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MPLS

Ciena Thinks Beyond PBB-TE

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) has a trio of new Ethernet boxes coming out today, but what might be more significant is the addition of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to its Ethernet aggregation switch.

The CN 5305 already supports Provider Backbone Bridging - Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE), and Ciena is now adding MPLS and hierarchical VPLS (H-VPLS) as well. This gives carriers more options when it comes to encapsulating traffic before sending it deeper into the network.

This isn't Ciena's only foray into MPLS. The LE-311v, which arrived with the acquisition of World Wide Packets, also supports the technology. (See Did Ciena Overpay for WWP?, PBT Key to Ciena Acquisition, MPLS Arrives in Access Nets, and Gary Smith, CEO, Ciena.) Ciena will be adding MPLS to other products later in the year, says Dave Parks, a Ciena director of product marketing.

Ciena has been a big backer of PBB-TE -- or Provider Backbone Transport (PBT), as it was initially called -- although the company didn't expect the technology to make inroads into the network core. (See PBT Key to Ciena Acquisition.)

Parks says Ciena's sudden interest in MPLS shouldn't be taken as a loss of faith in PBB-TE. (See PBT Sidelined at BT and PBT: Alive 'n' Kicking.)

"We still see a lot of interest in using PBB-TE, especially in wireless backhaul," and especially for 4G, he says.

PBB-TE could be useful for business services, too, "but I don't think that's as far along a market," Parks says. "There's going to be long-term demand for that, but there's going to be long-term demand for these other encapsulation methods as well."

But why hadn't Ciena put effort into MPLS support before?

"No specific reason, other than there wasn't a lot of demand for it before on this platform," Parks says of the CN 5305. He says Ciena is getting more requests to stretch MPLS into the access network, now that carriers have established MPLS in the core. "They can make better use of those router ports" that sit deeper in the network, he says. "A router port costs more than a Carrier Ethernet switch port."

PBB-TE was first championed by Nortel Networks Ltd. , which found a supporter in BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). But the technology lost favor with BT's latest management last year, and Nortel, while still a proponent of PBB-TE, has dropped out of the carrier Ethernet market.

Separately, Ciena is adding three more systems to its Ethernet access line.

The CN 3960 is a customer premises box, one rack-unit high, meant for delivering 10-Gbit/s Ethernet services -- or, at least, services exceeding 1 Gbit/s. The box includes two 10-Gbit/s user interface ports and eight ports that can carry 100 Mbit/s or 1 Gbit/s traffic.

"It's not huge right now," Parks says of the 10-Gbit/s Ethernet services market. Ciena is hoping that will change if a lower-cost 10-Gbit/s box is available; the primary alternative has been to buy an aggregation box, which is more expensive than your typical customer premises gear.

Because some customers won't want full-blown 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, Ciena is also launching the CN 3940, a customer premises box for providing multiple Gigabit Ethernet services. It's got 20 user-side ports that can carry up to 1 Gbit/s and four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces pointing back into the network.

A third new box is the CN 5140, which is the same as the CN 3940 but built for outdoor environments.

All three of the new systems are shipping today.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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