Nortel Targets Next-Gen Congestion

Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) says things are getting crowded in central offices. And it's got new next-generation Sonet gear to cut down on box buildup.

Nortel today announced the OPTera Metro Connect, which bridges the gap between its OPTera Metro 3500 Multiservice Platform and its OPTera Connect DX optical switch. Nortel's also enhanced the 3500 with DS1 connectivity cards that it claims should help carriers feed into the new box to create more efficient metro networks (see Nortel Intros Next-Gen Sonet).

"We saw a hole for 2.5-Gbit/s to 140-Gbit/s capacity in next-generation Sonet platforms," says Joe Padgett, director of product marketing at Nortel.

While the OPTera 3500 helps consolidate, manage, and add new interfaces to Sonet traffic below 2.5 Gbit/s of capacity, and the Connect DX handles 100 Gbit/s to 140 Gbit/s, something in between was needed, Padgett says.

Enter the Metro Connect, which does most of what the DX does, including grooming VT1.5 and STS1 Sonet channels and subchannels, but offers capacity between 10 Gbit/s and 140 Gbit/s.

The fact that Nortel has introduced an intermediary product does give some cause for head-scratching. Indeed, some sources say Nortel may be signaling that some of its existing metro gear -- including the DX -- may be a tad too big for today's market.

Whatever the case, analysts say Nortel's now on target with the sizing. "Carriers want smaller-scale Optical Crossconnects to help them avoid stacking more next-gen Sonet boxes," says Sterling Perrin of IDC

Perrin says the popularity of next-generation Sonet gear like the 3500 has led to box buildup in carrier facilities. That, as well as an ongoing need to replace cumbersome Sonet ADMs, has encouraged carriers to look at gear that provides a bit more bandwidth than what they initially expected in next-gen equipment.

Apparently, though, carriers aren't looking to big crossconnects just yet. Instead, they're looking for interim solutions that help save the cost of moving to a bigger system like the DX before it's really warranted.

To avoid big upgrades, Perrin says, service providers are reaching for gear such as the CoreDirector CI from Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) to address the need for midrange crossconnects. According to IDC, the attraction of the CI is that it fills a midrange slot for carriers that want a smaller version of Ciena's MetroDirector K2. The CI goes to just 160 Gbit/s, instead of the 480 Gbit/s ceiling on the K2.

Neither Nortel nor Ciena seems ready to say their big crossconnects may be too big for some metro applications. Ciena says it's not seeing a noticeable uptick in sales of the CI (even though it's also not seeing any reduction in sales). Ciena says it prefers to peddle the MetroDirector K2, not the CoreDirector CI, in comparison with any of Nortel's OPTera Metro series.

For its part, Nortel may have built a lever into the Metro Connect that ensures the DX won't be kicked aside. As a next-generation Sonet box, the OPTera Metro Connect is supposed to feature interfaces to emerging services (see BigBand Shaping HDTV). But it's lacking 10-Gbit/s Ethernet connectivity, and there's no date as to when that might be added. Right now, the OPTera Metro Connect supports Sonet links to 10 Gbit/s but only 1-Gbit/s Ethernet ones.

Clearly, Nortel doesn't see an immediate need for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet in a smaller crossconnect. The vendor appears to think that by the time customers are ready for the increased capacity of the DX, the need for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet will have emerged.

Nortel will be showing its new gear at Supercomm 2002.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.comFor more information on Supercomm 2002, please visit: Supercomm Special

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