Cisco Shows Some Optical Love

Trying to show that optical networking is not being abandoned on the doorstep, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is trotting out some new pieces for the flagship ONS 15454 optical system.

Today, Cisco announced a 40-channel reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) for 15454. It's also launching what it calls an Ethernet Xponder (pronounced "cross-ponder") and a one-blade multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP).

The products certainly exist and needed announcing, but a more important backdrop is that Cisco is taking the opportunity to say it still believes in optical. (See Into the White.)

Word has it, Cisco tried and failed to sell its optical division, turning down at least two lowball offers last year. (See Optical: Cisco's Odd Man Out? and Sources: Cisco Rejects Optical Bids.) Light Reading has since heard Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA) and Turin Networks Inc. were at least two of the companies that turned Cisco down.

Cicso won't confirm that any of this happened, nor has the company ever confessed to putting optical on the block.

"Cisco is committed to investing in the optical business," says Mike Capuano, a Cisco senior marketing manager. "We're trying to put our money where our mouth is."

Cisco's IP-over-DWDM efforts, where routers are being equipped with DWDM optics, tie into the same idea. (See Cisco's CRS-1 Goes Optical.)

"We see, long-term, a convergence, with providers trying to converge to a single service network and eliminating as many layers in the network as possible," Capuano says.

Still, "optical" doesn't mean what it did seven years ago.

"The optical that they have remaining is just kind of a byproduct of the optical of old and it’s really just to enable router and switch sales," writes analyst Mark Lutkowitz of Telecom Pragmatics, in an email to Light Reading. "So, its commitment to optical is still a secondary concern -- and more in support of its more dominant product lines."

What's left is primarily the 15454, which happens to have been the most successful of Cisco's optical acquisitions. It was also the most stunning, as Cerent, which developed the box, was acquired for $6.9 billion in stock in 1999.

The 15454 continues to generate revenues -- Cisco says optical sales during its January quarter were up 40 percent from the previous year. But that's an anomaly; Cisco can't expect that kind of growth consistently from optical. With the company aggressively trying to get into video and consumer markets, and setting goals of 10 to 15 percent growth every year, optical networking doesn't have the same importance it used to, sources close to the company say.

Meanwhile, Ajaib Bhadare, a Cerent founder brought back into Cisco to run the optical team, has left Cisco, but the company isn't explaining the circumstances. (See Headcount: Wrong Way Huawei.)

Word has it Bhadare helped move the bulk of Cisco's optical operations to India, but Cisco says that's not so.

"I'm working with lots of folks from what I guess you'd consider the former Cerent team," Capuano says. Cisco isn't saying how many employees are at Cerent's former Petaluma, Calif. site.

Oh yeah, the products
So, how about these new products? The ROADM taps into the latest trend of eight-degree ROADMs -- that is, it has eight inputs and outputs rather than just two. This lets the ROADM work in mesh networks, as opposed to the rings that needed only an eastbound and westbound interface.

The Xponder is an Ethernet add-drop card mashed up with a transponder. It's used for Layer 2 aggregation of Gigabit Ethernet feeds into 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, or for offloading a 10-Gbit/s Ethernet when it's reached its destination node.

The Xponder can also do subwavelength adding and dropping, allowing carriers to pack multiple services on a wavelength as opposed to reserving entire wavelengths for each service.

The MSPP-on-a-blade can take the place of a DWDM card on the 15454, giving the system a hybrid quality. "You can think of it as a single shelf doing DWDM and Ethernet and Sonet," Capuano says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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joaquin.garcialuna 12/5/2012 | 3:11:05 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love Somebody have a comment about Meriton plataform.
light_geeking 12/5/2012 | 3:11:26 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love Interesting debate on technical aspects of MSPP platforms. Can anyone provide a list of customers of 15454, 4200, NT, FUJI, TLAB MSPP boxes in the last 18-24 months? If info on apps for which these MSPP platforms are used by those customers that would be welcome too. Thanks.

somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 3:11:29 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love Nortel 5200 muxponder = 10:1, but even still that is a waste as far as I'm concerned - those signals typically require very little bandwidth.

IBM should put a Universal Business Adapter in front of the beasts and give us all one interface - hehe. At least they have been able to extend the distance.
somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 3:11:30 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love quoting mainline here:
The Nortel 3500 is a MSPP SONET box.
The 5200 and 6500 are both DWDM products and directly compete with the Cisco 15454 and Ciena 4200. Where is their innovation?
End quote

I do not believe the 5200 has the level of flexibility that the 15454 does although it is progressing. The 5200 was solely designed for DWDM and handing any circuit out below 1GE is inefficient use of real estate, unless you are muxpondering and then you have to have the right situation for it to make financialy feasible to do so.

While the 3500 does have the same flexibility as a 454 (it also does DWDM btw) in a more reliable platform IMO (it restarts like a carrier optical box and not like a router) I can run out of real estate on both quickly though as I fill slots for protection on Ts, DS3s, RPR, OC3s, etc. And those early 454 chassis that did not do DWDM and used to spontaneously combust did not help my opinion of them either. Not to mention by the time a 454 sales guy came to talk to me about his great new RPR feature I had already been running it for 2 years and SmartNet makes my budget speadsheets hurt.

The 3500 and 5200 have been around for a while and are very good at what they do and they aren't a ton of 15454s out there for no reason either. I have seen more than 80 454s at one site.

The 6500 is looking like the best of both worlds for me right now. It can do all flavors of what has been mentioned, but I catergorize that as the next evolution of products. Many are looking as connecting subtending 3500 and/or 5200 rings via the 6500, as well as, being able to provide the same circuits those supply for the locality in which it the 6500 itself located. I'm sure it is not the only box that does this. It is just the one I know the most about at the moment.

The 4200 from Ciena may be in that boat as well, but without Ts and DS3s I have no further need to look at it myself - I do not need to add another layer of equipment to my network. I already have enough training, space, support services, and spares to worry about.

But this conversation started as a apples to apples comparison.
ron202 12/5/2012 | 3:11:30 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love as far as I know there are a few DWDM platforms certified for GDPS : Adva , Nortel (orginal one) , Cisco 15454
toad 12/5/2012 | 3:11:30 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love Keep in mind that a Nortel, Cisco, or Adva solution will likely only be able to carry 1 STP signal per wavelength. You'll need to check with them for certain when they complete certification.

However, I've been told that Ciena's 4200 can mux 4 STP signals over a single wavelength reducing your wavelength count by 4:1. From what I understand, an STP environment could require up to 16 STP signals, so there would be significant cost savings here if I only needed 4 wavelengths instead of 16.
toad 12/5/2012 | 3:11:31 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love mainline - you are comparing apples to oranges.

I don't believe Cisco's core competency is in the DWDM domain. Even Nortel has shifted from DWDM to wireless as their core business. Ciena has helped to invent DWDM and it has always been their core competency.

Up until recently it was rumored for the last year that Cisco was trying to sell their optical business and finally decided to re-invest in it since nobody would buy it. If you look at who spends more on R&D in the DWDM world, I would bet it's Ciena and not Cisco.

Cisco's recent press release is part of the "Marketing Machine" that we all have come to expect from them. Cisco is just announcing features/functionality that Ciena has had in their product for almost 2 years now, aside from multi-degree ROADMs, which only apply to Service Providers networks.

As someone mentioned earlier, the 454 and 5200 are much more expensive than the 4200. From what I've read on the product the 4200 is a completely new architecture for DWDM with integrated switching at the sub-wavelength level and programmable ports. It also supports any protocol, including SONET over the same wavelength. I think that would simplify the network and make it more efficient, saving the end-customer money. Now, that's innovation!
toad 12/5/2012 | 3:11:31 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love I think what wdip1 was trying to say is that the 4200 is the only DWDM platform that is certified for IBM's new version of GDPS, which is STP. My understanding is that IBM has announced that they will no longer deploy any greenfield GDPS environments as of January '07. All new deployments will require the newer STP (Server Time Protocol) which can support distances of up to 100km without requiring CLO and ETR signaling. This will give mainframe customers greater flexibility in selecting DR sites that are further than the 40km limitation of CLO and ETR.
WDM amateur 12/5/2012 | 3:11:31 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love "Also, it is the only DWDM platform that has been certified by IBM for GDPS"

Absolute rubbish!!


Lucent, Nortel, Cisco, ADVA all have qualified DWDM platforms
somedumbPM 12/5/2012 | 3:11:31 PM
re: Cisco Shows Some Optical Love Thanks about the IBM info guys. I may have 2 sites going active-active mainframe in the near future. I was well aware of the old GDPS stuff. I'm sure my 5200s, as well as the 15454s, will be certified soon as these make up the majority the installed base.

Those old protocols were only supported by cards that are no longer being made on the 5200 so this STP will surely cause me less pain.
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