Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) is scheduled to announce some improvements to its SN16000 optical switch this morning. The improvements aren’t exactly mind-boggling, although they might hit the spot with carriers under continuing pressure to cut capital and operating expenditure.
The improvements include:
A single chassis “SC” version of the SN16000 that has 64x64 OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) ports or a correspondingly larger number of lower-speed ports. This takes up a half a bay in an equipment rack, unlike the larger versions of the SN16000, which take up multiple bays and can scale to a larger number of ports. The SN16000 SC is already shipping.
A high-density line card that can pack 24 OC3 (155 Mbit/s) or OC12 (622 Mbit/s) connections into a single slot in the SN16000. Sycamore claims this is three times the density of the equivalent module from Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), the market leader. Ciena says that its equivalent card can handle 16 OC3 or OC12 connections and that it outguns Sycamore on the number of connections per bay. Sycamore cites 192 connections per half bay, and Ciena cites 256.
Intermediate-reach optics. The use of more powerful lasers enables Sycamore to integrate metro and regional transmission systems into the SN16000, eliminating the need for standalone DWDM gear. Other grooming switches currently use short-range optics and can't do this, according to Jeff Kiel, vice president and general manager of Sycamore's Core Switching Business Unit. Ciena refutes this, saying it already has intermediate and long-reach optics.
Integration with add/drop multiplexers (ADMs). This software improvement enables the SN16000 to sit on the same ring as ADMs and control them, using a “multi-user data communication channel.” So far, the SN16000 can only work with one particular ADM, the ONS 15454 from Cisco Systems Inc.(Nasdaq: CSCO).
Other network management improvements. One enables engineers to override automatic provisioning so they can set up connections manually if necessary (something engineers often want to do in real life, according to Kiel). Another gives carriers a real-time view of traffic trends and utilization levels of their infrastructure. Up until now, carriers have had to use historical data, which is often old and hard to analyze, according to Sycamore.
Whether this is enough to help Sycamore catch up with Ciena remains to be seen. Ciena now has 29 customers for is CoreDirector switch, while Sycamore has eight for its SN3000 and SN16000. Mind you, Sycamore was late to the party, and at least three of its customers are monster carriers -- Bell South, NTT Corp., and Vodafone Group PLC.
Vodafone, one of the biggest mobile telephone operators in the world, is particularly interesting, in that it’s rolling out a switched optical network, even though nearly all of its traffic is voice at present.
— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.comFor more on optical switches, register for Light Reading's ground-breaking Webinar on the topic, scheduled for Thursday, Jan 24.