Sycamore Spiffs Up Its Switch

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.com For more on optical switches, register for Light Reading's ground-breaking Webinar on the topic, scheduled for Thursday, Jan 24.

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    konaboy 12/4/2012 | 11:01:50 PM
    re: Sycamore Spiffs Up Its Switch "The Sycamore 16000 can accept a signal at 1310 or 1550 nm directly."

    I think the original question was essentially "can the SN16000 or the CoreDirector directly accept a signal operating at an ITU grid frequency?"

    In other words, do these devices have transponding OEO interface cards?
    trixie 12/4/2012 | 11:01:11 PM
    re: Sycamore Spiffs Up Its Switch That makes 360 Networks gone bust, Storm down to about 80 people and not doing anything and Vodafone not spending - do Sycamore have anymore customers in Europe - even more trouble ahead I think?

    That leaves Utfors and KPNQwest, AFAIK....

    Aside from BellSouth, this looks to tbe the only dollars in the door, as WCG has dried up, too.
    trixie 12/4/2012 | 11:01:09 PM
    re: Sycamore Spiffs Up Its Switch Do switches like the CoreDirector or Sycamore 16000 have the ability to eliminate the need for transponders in a metro DWDM interface application? Can they take in a 15xx interface directly into the switch line cards or do they need conversion to 1310 before the switch?

    Colored Optics (15xxnm) have been considered for a long time, as have integrated switching/transport. Most receivers in use are wavelength insensitive, so anything coming in is OK. The outputs can be adapted to provide 15xx or stanbdard SR 1310 light, however, the fun begins when one must integrate the control planes to accomodate line power balancing with the 15xx outputs. Not to mention the additional costs of colored optics.

    This is even more fun betwen a switch like the SN16K and a transport system, as they use different methods of communication. The switch uses in-band OH and the transport, like their SN8K or 10K, uses a 1510nm Optical supervisory channel. Not to mention the different languages they both speak.

    CoreDirector has the same set of challenges, I suspect, as initially the transport and switching controls were intended to remain separate, as most carriers did not want to put all their eggs in a single basket, recognizing that the technologies would develop at independent rates, and fearing an integrated solution would limit them to the lowest common denominator.

    <sigh> the short answer is yes, but it is expensive and tedious to accomplish from a development perspective. This may be less the case in a metro deployment where DWDM transport is not a consideration.

    A downsized OEO switch with tunable 15xx outputs would be a neat application in a metro environment, allowing a lot of flexibility, however, provisioning on demand still means you have to put in (and pay for) all the gear up front, something carriers are loth to do.</sigh>
    Northern Optics 12/4/2012 | 10:59:17 PM
    re: Sycamore Spiffs Up Its Switch All is still quiet on the Sycamore front....I've not heard anything about their European operations. Looking forward to Feb. 12....
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