Optical/IP Networks

Internet Photonics Broadens Targets

Internet Photonics Inc. is beefing up its CWDM-based transport platform -- and drawing a big red target on its back at the same time.

The vendor is adding Sonet/SDH and Fibre Channel/Ficon support to its Lightstack MXA, a small unit that puts access traffic from corporate or carrier networks onto CWDM wavelengths (see Internet Photonics Swells LightStack).

Up to now, the MXA supported only Ethernet traffic. It's been viewed as competitive with a range of metro Ethernet solutions, particularly from vendors that also support CWDM, such as ADVA AG Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) (see Nortel Jumps on the CWDM Wagon ).

Now, though, the MXA has been outfitted with its own ability to regenerate Sonet/SDH signals at rates to 2.5 Gbit/s. That means it offers a cheaper alternative to adding full-scale ADMs (add/drop multiplexers) to carrier networks, according to the vendor. Instead of paying for two separate devices -- a CWDM transport unit and an ADM -- carriers can use just one relatively small MXA to put Sonet/SDH signals over wavelengths with other forms of traffic.

It's a proposition that increases the potential rewards -- and risks -- for Internet Photonics. The startup is pitting itself not only against Ethernet transport and CWDM products and vendors, but against next-generation Sonet/SDH ones as well. This increases the vendor's irritation quotient with ADVA and Nortel, as well as Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA). At the least, these and other big players are apt to look harder at ways to fight the upstart in key accounts.

Internet Photonics thinks it can hold its own. Carriers, particularly in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region, are eager to use the MXA to extend point-to-point services in greenfield networks, where they formerly would have required extra Sonet/SDH gear, says VP of marketing Gary Southwell.

What's more, thanks to a "Sonet wraparound" capability inside the MXA, which enables the box to pass Sonet/SDH traffic untouched over the same fiber that's using CWDM channels created by the MXA, carriers also can add Ethernet and storage services as an offshoot to Sonet-based private lines.

"We let carriers continue to build out their Sonet networks successfully at one third to one fifth the cost," Southwell boasts.

The downside is scaleability. The MXA is a four-channel CWDM unit that can be glommed together with a second box to achieve a maximum of eight channels. That will help out many carriers in the access portion of the network, but it will start to sputter as networks bloom.

What's more, Internet Photonics hasn’t added the Sonet/SDH regeneration capabilities to all of its products. A separate access mux called the GSLAM, which aggregates optical flows and acts as traffic cop at the central office, is still without the ability to regenerate Sonet/SDH traffic (see Internet Photonics Touts VOD). It can still pass it through. But carriers are going to require extra ADMs to group output from lots of remote-site MXAs.

Southwell says there’s no immediate need to address the scaleability issue. Carriers are more urgently in need of economical access connectivity: “They tell us scaleability can come later." He has no timeframe to offer for when Sonet/SDH capabilities might be added to the GSLAM.

In a sense, Internet Photonics is banking on bigger vendors being late to the party with extensible Sonet/SDH features. According to one analyst, it's a strategy that's worked for the startup so far. By focusing on Ethernet connectivity, Internet Photonics got a first-mover advantage in an area where larger vendors hadn't made a big dent, says Sterling Perrin of IDC. His firm calculates that Internet Photonics came second only to Nortel in 2002 as a supplier of Ethernet metro gear, a market that totaled about $85 million.

The vendor's also done well by focusing on cable MSOs, such as Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), reducing its chances of disappointment in a market where other startups were aiming for RBOCs and other large fry.

Still, Perrin doesn't deny the increased competitive challenge Internet Photonics has taken on with this announcement. "They'll come into contact with leading vendors in metro WDM more and more," he says. "Sonet will be a challenge." Still, having the storage application in the MXA may help, since that's still relatively new turf, he notes.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Be the first to post a comment regarding this story.
Sign In