Optical/IP Networks

Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- OFC2001 -- This week Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) announced another line of metro accessories to ride the coattails of its hugely successful metro product, the ONS 15454, the Sonet-based metro networking switch acquired from Cerent Corp.

The new product line -- which includes the ONS 15201, ONS 15252, and ONS 15216 -- is a series of metro DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) boxes based on technology Cisco acquired last year from Qeyton Systems (see Cisco Introduces Metro DWDM Box and Cisco Buys Qeyton for $800M).

Cisco’s big pitch to service providers is that its metro DWDM box is simple and economical.

“You rip out all kinds of operational costs by having the right level of integration of components and a management system designed for point-and-click problem determination, problem isolation, and service provisioning,” says Carl Russo, Cisco’s group vice president of optical networking. “It’s not just that you can turn up a service, but you can run your whole network from one screen.”

Many of the service features in Cisco’s ideal metro network are still handled by equipment located within the service POP (point of presence), as opposed to closer to the edge, as in other metro platforms. “Service providers want that stuff at the edge like they want a third nostril,” Russo says.

He adds that the design emphasis in the ONS 15200 series was on product simplicity rather than over-complicated managed routing of wavelengths. “The DWDM systems that run in the core are big, complex, require a lot of tuning, etc. You can’t be doing that in the metro,” Russo says.

That said, the new product line could pose a significant threat to other metro DWDM platforms such as those sold by ONI Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ONIS), Sorrento Networks Corp. (Nasdaq: FIBR), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN). In early February, Hugh Martin, CEO of ONI Systems, said that he had his eye on Cisco’s metro DWDM plans, but didn’t see them as an immediate threat (see ONI Beats Estimates, Boosts Guidance).

That threat might become clearer in the next few months. Cisco has the advantage of an installed base of 25,000 ONS 15454 boxes sitting at service providers, says Russo. The new platforms will offer service providers a way to turn up instant wavelength services to a building or a POP, he says.

“What's important in the metro is having the right services available at the right time... And, by the way, it has to be inexpensive.”

Cisco actually announced its first sale of an ONS 15200 product last November, when it struck a deal with Cambrian Communications LLC, a sale that was mostly financed by Cisco (see Cisco Plods Toward Optical Portfolio).

Yesterday Cisco announced another customer for the new platform, Touch America Colorado, a unit of TouchAmerica, the broadband unit of The Montana Power Company (NYSE: MTP). The company offers DS3 (45 Mbit/s) and above connections to businesses and other service providers from its network, a 250-mile ring circling the Denver area, and it plans to add the ONS 15200 to its network next quarter.

Shawn Hill, director of Touch America Colorado, says what sold him on the new gear was that it allows Touch America Colorado to bring bandwidth to only the network nodes that require it. He also vouches for the product’s point-and-click service provisioning features. The company does not have a vendor financing arrangement with Cisco, Hill says.

-- Phil Harvey, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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