this market, which includes the likes of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook and Rackspace , and has one large customer, who refuses to be named, Cumello says.

Sterling Perrin, Heavy Reading analyst on all things packet-optical transport, says Cyan's N-Series does have the advantage over Infinera in terms of capacity and density "if they run with their 200-gig channels, which is what they talk about."

"By using 16 QAM [modulation], they are able to crank up to 200-gig on what would otherwise be a 100-gig card," Perrin adds.

That could help Cyan play well in the metro market where the distance limitations on 200-gig of about 600km aren't a problem. In ultra-long-haul applications, Infinera running 100-gig channels has the advantage, because of the distances involved, Perrin notes.

"Infinera's CloudExpress is based on PIC [photonic integrated circuit] technology giving significant density and power consumption versus discrete components that were out there," he says. "Cyan is at least matching and in some cases exceeding in terms of what can be done with discrete components. It is interesting how fast the components technology has progressed and what can be done with it."

Stay up-to-date on data center strategies including connectivity on the dedicated data center connectivity channel here on Light Reading.

Cyan also maintains it can increase density and capacity at a 2X pace every 12-to-18 months, in a COTS-based system, which would be much faster than is possible in a PIC-based approach, given the time cycles on PICs.

By using COTS hardware, Cyan is building an infrastructure for interconnecting data centers that models the existing data center infrastructure, Cumello notes. "They have adopted white boxes and bare metal systems for their servers and top-of-rack systems; now they are looking to apply those same concepts to data center interconnection," he says. Proprietary network operating systems and Ethernet switches have given way to Linux-based operating systems and COTS-based Ethernet switches.

"Cyan is basing N-series on best-in-breed COTS hardware combined with what is called Cyan Linux and Linux-based apps that sit on top of the hardware that allow the Internet content provider or cloud provider to operate this device in the same way that they operate their data center infrastructure," Cumello says. "This is all based on feedback from our customers and we think Cyan is the first to innovate in this area."

Traditional management of data center interconnection is based on more closed telecom operating systems whereas the Linux-based approach will enable Internet content providers to develop their own Linux-based apps for greater flexibility and faster innovation, according to Cyan.

"We are doing things the way data centers want to operate," says Abel Tong, director of solutions marketing for Cyan. "For data configuration and control in their networks, they are using tools like Ansible and Puppet -- maybe Chef also -- and the idea here is, because we are Linux and we are open, we allow data center operators to use these tools to manage their end-series devices: their servers, their switches, their storage infrastructure and their network infrastructure all the same way with the same set of automation tools they are used to."

As part of that approach, Cyan is supporting the Open Computing Project's Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) specification for managing devices in an open disaggregated network.

Perrin credits Cyan with building the N-Series from the ground up as a product specifically designed for the DCI market -- an area where he expects to see many more product announcements in coming months, given its rapid growth.

"Our Metro 100G forecast shows that market growing at a 72% compound annual growth rate over the next few years and a big part of that is data center interconnection," Perrin says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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