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100G Ethernet

Nortel Taps Ixia for 100GE

When the first customer for your prized 100-Gbit/s Ethernet tester is Nortel Networks Ltd. , you have to expect questions like: Aren't you worried about getting paid?

Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) at least sees the humor in it. And the company tells Light Reading that there's no problem.

"If there were an issue like that, that would be escalated to me by now, and I hadn't heard any issues," says Charles Seifert, a senior product manager with Ixia. "That is the inside joke right now, though." (And if you're somehow not getting the inside joke, see Nortel Files for Bankruptcy Protection and The Decline & Fall of Nortel Networks.)

Ixia announced Tuesday it has begun shipping its $395,000 (list price), one-port test box -- not something you let the kids drive -- and that the first customer is indeed Nortel. Full name of the box: the 100 Gigabit Ethernet Development Accelerator System (DAS). (See Ixia Ships 100GE Tester.)

Really, the announcement is no surprise. Ixia has already been helping Nortel with 100-Gbit/s Ethernet demos, including the Canadian company's recent single-wavelength announcement. (See 100-Gig Demo and Nortel Shows Single-Slice 100GE.)

The 100-Gbit/s traffic generator and tester used in those situations was roughly a "one-third" version of what got released yesterday. "That system was a proof-of-concept system," Seifert says.

Ixia says yesterday's DAS is the first production-ready 100-Gbit/s Ethernet test system for Layers 2 through 7. It's also got a little bit of testing for "Layer one-and-a-half," Seifert says. Ixia usually leaves the physical layer to the likes of Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Anritsu Corp. , or JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU).

Early customers for a fancy-pants testing system tend to be chip designers, whether they're at semiconductor companies or inside companies like Nortel. Systems companies sign on later, as they start testing their vendors' new equipment.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) hasn't yet ratified the 802.3ba standard for 40- and 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, but Seifert says the standard is close enough to get a "90 percent" system out the door.

Spirent Communications plc disagrees. That company has made hardly a peep about a system for 40- and 100-Gbit/s Ethernet, saying that it's waiting for the market and the standard to be ready.

Often, an IEEE standard gets to a point where vendors can release pre-standard gear. Spirent just doesn't think that's happened yet.

"If you look at 40 Gbit/s and 100 Gbit/s, it is nowhere near that right now," says Chris Chapman, Spirent's senior technical evangelist. "If you look at issues like interoperability between the NEMs [network equipment manufacturers], it's not there yet."

Spirent tells Light Reading it's ready to release a 100-Gbit/s tester any time and will probably do so in the second half of this year.

Moreover, Spirent says its testing will go beyond plain throughput. It aims to determine whether that 100 Gbit/s is delivering video of acceptable quality, or whether it can serve the number of IPTV subscribers a carrier might expect. "What's going to make customers money now is service-oriented testing, as opposed to releasing an interface as a first-to-market sort of thing," Chapman says.

That kind of thinking is behind Spirent's announcement yesterday of the HyperMetrics family of modules for its TestCenter platform. (See Spirent Unveils HyperMetrics.)

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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