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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Fred Snarff 12/4/2012 | 8:42:18 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro What Carl is saying: GǣItGs not just that you can turn up a service, but you can run your whole network from one screen.Gǥ

What Carl is thinking: "basically, the DWDM box sucks, but hey, technology doesn't matter. it's all about end-to-end network management - isn't it?"


What Carl is saying: GǣThe DWDM systems that run in the core are big, complex, require a lot of tuning, etc. You canGt be doing that in the metro,Gǥ

What Carl is thinking: "our box is pretty stupid. no intelligence whatsoever. no power-balancing, no optical PM, no distance, no amplification, nada. besides, a product feature is just another thing to configure - right?"


What Carl is saying: GǣWhat's important in the metro is having the right services available at the right time... And, by the way, it has to be inexpensive.Gǥ

What Carl is thinking: "well since we're about 12 months late to market with this dog, give or take, we'll just give the thing away. let's see who else can stay in business at $.50 a transponder."

prefer_to_lurk 12/4/2012 | 8:42:17 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro LOL !!!

Of course the Cisco Sales and Marketing teams have worked wonders in the past, but the situation with the Qeyton gear looks nothing like when Cisco bought Cerent.

It's the difference between buying a market leader versus a "me too" solution.

Don't look for a repeat of the 15454 home run.


gea 12/4/2012 | 8:42:15 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro Finally!
A Lightreading reader bitching about a competitor, BUT with something funny and relatively true to say.

But truth be told, those Cerent boxes have spread across networks like the plague (actually, they're really great boxes). Even adding some stupid DWDM will go a long way towards selling more. Suprise suprise (and no sarcasm)...SONET has flooded the Metro, and a souped-up SONET+ dumb DWDM solution may work for a while. Eventually, the coming tidal wave of bandwidth demand in the metro/access will eventually make this approach archaic, but not before Cisco rakes in tons of $$$.
Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 8:42:14 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro Can anyone compare these Cisco boxes with NN's OPTera Metro line? Anyone used both?
jim_baldwin 12/4/2012 | 8:42:11 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro While Fredo's comments are entertaining, you have to acknowledge that Cisco is going to make hay with this product. Pitching end to end is a big advantage over the startup wannabe's with point solutions. Compatibility goes a long way when there's a big installed base - witness Microsoft, not always the best product, but the easiest to buy because it works with everything else.
jim_baldwin 12/4/2012 | 8:42:10 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro I heard you were 7 ft tall and lightning shot out yer ass...you must have a very brave heart.

You may be right about this box, we'll see if anybody buys it. My only point was that CSCO looks to be taking their end-to-end play from their legacy playbook and applying it to the optical space. I'd look for them to go back on the prowl for companies producing the best of breed products you suggested to fill out their end-to-end strategy.
William Wallace 12/4/2012 | 8:42:10 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro Jim;

beyond the acknowledgement that they did another product announcemenet, i am skeptical - where cisco is concerned, you always need to look past the marketing slick - when the rubber hits the road, how tightly coupled will these two product sets be? - not very, if history plays a role at all - cisco is classic for selling products that don't talk to each other very well - how well did IOS port over to the stratacom product line (as they promised it would)? - it didn't at all - further, cerent customers have not been afraid to date to plow in DWDM systems from ONI, Ciena, etc next to their cerent boxes in lieu of ones that have the cisco logo on it....why will today be any different? - until cisco gets it right with their optical story, best-of-breed will rule the day - based on my humble review of what they announced, they rushed a two-bit solution out the door just so they could say they have one - just my opinion
fk 12/4/2012 | 8:42:09 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro Cisco is the IBM of the 90's and oughts. Cisco's product will sell many boxes even with technical inferiority compared to the competition, simply because it says Cisco on the outside. Remember "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM"? You can replace IBM with Cisco and the statement is just as true. The weaker the engineering team at the service provider, the more likely they will feel more comfortable sticking with the "tried and true" even if it costs them competitive advantage. The stronger the engineering team, the more likely they will choose the technically superior solution. Still, it's not all about engineering. There's the business case to be considered.

All in all, it is an offering from a "big boy" supplier in a space that's crowded with a profusion of startups (such as my own.) My feeling is that carriers are only going to be willing to listen to so many pitches, and take so many boxes into the lab. Many of the johnny-come-latelies are going to find it extremely tough going unless they leapfrog somehow. I think the early mover advantage is going to be extremely important in this category of product. But Cisco's advantage is that they have established relationships with many of the big players. Their box will get into some places simply because it's their box, not because of the box's intrinsic worthiness. Cisco will be a force to be reckoned with, even if they are behind, by virtue of their size, organization, and ability to slip things while simultaneously promising enough to keep (some/many) customers on hold in making their purchasing decisions. Don't underestimate Cisco. We sure don't.
William Wallace 12/4/2012 | 8:42:09 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro In response to James and FK, you both make very valid points - what i see is that this product will not touch what the cerent line did in terms of the # of installations - true, never underestimate the power of a political animal like cisco - but they have a battle on their hands here
William Wallace 12/4/2012 | 8:42:07 PM
re: Cisco Marches Deeper Into the Metro <how 15454="" be="" box?="" can="" coupled="" from="" grid="" it="" itu="" not="" product="" straight="" the="" this="" tightly="" to="" uses="" wavelengths="" when="">

matching ITU lambdas is integrated? - there's a little more involved than that - how about NMS? - the point is ONI and others are better MDWDM solutions than what cisco just announced, and not every cerent customer that needs MDWDM is going to forgo the other solutions just because "cisco" now has MDWDM

<the 15454="" aggregation="" best="" box="" delivery="" dwdm="" is="" it="" make="" not="" out="" service="" so="" the="" there="" there?="" why="">

let's be clear on the 454 - not to take away from their run-rate, but i wouldn't call it best, only first - there is big difference

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