DCI Boxes Aren't Just for Metros Anymore

Ciena and ADVA separately show off the ability for their new data center interconnect gear to address a variety of distance needs.

Dan O'Shea, Analyst, Heavyreading.com

September 23, 2015

3 Min Read
DCI Boxes Aren't Just for Metros Anymore

Have we been spending so much time in the last year talking about metro data center interconnect that we have ignored the obvious -- DCI is an application not confined to metro?

That's how I feel this week at least, after two optical vendors separately have taken steps to show how DCI platforms I've thought of as metro platforms can work effectively at long-haul distances as well.

First up Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) announced this week that its Waverserver DCI platform, which the company promoted from the start as a purpose-built metro DCI platform, will also have capabilities to handle long-haul DCI. To accomplish that, the platform will leverage Ciena's WaveLogic 3 Extreme chipset to offer 8QAM to support "longest distance needs" in addition to the 16QAM format already supported for what the company calls "extended distances." (See Ciena Outfits Waveserver for Long Haul DCI.)

Waveserver is still in customer trials, and will not be generally available until next month. For the long-haul capabilities discussed this week, the general market will have to wait until the first quarter next year. Still, it's an interesting step to position the gear for a wider variety of deployment cases.

"Customers said, 'We love the Waveserver's value proposition, but why just make it for the metro? Why not elsewhere?' We said 'Well, why not?' So we're making it available as an 'any haul' product," says Mike Adams, vice president of product and technical marketing at Ciena.

Meanwhile, ADVA Optical Networking Wednesday announced a successful field trial of its FSP 3000 CloudConnect DCI platform with Poland's PSNC research, an education network. During the trial, the platform pushed traffic over a distance of 385 kilometers using 16QAM transport at up to 400 Gbit/s. Like Ciena, ADVA also supports 8QAM and the ability to use the platform for DCI applications over much greater distances -- 1,000km and beyond. Unlike Ciena, ADVA never really made a point to position the CloudConnect as a metro box, but we sort of lumped it in with that group anyway. (See ADVA Conducts 400G DCI Trial.)

Want to know more about the packet optical sector? Check out our dedicated packet optical content channel right here on Light Reading.

A lot of the metro DCI gear we have been hearing about for the last year or so has been designed particularly with web-scale firms in mind, because long-haul gear may have been considered too costly, too large, too power-hungry and loaded with too many unnecessary functions for metro spaces. Where long-haul DCI is concerned, most vendors have continued to answer those needs with existing long-haul gear -- for example, in Ciena's case its longstanding 6500 platform.

Ciena made clear it is not looking to displace its own 6500 for long-haul DCI cases, and in fact the Waveserver can run over existing 6500 lines where that applies. However, this might not even happen all that often, since Ciena itself described the 6500 as a "telco-centric" platform, while the Waveserver is more likely to be deployed by those web companies looking to have more control over interconnection of their own data centers.

Are we seeing boxes built for the metro taking on a radically different role? Not really. DCI needs aren't limited to the metro environment, and both companies making announcements this week are just showing off their full range of capabilities over a variety of distances and speeds.

As Jorg Peter Elbers, vice president of advanced technology at ADVA, puts it, it's not like there is any industry standard definition of how large a metro network is or where its borders lie. "It depends on how you define metro," he says. "For someone like Verizon or AT&T, a metro might be 1,000 or more kilometers." In other words, one company's metro could be another company's long haul, so let's not get stuck on semantics.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Dan O'Shea

Analyst, Heavyreading.com

You want Dans? We got 'em! This one, "Fancy" Dan O'Shea, has been covering the telecom industry for 20 years, writing about virtually every technology segment and winning several ASBPE awards in the process. He previously served as editor-in-chief of Telephony magazine, and was the founding editor of FierceTelecom. Grrrr! Most recently, this sleep-deprived father of two young children has been a Chicago-based freelance writer, and continues to pontificate on non-telecom topics such as fantasy sports, craft beer, baseball and other subjects that pay very little but go down well at parties. In his spare time he claims to be reading Ulysses (yeah, right), owns fantasy sports teams that almost never win, and indulges in some fieldwork with those craft beers. So basically, it's time to boost those bar budgets, folks!

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