Optical/IP Networks

Adva Gives Its DWDM More Carrier Appeal

Dense wave division multiplexing is already a big hit in long haul networks but so far, its success in access networks has been limited. The problem? Carriers want vendors to go further than simply giving them a way to boost their backbones' bandwidth; they want a simple way of offering higher value services.

That's the background to today's announcement by Germany's Adva AG Optical Networking http://www.advaoptical.com of its acquisition of Storage Area Networks Ltd. (SAN Ltd.) http://www.san.com, a UK vendor of equipment that enables corporate users to connect high bandwidth Fibre Channel SANs over ATM and, soon, Gigabit Ethernet services offered by carriers.

It's worth noting that Adva isn't the only optical networking vendor aiming to integrate storage area network technology into its products. In fact, SAN integration if fast becoming a trend. On February 1, Optical Networks, Inc. http://www.opticalnetworks.com, a startup developing metro transport network equipment, announced a "strategic relationship" with Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. http://www.brocade.com, a supplier of Fibre Channel gear for storage area nets. And Finisar Corp http://www.finisar.com, another optical networking startup, has announced Fibre Channel developments.

So why integrate Fibre Channel? Because by integrating it into their DWDM and WDM equipment, vendors can sell a one-stop-shop solution to carriers looking to provide remote storage services to corporations.

That explains why Adva is buying SAN Ltd. for stock valued at about $83 million. In fact, it believes that it'll get at least three big benefits from the deal, according to Brian L. Protiva, Adva's chief strategy officer.

First, it will enable carriers to offer much longer distance connections than previously possible. This is because SAN Ltd.'s gateway spoofs locally connected equipment so that the flow of data across the wide area isn't held up waiting for Fibre Channel acknowledgements. This extends the maximum range of Fibre Channel from 10 to 100 kilometers, according to Protiva.

Second, SAN Ltd.'s gateway can be used to extend Fibre Channel services between metropolitan area networks, using ATM services. And SAN Ltd says that it's the only vendor supporting Fibre Channel over 622 Mbit/s as well as 155 Mbit/s ATM connections.

Third, SAN Ltd. has a lot of IP expertise that Adva will be able to leverage in its own equipment, according to Protiva. In particular, Adva wants to get a better handle on MPLS (multi-protocol label switching), the technology used to set up and tear down virtual tunnels to help bypass routers in IP backbones. That's because MPLS is now being used as the foundation for developing similar protocols at the optical layer -- protocols that will set up and tear down wavelengths across light-based backbones.

Adva also announced a second acquistion today, of Cellware Broadband GmbH, http://www.cellware.de for stock and cash totaling $24 million, also aims to give carriers a way of making money out of DWDM based access nets.

In this case, Cellware's big attraction is its ATM integrated access equipment. These boxes sit at customer sites and enables carriers to offer a variety of services over a single access line, using different size and grade ATM connections. Over time, Adva expects to turn this into an optical multi-service provisioning platform. Once again, Cellware's expertise in handling ATM signaling might also come in handy in the optical arena. Adva is one of the few companies already shipping serious quantities of DWDM access equipment. Analysts predict that its sales could reach $75-$100 million this year. At least two big equipment vendors - one of them Alcatel SA http://www.alcatel.com -- sell Adva gear as part of their own DWDM product portfolios.

-- by Peter Heywood, International Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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