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Ciena Stirs Up the Metro Market

Ciena unveils a new platform leveraging its skills in programmable optical networking to target inter-data center connectivity, but has it done enough to excite the market?

Dan O'Shea

June 10, 2014

4 Min Read
Ciena Stirs Up the Metro Market

The metro market is quickly being redefined as the data center interconnection market, and Ciena is rolling out a new metro transport platform aimed at not only providing the optical foundation for the metro, but also capable of multi-terabit switching of traffic between data centers.

Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) today introduced its 8700 Packetwave platform, which integrates 100 Gigabit Ethernet and MPLS-TP packet switching with 100G coherent optics and photonics technologies. The platform also can be used with Ciena's V-WAN software for on-demand cloud service connectivity.

The platform, which generated some speculation last week when it was hinted at by Ciena executives during the company's earnings conference call, will be commercially available this summer. At least one Ciena customer -- Fibertech Networks -- already plans to deploy it. (See Ciena Unveils Packetwave Switching Platform and Ciena Hints at Big Product Announcement.)

Ciena appears to be making a bid to further shake up its traditional image as an optical specialist, and be considered more of a packet-optical player, but also to prove it can provide value in the fast-growing metro Ethernet market.

"We've taken the best of the data center and the best of metro optical, and put them together in one platform whose sole purpose in life is to aggregate and switch Ethernet traffic over DWDM between data centers," says Mike Adams, vice president of product and technical marketing at Ciena. "Metro networks need to be built differently, and we believe this product helps create a new marketplace."

Ciena is clearly excited about that data center connectivity marketplace, as are others, including other vendors with an optical heritage, and those that have a more packet-oriented view of the world, such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) (See Eurobites: ADVA Targets Inter-Data Center Connectivity and Transmode Intros Coherent 100G Metro 100G Plug-Ins.)

Ciena's timing is also significant, as metro networks appear on the verge of moving to 100 Gigabit Ethernet to support explosive bandwidth demand for data center interconnection and other applications. (See OTN Innovation Boosts Metro 100G.)

Anyone thinking Ciena was going to be taking on Cisco's NCS 4000 or Juniper's PTX3000, though, will probably be disappointed, believes Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin. (See Cisco Unveils Carrier SDN Network Fabric and Juniper Aims Big With 100G Optical.)

While the new 8700 product does boast both packet and optical capabilities, it's a "simple product -- a high-density Ethernet switch with DWDM optics attached, and I'm not sure how much demand there will be for those DWDM capabilities," says Perrin.

Perrin was expecting something a bit more exciting. "I think Ciena may have set expectations a bit too high. This is a simple product -- it doesn't have the higher-level packet functionality I was expecting -- MPLS-TP is not setting the market alight right now. Ciena seems to be going for simplicity and low cost. It's not the next-generation 6500, though to be fair that's maybe not what Ciena was aiming for."

What's not in doubt is that the metro market is hot and that data center connectivity is the application driving demand and excitement. It will also be fertile ground for the transport SDN debate that is raging currently, and which will be addressed in detail at the Big Telecom Event in Chicago (June 17-18).

Ciena has its own take on that topic, with its OPn architecture strategy making the case for greater optical layer programmability. As Adams puts it, "SDN networks are useless without a programmable hardware foundation." (See OFC: Ciena Smartens Up Photonic Layer.)

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see the agenda.

About the Author(s)

Dan O'Shea

Analyst, Heavyreading.com

You want Dans? We got 'em! This one, "Fancy" Dan O'Shea, has been covering the telecom industry for 20 years, writing about virtually every technology segment and winning several ASBPE awards in the process. He previously served as editor-in-chief of Telephony magazine, and was the founding editor of FierceTelecom. Grrrr! Most recently, this sleep-deprived father of two young children has been a Chicago-based freelance writer, and continues to pontificate on non-telecom topics such as fantasy sports, craft beer, baseball and other subjects that pay very little but go down well at parties. In his spare time he claims to be reading Ulysses (yeah, right), owns fantasy sports teams that almost never win, and indulges in some fieldwork with those craft beers. So basically, it's time to boost those bar budgets, folks!

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