January 9, 2008
In a bid to join the packet-optical party, Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) has added Ethernet switching functionality to its flagship CN 4200 FlexSelect family. (See Ciena Adds Ethernet.)
The vendor has unveiled two new Ethernet modules, the G10 and G10X, that it says will add Ethernet aggregation and switching capabilities to its popular family of metro and regional optical transport devices. (See Ciena Touts BT Deployment, Ciena's Ethernet Push Pays Off, Ciena Wins neuf cegetel Deal, and Cable Tuning In Ciena DWDM.)
The addition of Ethernet functionality through its G10 and G10X Ethernet Service Modules will help pit Ciena against Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. , Nortel Networks Ltd. , and other vendors duking it out in the increasingly popular packet optical space. (See Optical's Packet Magic, Nortel's Noisy With Optical Opportunity, Meriton Tackles Ethernet Transport, and Fujitsu Updates the MSPP.)
The G10 and G10X can be plugged into CN 4200 deployments, which may help Ciena win new business from its customers. The vendor says the new products will allow customers to lower costs and simplify their networks by adding a card to an existing box rather than deploying an Ethernet switch.
"With the G10, you are adding Ethernet switching functionality into the 4200, and doing away with the standalone switch. It's a matter of adding a line module versus purchasing another device," says Dave Parks, senior product marketing manager for Ciena.
Ciena's move makes sense, but may have limited appeal, according to Heavy Reading analyst Sterling Perrin.
"It's good for the installed base to have a card that can just be plugged in," Perrin says. "The question is whether the industry is going to move to integrated switching fabrics, or whether they'd want to do [Ethernet] on a card. There are definite advantages that you get with an integrated fabric -- having it on a card may not be the winning approach."
While Ciena currently offers Ethernet switching and aggregation via the new modules, Perrin believes the vendor could be working on adding Layer 2 functionality at the heart of the 4200. "My sense is they may want to move to a more centralized Ethernet fabric on the device itself," he says.
The G10 offers 10 ports of 10/100/1000 Mbit/s Ethernet, while the G10X offers one 10-Gbit/s Ethernet port. Both modules support Ethernet operations, administration, and maintenance (OAM), link aggregation, hierarchical quality of service (QOS), and connection-oriented Ethernet functionality.
The modules support MEF standard E-Line services, with plans to also support E-LAN services in the future. They also support VLAN crossconnect functionality and will support PBB-TE (Provider Backbone Bridging, Traffic Engineering), the connection-oriented flavor of Ethernet also known as PBT (Provider Backbone Transport), in a future release. (See Ciena's PBB-TE Play, 2007 Top Ten: Technologies to Watch, PBT: New Kid on the Metro Block, and PBT's Ethernet Appeal.)
The 4200's support of connection-oriented Ethernet will be key to Ciena's ability to compete with other packet optical players, as carriers are increasingly looking for deterministic Ethernet capabilities in converged packet-optical products, says Perrin.
"Ciena needs not just Layer 2 switching, but it also needs connection-oriented Ethernet to be successful in bids," says the analyst.
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading
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