Cisco Bolsters Its MSTP

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) today unveiled Release 7.0 of its ONS 15454 optical transport platform, which boasts 40-Gbit/s transmission and enhanced aggregation capabilities, something the vendor believes is becoming increasingly important as carriers and enterprises alike look to converge their multiple traffic streams. (See Cisco Upgrades Gear.)

The core message from Cisco is that the 15454 MSTP can support any DWDM topology and aggregate traffic from Layer 2, Layer 3, and storage systems at up to 40 Gbit/s.

The firm's European optical product manager, Massimo Cambiaghi, says the upgrade to 40-Gbit/s transmission brings the 15454 in line with the 40-Gbit/s DWDM optical capabilities added to the firm's core router, the CRS-1, back in December. (See Cisco's CRS-1 Goes Optical.)

He also touted the extension of the platform's C-band wavelength support to include L-band frequencies. That adds another 32 channels in each fiber on top of the existing 32, a doubling of capacity that Cambiaghi says will help network operators extend the life of their fiber plants.

In terms of aggregation, a key upgrade comes from a new 10-Gbit/s muxponder, which allows operators to mix fiber channel and Ethernet traffic across a single wavelength, and a new, multiprotocol 10-Gbit/s transponder that's tunable across the C-band and L-band, which, says Cisco, will give users greater flexibility.

There's also a Sonet/SDH muxponder that aggregates up to four STM 16 (2.5 Gbit/s) connections into a single 10-Gbit/s wavelength, and an enhanced 2.5-Gbit/s data muxponder that supports up to eight ESCON (Enterprise Systems Connection) clients and "can cope with any storage network interface an enterprise might have," says Cambiaghi.

In terms of scaleability, Cisco has also added new mesh, or multi-ring, support for multinode configurations that allows an operator, in the future, to upgrade its ROADM capabilities from a single ring to multiple rings, enabling a wavelength to reach any node on the network.

The vendor has also added "alien lambda" support, which allows 10-Gbit/s or 40-Gbit/s wavelengths to be passively received from routers and switches, including other vendors' gear, without the need for a transponder on the 15454.

There are also new management and provisioning capabilities, allowing performance monitoring of TDM, Ethernet, and Fibre Channel traffic, as well as new planning tools.

Cisco even has a couple of customers already using the new platform: Finnish hosting firm Tieto Corp. and Ukrainian service provider DataGroup.

All well and good. But will the overall upgrade put to rest any disquiet among 15454 users that Cisco might not have long-term plans for the platform? Probably not, says Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst at Heavy Reading. (See Cisco Denies Optical Slowdown.)

"There's nothing here that leaps out as being industry leading, but it's all critical to being a player in the current metro DWDM space," says Clavenna. He believes this keeps Cisco in the game, but "this amounts to a lot of DWDM enhancements -- there's still a big Sonet/SDH switch at its core."

Clavenna says some of the new features are those that are gaining increasing interest among carriers, especially the alien lambda capabilities that will help decrease costs as 10-Gbit/s feeds become the norm and there's a reduced need for any multiplexing. But his general impression is that this is all part of Cisco's shift towards IP over DWDM and a shift away from traditional TDM capabilities -- and that's what is worrying some among the installed 15454 customer base.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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