ROADMs Roll On

New technologies keep the ROADM momentum flowing at Supercomm, but the volume is still not there

June 7, 2005

6 Min Read
ROADMs Roll On

CHICAGO -- Supercomm 2005 -- Reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADMs) continue to be a hot topic here, as they were at last year's Supercomm, but big-money deployments don't seem any closer.

It's not a lack of carrier demand -- word has it the U.S. RBOCs are drooling over the technology. Nor is availability a problem: Vendors were hot to peddle ROADMs last year, and more have joined the game this time around (see Vendors Race for Reconfigurability and Supercomm: A ROADM Show?).

What's been blunting ROADM adoption is the price, as noted in a recent Heavy Reading report, "ROADMs and the Future of Metro Optical Networks." (See ROADMs: Almost Famous.) ROADMs allow the automated provisioning of wavelengths at optical nodes, removing some of the time and truck rolls required to make changes today. The operational savings are there, but most vendors agree that a ROADM costs more than a fixed OADM [ed. note: a FOADM?], and that's been a stumbling point.

"The whole industry has to get the volume going, and that'll get the prices down," says Rob Gaudet, director of product management for Meriton Networks Inc. "It's going to take a carrier or two, a large one, to get the ball rolling."

Movaz Networks Inc., in releasing new ROADM products this week, took a two-tiered approach. One product, probably representing Movaz's ROADM future, is a chassis scaleable to hundreds of wavelengths. But realizing that box won't fulfill its potential any time soon, Movaz is also releasing a pizza-box ROADM targeting a low-cost market.

"Even the market for [a small ROADM] is limited in 2005," says Bijan Khosravi, Movaz chairman and CEO. "We believe in 2006 the market will open up."

ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) likewise thinks a phased approach to ROADMs is most pragmatic. The company sees a parallel with its Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) strategy of selling customers combinations of CWDM and DWDM, says Per Hansen, director of business development.

But is the ROADM really all that expensive? Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) takes exception to that argument, as the company claims a wavelength-selective switch (WSS) can bring ROADM costs down to match those of fixed OADMs.

The WSS is a new ROADM development that allows greater flexibility. Previous designs were based on wavelength blockers, which could add and drop wavelengths but couldn't shift a wavelength from, say, port 2 to port 7. The WSS, which is a cousin of the all-optical switch, has that capability, and companies including ROADM leader Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. (FNC) have been adopting it during the past two years (see Fujitsu Firms Its ROADM Resolve).

Cisco uses a WSS, too, and company officials claim their 32-wavelength ROADM announced last year can match the cost of fixed OADMs in some cases (see Cisco, Meriton Join ROADM Gang).

"We've been trying to sell the ROADM at about the same price as the fixed OADM," says Rajiv Ramaswami, VP and general manager of Cisco's optical networking group. "It has a lot to do with the technology you've picked for your ROADM."

Other vendors aren't convinced. "At the moment, there's still a premium to pay for WSSs and wavelength blockers," says David O'Neill, senior product manager for ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL).

Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), for one, claims to have an answer to the cost problem. The company has announced that it's working on a capability called "Dynamic Wavelength Routing." The technology is being kept under wraps, but Ciena says it's something even cheaper than a WSS and is being prepared as an addition to the CN 4200 FlexSelect architecture for DWDM (see Ciena Launches FlexSelect and Ciena Claims DWDM Coup).

For this year, though, the WSS dominates the ROADM demo crop. Here's a rundown of the ROADM activity around the show floor:

  • Meriton is adding 320 Gbit/s worth of STS1/VC4 grooming with Release 4 of its 7200 ROADM, a move driven by carrier interest. The new addition is a single card that handles all 320 Gbit/s of switching, as opposed to the multiple racks of equipment carriers might use now, says Rob Gaudet, director of product management.

    Release 4 also adds support for Generic Framing Procedure, giving the 7200 a nudge towards the Ethernet space. "We're looking at some 10-Gbit/s Ethernet capability in future releases as well, looking to see what kind of business we could get out of that," Gaudet says. But he adds Meriton isn't interested in any speeds below 10 Gbit/s, because the 7200 can't compete there against lower-cost switches.

  • ECI is adding a WSS-based ROADM module to its XDM multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP), supplementing the fixed OADMs already available for the system. ECI has already developed optical amplifiers to go with the platform, which means its ROADMs can be applied to metro, regional, or long-haul cases. The ROADM is being demonstrated at Supercomm, and parts should be ready for trials in three months, ECI officials say.

  • Movaz is launching two ROADM cards, based on technology from the company's optical crossconnects. Both are based on the iWSS, a wavelength-selective switch that Movaz has been shipping as a wavelength switch for DWDM.

    The RAY-eROADM is a 1U box aiming at low cost, while the RAY-uROADM is a chassis intended to scale to hundreds of wavelengths. Movaz actually introduced the 40x40 U-RAY ROADM -- that's one fiber in and out, with 40 wavelengths on each fiber -- at last year's show. At this week's show, the company will demonstrate a 40x200 version due to ship in July. Movaz expects to release 200x200 and 400x400 ROADMs later.

  • Mahi Networks Inc. is showing off the Vx7 multiservice ROADM, which scored tops in technical prowess in a recent Heavy Reading report (see Mahi Previews Supercomm Stuff).

  • Cisco is announcing new ROADM customers: EastLink, Enventis Telecom Inc., Veroxity Technology Partners Inc., and the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. (Registered readers can use Light Reading's Ethernet Services Directory to learn more about {dirlink 5|49} and {dirlink 5|206}.)

  • NEC America Inc. on Monday announced a ROADM product, the SpectralWave DW4240, which provides WSS capabilities for as many as 40 wavelengths. The product is designed to connect multiple DWDM rings, and it can reach as far as 1,200km (see NEC Intros ROADM).

  • Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) said this week it will include its eROADM as a module for its Common Photonic Layer (CPL) platform. The eROADM module will enable WSS to control switching on as many as five different optical rings in the network (see Nortel Expands Optical Line). Nortel says its product has a special software automation edge, in that it can automate the changes needed in optical dispersion compensation when a ROADM changes the route. "This new optical capability will automatically calculate the dipersion compensation needed when the route changes," says Nortel vice president and general manager of optical networks, Phillippe Morin.

  • Tropic Networks Inc. will be at the show in spirit. The company doesn't have its own booth, but Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) will be showing off Tropic technology in a 1696 Metro Span system. The companies announced their partnership in September (see Alcatel Shows Off Tropic Tech).

  • Market leader Fujitsu has no product announcements planned, but at Supercomm the company will demonstrate the WSS-based ROADM announced in April.

Other vendors with ROADM technology include Marconi Corp. plc (Nasdaq: MRCIY; London: MONI), OpVista Inc., and Tellabs Inc. (Nasdaq: TLAB; Frankfurt: BTLA). Products from Infinera Inc. and Lambda Optical Systems Corp. could also be tossed into the ROADM category.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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