Infinera Makes Its Metro Move

Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) has released details on its long-awaited metro system, which began shipping in August, but it's not the same showstopper that the company's original DTN was.

In fact, the photonic integrated circuits (PIC), of which Infinera is so proud, don't factor into the ATN, which got its official launch today. (See Infinera Adds Metro System.)

"We wanted to provide a solution that was cost-effective for a single wavelength," says Paul Morkel, Infinera's senior director of product marketing. "The PIC technology is very good for multiple wavelengths," but overkill for just one.

PICs also happen to be expensive, and the ATN had to be cheap enough to be deployed as a customer-premises box when necessary. Infinera tapped some merchant components for the ATN, a higher percentage than in the company's previous products, but the system was designed in-house, Morkel says.

Being "metro," the ATN is engineered for reaches of less than 80 km and is built with lower capacity than the DTN, with room to terminate eight 10-Gbit/s Ethernet connections.

Analysts have grilled Infinera for some time about its lack of a metro box to complement the DTN long-haul DWDM system. Last month, Infinera said it had begun shipping such a system and had four customer wins for it. (See Infinera Talks Metro, 40-Gig.)

Still, it feels like there's something... missing...

"It's just not that exciting without the PIC," says Heavy Reading analyst Sterling Perrin. "It's OK for them. It's just not very unique as a product. There's a whole bunch of vendors in WDM access."

Perrin thinks the ATN will appeal mostly to customers already using the DTN.

Infinera "had to do something. The question is whether they had to take R&D to build a new product," Perrin says.

Infinera says the ATN has its advantages, though. For customers already using the DTN, the ATN fits into the same management system, making it easy to adopt. Those carriers could also skip one transponder shelf in the network, because the ATN can place wavelengths directly onto a ring for the DTN to pick up and doesn't need the transponder as an intermediary.

But why use the ATN if you're not already an Infinera customer? Perrin is skeptical that many carriers would, but Morkel suggests that the compact size (three rack units tall for a system sporting eight 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports) and the low power might entice customers.

Infinera plans to add reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) options for the ATN, as ROADM technology gets cheaper.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

digits 12/5/2012 | 3:53:50 PM
re: Infinera Makes Its Metro Move

Is this a disappointment?

I'm sure like many folk I was waiting to see just how Infinera could adapt its PIC tech to the metro space, but was it ever going to happen?

The company has clearly just done the most practical thing it could, but as you point out it's not registering on the excitement scale, and the claims of density and low power consumption are rife throughout the sector.

At the end of the day Infinera has made a practical move. It won't win any awards (well, there's always the 'everyone's a winner' InfoVision gongs, though) but maybe this time around that was the only option.

If that's the case, maybe this is the end of market-changing innovation in metro transport....  

jggveth 12/5/2012 | 3:53:49 PM
re: Infinera Makes Its Metro Move What a piece of crud. This is basically an ADVA box. These guys have no packet capabilities, which is what carriers want on their new high value metro boxes. I guess they really do need to buy Nortel, with someones else's help, to ever get the sales above $100 mil per quarter.
Stevery 12/5/2012 | 3:53:49 PM
re: Infinera Makes Its Metro Move

I'm sure like many folk I was waiting to see just how Infinera could adapt its PIC tech to the metro space, but was it ever going to happen?

Of the entire system cost, what fraction did you think is due to the optics?

macster 12/5/2012 | 3:53:47 PM
re: Infinera Makes Its Metro Move

Those in the know... knew that it was going to be a simple FOADM and not much more. Can Craig now remove them from nomination? :p

Let's see what they offer with the other ?TN product.

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