Ixia Tackles 40G Testing

Are 40-Gbit/s OC768 Sonet deployments just around the corner? Judging from all the activity in the tester market, one might assume so.

Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) is the latest company to come out with its 40-Gig kit, as it introduced its 40-Gigabit Bit Error Rate Testing (BERT) Load Module today. The company is demonstrating the new tester at its booth at the Opticon 2002 tradeshow and conference in San Jose, Calif., this week.

Most experts agree that carrier deployments of 40-Gbit/s gear are still at least two years away (see 40 Gbit/s: Ready for Prime Time?). And as carriers continue to cut spending, they won't be seriously evaluating new technologies, such as 40 Gbit/s, any time soon. But, while system vendors may not have 40 Gbit/s development at the top of their to-do lists, component vendors do.

“The carrier time frame to deploy OC768 has definitely been pushed out,” says Josh Goldstein, director of product marketing for Ixia. “The systems developers have slowed development as a result, but component vendors can’t slow down. If they try to sit it out for a year, they’ll be a whole development cycle behind the competition.”

Component development is crucial for pushing the entire industry forward when it comes to OC768 technology. In order for system development to happen, components need to be available. Some analysts say that a lack of 40-Gbit/s components already has contributed to the delay in adoption.

“One of the most basic hurdles for widespread 40G acceptance is a dearth of critical components,” says Rick Schafer, an analyst with CIBC World Markets. “For instance, chipsets for alternate modulation techniques have yet to be designed and as a result are not likely to be commercially available in volume until 2004.“

Testing gear is crucial to the components development. This is where testing companies such as Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), Anritsu Corp., Ixia, and Spirent plc (NYSE: SPM; London: SPT) come into play. They all are offering 40-Gbit/s testing gear right now.

While Ixia is not the first 40-Gbit/s testing company to market, it claims to be one of the first to introduce a compact, portable tester. The Ixia 40-Gigabit BERT Load Module can be operated from within Ixia’s existing 400T portable chassis or its 1600T tabletop/rack-mount chassis. These chassis also test 10-Gbit/s and 2.5-Gbit/s components. The 400T chassis is about 10.5 inches wide, 5.75 inches tall and 16 inches deep -- roughly the same size as an LCD video projector. It comes equipped with a handle so it can be easily carried from place to place.

Rivals Agilent, Anritsu, and Spirent all offer 40-Gbit/s testers, but most of them are much larger than Ixia’s. Agilent, which announced its Agilent ParBERT 81250 43G and BERT E2150A 43G last July, was among the first to market. Its testers supposedly take up an entire seven-foot telecom rack when fully configured for input and output testing (see Testers Forge On to 40 Gigs).

Anritsu has introduced two 40-Gbit/s testers: The ME7750A tester, which operates at speeds up to 43.5 Gbit/s, was introduced last fall; and the ME7780A Bit Error Rate Test (BERT) system, which operates up to 48 Gbit/s, was introduced in June at this year's Supercomm tradeshow in Atlanta (see Anritsu Intros OC-768 Tester). Spirent also introduced its 40-Gbit/s tester at Supercomm this year (see Spirent Demos OC-768 Framing). Unlike Ixia’s product, none of these testers are portable, and most of them take up at least half a telecom rack.

Ixia’s new testing module will also support the newly approved SerDes-Framer Interface 5 (SFI-5), a standard which will allow chips from different vendors to be mixed and matched in the same transport and switching systems (see OIF Gives 40 Gig a Boost).

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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