Lucent Preps Optical God Box
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