Optical/IP Networks

Cisco Adds CWDM to Switches

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), looking to beef up its metro switching and routing lineup, has announced a raft of new features and enhancements -- from IP VPN software support to new hardware interfaces. And it's announced that Australian service provider Telstra Corp. will be using the new enhanced line in its network (see Cisco Unveils Coarse WDM Modules).

One of the most notable additions to the metro Ethernet switching portfolio is a new coarse wavelength-division multiplexing (CWDM) gigabit interface converter (GBIC). CWDM uses inexpensive optics to transmit traffic over different wavelengths, making it an ideal solution for metro applications, where cost is always an issue.

Optical transmission companies like ONI Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ONIS), LuxN Inc., and Sorrento Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: FIBR) have all been offering low-end CWDM platforms for almost a year now (see ONI Systems Touts Access Box). But what makes Cisco’s product appealing is that it slots into any Cisco 7600 router or Catalyst switch, including the Catalyst 6500, Catalyst 4000, Catalyst 3550, and Catalyst 2950 series switches. This means that providers don’t have to go out and buy a separate platform or light another fiber to add more capacity to the network -- they can simply slot in a new interface.

Cisco isn’t the first Ethernet switch vendor to offer this feature. Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) has offered this on its switches for over a year now. But the Catalyst line is the largest installed base of Ethernet switches currently out there. Once again, Cisco is adding new features to its huge installed base of routing and switching products in an effort to keep customers locked into its platforms.

“It’s designed to address bandwidth exhaust for carriers who are running out of fiber or just want to conserve the fiber they have,” says Mike Volpi, senior vice president of Cisco’s Internet switching and services group.

The CWDM GBIC can transmit 1 Gbit/s of data over eight different wavelengths at distances ranging between 60 km on average singlemode fiber and up to 100 km on top-of-the-line singlemode fiber.

One application is for dropping traffic on and off a fiber ring. And it can be used in a point-to-point solution to connect two Catalyst switches in different buildings. In more complicated cases, an optical add/drop multiplexer can be added to link multiple Catalysts in a network.

The GBIC costs about $5,000.

The new CWDM feature isn't likely to be deployed for storage area networking. Because the transmission rates top out at 1 Gbit/s per wavelegth, a storage application would be better suited using higher-capacity products.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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