Ciena Catches Packet/Optical Convergence Bug

Ciena's CoreDirector gets an upgrade, but it's the 5400 family of switches that represents Ciena's future in packet-optical transport

Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

September 28, 2009

4 Min Read
Ciena Catches Packet/Optical Convergence Bug

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) is launching a box called CoreDirector FS today, but it's not the rockin' new successor to CoreDirector that some people have talked about.


CoreDirector FS is an upgrade that has some elements that could live up to the "CoreDirector 2" tag, but it's more "a midlife kicker for CoreDirector," says Joe Berthold, Ciena's vice president of network architecture. (See Ciena Unveils CoreDirector FS.)

The real next-generation platform -- code-named Centaur, as Light Reading reported last week -- is the Ciena 5400 switch family, also unveiled today. It represents a proper entry in the packet-optical transport switch (P-OTS) category that's attracting nearly all optical and router vendors. (See Optical's Packet Magic and Ciena Launches 5400 Family.)

The 5400 and the FS both combine capabilities of Ciena's CN 4200 and original CoreDirector platforms, a development Light Reading first reported in March. (See Ciena Preps 'CoreDirector 2'.)

In fact, the 5400 combines something from just about every part of Ciena's portfolio: Ethernet switching, Sonet/SDH switching, optical transport network (OTN) support, and wavelength switching in the form of reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer (ROADM) capabilities. Put another way, it includes functionality derived from CoreDirector, the CN 4200, and the Carrier Ethernet gear acquired with World Wide Packets. (See Ciena Thinks Big in Ethernet.)

But it's not intended as a next-generation substitute for every one of them. "Our strategy isn't to consolidate everything into one single box," says Tom Mock, Ciena's senior vice president of strategic planning.

More likely, the 5400 would be attached to other types of Ciena gear depending on the type of network being built -- 4200s for a packet-optical network, for instance. Or, the 5400 could connect to other vendors' equipment, as a multiservice switch.

The 5400 is tied together by OneOS, an operating system that lets Ciena do traffic grooming or end-to-end provisioning on 5400s across the network. Over time, it's possible OneOS could become a common software across all of Ciena's products. That's not a near-term goal, though, Berthold says.

The 5400 comes in two varieties. The 30-slot 5430 has 3.6 Tbit/s of switching capacity; the 10-slot 5410 has 1.2 Tbit/s of switching capacity. Larger and smaller versions are in the works, Mock says.

And the 5400 is modular, able to add those functions one at a time. That's because the market just isn't primed for a God Box.

"We know that most service providers want to get to a multiservice device at some point, but they want to get there on a transitional path," says Mock. "We really didn't have any of them that were prepared to go all the way to a next-generation network."

It seems likely that other P-OTS entries will be modular, too. Startup Cyan Optics Inc. took that approach with its Z77 and Z33 systems, for instance. (See Cyan Plays God With Optical.)

Others haven't specified their products, although the strategy seems in tune with the P-OTS trend. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), for instance, has talked big about intertwining the optical and packet networks, while Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has teamed up with Nokia Networks to build a packet-optical strategy. (See AlcaLu Makes Its Packet-Optical Move and NSN, Juniper Converge IP & Optical.)

CoreDirector FS
While there's been a lot of R&D focus on the 5400, the CoreDirector Classic has been shown some love as well. The FS version is more than just fancy new doors (although it has those as part of an external makeover).

CoreDirector FS is an upgrade that includes a variety of new hardware and software modules. But there's no new backplane involved, meaning an older CoreDirector can be upgraded to FS status.

Perhaps most notably, CoreDirector FS gives the platform a multiservice look by adding Ethernet and OTN switching. This preps CoreDirector for future networks that will rely more on packets than on Sonet/SDH. CoreDirector FS will be aimed at functions such as end-to-end OTN circuit creation, and Ciena intends to highlight the FS's ability to work more closely with CN 4200s in the network.

All that adds up to better support for new services such as video distribution and E-Line business services, Mock says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Craig Matsumoto

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Yes, THAT Craig Matsumoto – who used to be at Light Reading from 2002 until 2013 and then went away and did other stuff and now HE'S BACK! As Editor-in-Chief. Go Craig!!

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