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Ciena Drums Up Data Strategy

Today Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) launches a barrage of announcements designed to convince the world that its aggressive acquisition moves in the data networking world are starting to pay off in the form of data-handling product enhancements in many of its optical wares (see Ciena Showcases at Supercomm).

The upshot of it all is that Ciena is extending data-networking capabilities to its switches, add/drop multiplexers, and other equipment, in a mission to consolidate functionality and save carriers money.

Here's what they're announcing:

  • In the network's core, the company is adding data-handling capabilities to the CoreDirector, giving it new linecards with native Ethernet, interfaces, while the switch fabric will get the ability to route packet traffic. By aggregating data traffic from ADMs and multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs) via the CoreDirector, carriers can save money on Ethernet connections to edge routers, which would typically sit alongside the CoreDirector to handle data traffic, according to Thomas Mock, Ciena's VP of strategic planning.

  • In the metro and multiservice access area, Ciena is adding Layer 2 packet switching capabilities to its CN 4300 metro transport device and its CN 2300 multiplexer, formerly the LightStack GSLAM and the LightStack MXA, acquired with Internet Photonics. The point is to give carriers and cable operators a way to carry a mix of Layer 1 and Layer 2 data services over the same network link, without needing as many routers along the way. The CN2300 makes the connection at the customer side, while the CN 4300 sits in the central office for services aggregation (see Ciena Buys Catena, Internet Photonics).

  • In the same vein of cutting down on equipment, Ciena is also adding a 10-Gbit/s Sonet add/drop multiplexer card to its ONLINE Metro DWDM platform. The appeal here is pretty straightforward -- to combine functions and reduce the number of devices needed -- though it's quite the opposite approach of vendors that add WDM capabilities to their Sonet ADMs (see Integrating WDM & Sonet/SDH).
  • Though Ciena's CN 2600 (formerly the ONLINE Edge) has been out for a while, the platform is evolving as Ciena has added a low Speed ADM card for T1/E1, T3/E3, and 10/100/1000 Ethernet services. Another new feature is that the 7-inch tall chassis has been environmentally hardened for use in outside plant deployments.

  • Finally, Ciena has introduced another digital loop carrier product that falls right in between its linecard replacement solution and its broadband loop carrier chassis, both acquired when Ciena bought Catena Networks. The new CNX-100, in fact, is a DSL overlay solution, and eventual replacement, for the aging DLC population of Lucent Technologies Inc.'s (NYSE: LU) SLC-96; Fujitsu Ltd.'s (OTC: FJTSY; Tokyo: 6702) FDLCs and FACTRs; Nortel Networks Ltd.'s (NYSE/Toronto: NT) DMS-1 Urbans; and Marconi Corp. plc's (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) DISC*S. The system lets carriers add four ports of DSL at a time to lines served by existing DLCs, with the option of adding integrated POTS and DSL in the future. The device fits in existing cabinets, uses existing bandwidth for backhaul, and doesn't reduce the number of POTS lines in use when DSL services are turned on. Catena has sold DLC linecard replacements to all four RBOCs, according to Malcolm Loro, Ciena's director of product marketing. That means each carrier has already made an investment into integrating its element management system, opening the door for more products -- such as the new CNX-100 -- to make some headway in those accounts.

    Ciena's strategy and today's document dump are a nod to carriers that the company does indeed have a plan. But, of course, it's not out of the woods yet.

    "We continue to remain skeptical of Ciena’s long-term strategy, with increased concerns about integration risk, softness in the company’s core business, shareholder dilution, and lack of operating leverage," writes Fulcrum analyst John Anthony in a research note issued last month (see Ciena Gets a Grilling).

    That skepticism has weighed on Ciena's share price, but that too could turn around if the company succeeds in its plan to make more (and larger) carriers buy into its data networking story.

    — Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

  • materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 1:35:32 AM
    re: Ciena Drums Up Data Strategy Ever since these optical switch guys went public without saying what was inside the box, I have been skeptical about those contents. As CIEN layers Ethernet solutions onto products like the Core Director, I wonder where the optical stops and the electrical starts, and why CIEN delivers any benefits from these vague combinations. Perhaps service providers wonder, too.
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