Nortel Pushes Optical Ethernet
Observers note, however, that Nortel is still playing catchup to many of the leading Ethernet switching competitors, who entered the market for metropolitan gigabit Ethernet switches some time ago. Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR), and Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) have been pushing "Ethernet Everywhere" strategies for some months. Extreme launched an Ethernet strategy targeted at metropolitan networks about a year ago.
The stakes are rising as it's become evident, especially this week, that carriers have acknowledged the importance of gigabit Ethernet services in metropolitan markets. Just yesterday, large service providers Broadwing Communications Inc. (NYSE: BRW) and Quest Communications detailed initiatives for high-bandwidth services based on gigabit Ethernet equipment, ahead of Nortel’s plans (see Qwest, Broadwing Go Gigabit Ethernet).
These carriers have watched startups like Cogent Communications Inc., Telseon Inc., and Yipes Communications Inc. offer gigabit Ethernet services over fiber in the metro and close round after round of funding, seemingly unhampered by the current capital market conditions. Officials from both Broadwing and Qwest agree that highspeed MAN/WAN services will eventually come together across optical Ethernet connections.
Eric Ross, president of Internet telephony solutions at Nortel, told Light Reading, “The minute one [carrier] jumps on Ethernet, the others will jump. The telcos are not going to sit back and watch that happen.”
Nortel of course, does not believe it is late to this market. Peter Evans, VP of marketing for the company’s local Internet, service provider, and carrier group said, “Demand for gigabit Ethernet services in the metro is really just beginning to take off; the capacity requirement has not been there until now.” He said one of the biggest drivers today is connecting storage area networks to metropolitan networks, as well as enterprise outsourcing and hosting services.
Nortel aims to use its dominant position in the optical market to tap into the demand for gigabit Ethernet services. Its Passport 8600 routing switch will ship early in the first quarter of 2002.
However, according to David Newman, president of Network Test Inc. , Nortel’s products are no match for what’s already out on the market. Cisco's Catalyst 6509 enterprise switch offers a 256-Gbit/s backplane, while Nortel today announced a service provider switch with a 128-Gbit/s backplane. “They have a good position in management, but they don’t have the feeds and speeds to match," says Newman.
— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch