Vendors Race for Reconfigurability
LOS ANGELES -- OFC 2004 -- The buzz in reconfigurable DWDM technology seems to be whipping equipment providers into a mild frenzy.
It's now apparent that new service provider activity in this market was the motivating force behind Lucent Technologies Inc.'s (NYSE: LU) partnership with Movaz Networks Inc., announced earlier this week (see Lucent & Movaz Seal Deal).
Additionally, a recent flurry of activity among producers of reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexing (ROADM) technology has driven prices lower for the technology, making it more economical for systems vendors to put together products -- and for service providers to deploy them (see ROADMs Could Boost Components, ROADM Vendors Perk Up, and Voodoo Econ in Metro DWDM).
It's been known for some time that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and SBC Communications Inc. (NYSE: SBC) have been working on metro DWDM RFPs that include ROADM technology, but they appear to have stepped up their interest recently.
"Verizon may not spell it R-O-A-D-M, but that's what they want," said Michael Howard, principal with Infonetics Research Inc. "We did a survey of all the major carriers, and they say they're all going to install ROADM technology in the next 12 months."
Verizon has announced one small deal, centering on a research network, with startup Photuris Inc., which indicated its initial interest in the technology (see Verizon Helps Texas A&M). But Verizon is expected to get more serious with a sizeable RFP in 2004.
In addition to Lucent, Movaz, and Photuris, other players in the metro DWDM market include Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA), and Tropic Networks Inc.
And watch this space, because a Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) employee who asked not to be identified (and was later seen with a paper bag over his head) told Light Reading that Cisco is developing new ROADM technology in its existing metro DWDM products. Light Reading asked Cisco's more official marketing channels for a comment, but has not heard back.
So, what's the deal? Well, the service providers explain it best: Apparently, they've decided they just have to have the stuff.
Ralph Ballart, vice president of broadband infrastructure and services with SBC Laboratories, says that SBC is seriously interested in deploying the technology.
"In the core network, the churn is very large, and it's an economic penalty not to have fully flexible add/drop capability," said Ballart. "We're looking at [ROADM systems] on the market -- it's pretty exciting. Our expectation is that over the next ten years this will start to displace Sonet."
Of course, it's quite possible that the market may not live up to these lofty expectations. Some sources at OFC told Light Reading that prices must still come down for ROADM to become a viable market in metro networks.
There's also the issue of whether ROADM technology is mature enough. Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI) was one of the first vendors to introduce a ROADM-based product, the PMA32. It's been carrying live traffic in BT Group plc's network for more than three years, but there were teething problems to start with (see Tropic: Hot or What?).
— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading