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Optical/IP

Lucent Preps Optical God Box

Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) has been busy remaking its optical networking product lines, informed sources tell Light Reading. Not many specifics are available yet, but sources say Lucent is embracing a trend of creating a more flexible WDM system design where it can use some of the same components to address metro, regional, and long-haul applications.

The New Jersey-based equipment giant itself wouldn't comment on this story, but one source close to the company puts forth the idea that a new kind of WDM combo device is close at hand.

"There is a move in the market to develop devices where you have multiple layers integrated into one platform," our source says. "This would include a Sonet STS1 crossconnect, DWDM transport, and packet processing for either Layer 2 or Layer 3. And this box would be deployable in regional and long-haul networks."

Such an approach sounds expensive to build, but useful to the largest of the large telecom carriers.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), in fact, has already stated in a recent request for proposal that it aims to integrate "wavelength and Sonet transport and switching capabilities into a single element."

The carrier wants to build a transparent mesh architecture that allows wavelengths to be expressed between hubs with minimal regeneration, and it wants its transport solution to have the ability to support WDM and TDM add/drop multiplexing capabilities.

In order to make the network less complex, Verizon asked vendors to provide automated wavelength routing and Sonet grooming and to support an architecture that incrementally scales based on network demand. Verizon also pointed out that it should have the ability to add new links and nodes to the network while the network was still in-service.

Because of that list of requirements from Verizon -- and similar ones from other carriers -- the talk of a new Lucent optical platform doesn't sound farfetched.

"Operators are looking for significantly greater design flexibility in their WDM platforms these days, so they can leverage a common platform across metro, region, and national networks," says Scott Clavenna, chief analyst at Heavy Reading

. "It's all about keeping transport costs as low as possible, reducing sparing and inventory, and supporting operators as they merge their local and core networks into one."

Nortel Networks Ltd. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) has taken that approach already with its chassis-less Common Photonic Layer (CPL) strategy, which separates the services layer from the photonic layer. It presents operators with a selection of amplifiers, filters, and other pieces to add to generic chassis and backplanes. The CPL system takes in wavelengths, multiplexes them, and sends them on their way over a wide range of distances, depending on the choice of amplification. The whole scheme allows Nortel to be more flexible, depending on what carrier services are needed (see ROADMs Roll On).

Today, Lucent's optical business is chassis-based and revolves around its Metropolis DMX and Metropolis ADM Sonet/SDH systems; its Metropolis Metro DWDM systems; and its LambdaUnite MSSP (multiservice switching platform). For reconfigurable add/drop multiplexer (ROADM) applications, Lucent uses technology from Movaz Networks Inc.

While the Movaz relationship is working out well, sources say, it's becoming more obvious that Lucent may build its own gear to solidify its future, rather than banking on an acquisition.

"Lucent and Movaz have a pretty good relationship… but obviously not good enough that Lucent would want to buy the company as opposed to developing their own solutions. If they were going to do something like that it would have happened before now," says an executive at one facilities-based carrier (see ADVA Eyes Movaz, Meriton).

Further, the comments of Tpack A/S CEO Peter Viereck at Light Reading's just concluded conference and expo, The Future of Telecom – Europe 2005, leave one to conclude that Lucent is definitely rethinking its place in the optical world.

Viereck said Lucent was a prime candidate for either consolidation or product rationalization. He noted that its DMX, the Sonet platform targeting the North American market, has struggled to gain any ground against Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ), which is regarded as holding the lead position at the biggest incumbent carriers. And, like many, he wondered why Lucent doesn’t combine its Sonet and SDH platforms into the same product line (see FOTE: VOIP, Video & Carlsberg).

If Lucent is heading down the road of integrating more network layers onto one platform -- and then having that platform address metro, regional, and long-haul applications -- it may find some skepticism from the outside. "It's a popular concept, but can it really work?" asks our carrier source. "It comes down to what your tolerances are and can you afford to have a wider tolerance for gain, tilt, and things like that."

— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading

flam 12/5/2012 | 3:02:29 AM
re: Lucent Preps Optical God Box An optical 7R/E, anyone?
Scott Clavenna 12/5/2012 | 3:02:17 AM
re: Lucent Preps Optical God Box Yeah, it does make you think that, but it is a good time to build a new optical platform. Components are cheap to source, often as full-fledged subsystems with management; carriers are starting to be much more clear about their needs; and some of the RFPs are big enough that you'd hate to be on the sidelines as they get handed to competitors.

The God Box part is just rumor. I would assume they would have a bit more pragmatic approach to it this time around.

Scott
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 3:02:12 AM
re: Lucent Preps Optical God Box I'll believe it when I see it deployed.

The guys in the RBOC planning and strategy departments always think that God Boxes (optical, DCS, packet) are a good idea. The guys in operations usually think that they are a nightmare. God boxes get put into labs, evaluated, and even have contracts written. In the end, the checks never get written. Why?

1.Technical issues that make it nearly impossible to make one box that is as good at multiple things as the individual products. The RBOCs don't like going backwards in function.
2.Managment issues. TL-1 versus SNMP. Regulated versus unregulated businesses trying to own the same box. Who pays for it, who manages it, etc.
3.First cost... God boxes contain the base costs of multiple functions, yet the RBOC wants it to have the same first cost as a stand alone box. This is critical as they are likely to use it first for one application.

Examples of God boxes that were successes were ususally not really God boxes. The Cerrent box, for example, was a really good SONET ADM that, initially, had a lot of God box marketing vaporware associated with it. A product has GOT to proove in both functionally and economically for a first appliation.

We keep hearing about God Boxes every few years, however, because it's the strategy and lab guys who talk to the press and analysts. The operations guys are too busy doing real work.

Incidentally, I understand why Lucent doesn't want to buy this type of function. They aleady bought similar function twice before (Chromatis, Ignitus). It would be pretty embarassing to buy it and then kill it again. Much less embarassing to develop it internally and then kill it.

Buy hey, what do I know compared to the marketing geniuses at Lucent. I'm just a middle school logic teacher and track coach.
Stevery 12/5/2012 | 3:02:10 AM
re: Lucent Preps Optical God Box Buy hey, what do I know compared to the marketing geniuses at Lucent. I'm just a middle school logic teacher and track coach.

I would bet that the "marketing geniuses" could use a better education in logic. And the company itself needs to retrain for the long run.

So I vote my shares to make you CEO.
CoolLightGeek 12/5/2012 | 3:02:07 AM
re: Lucent Preps Optical God Box Phil & Scott:

So you've admitted that the "God-box" aspects of this article are just rumor.
Should this section be entitled "Rumor Droppings" instead of "News Analysis"

So what part of this article isn't rumor and speculation? That LU looks at RFPs? That a guy at a European job shop assumes he really knows what is going on in the NA SONET large carrier market?

How about an article with some news or at least real market numbers when speaking to specific products?

CLG
dxc_chappie 12/5/2012 | 3:01:34 AM
re: Lucent Preps Optical God Box "... creating a more flexible WDM system design where it can use some of the same components to address metro, regional, and long-haul applications."

What's new about this? Marconi's Multihaul 3000 has been doing this for the last two or three years.
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