Juniper is bringing disaggregation to the optical world, announcing today a ROADM based on off-the-shelf hardware and a control plane from the former BTI.
You can't really call it a white box, because the user doesn't have the option of swapping out BTI's software and putting someone else's on board, as analyst Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading points out. But the TCX1000 announced today shows that commodity hardware is working its way into the optical network, just as it has in the packet network. (See What Color Is That Optical White Box?)
The new product is based on an off-the-shelf ROADM (reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer) from Lumentum Holdings Inc. , with Juniper providing the control plane, which is named the proNX Optical Director, a successor to BTI's proNX Service Manager. (Juniper acquired BTI last year.)
The integrated product is branded as the TCX1000, but Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is okay with supporting the software on purely off-the-shelf Lumentum gear as well.
Juniper considers this the foundation of a newly programmable optical layer, one that includes BTI's other products -- transponders and muxponders that also have proNX integrated. Juniper is also running proof-of-concept experiments at having proNX control other vendors' transponders.
The "programmable" part comes partly from the nature of the Lumentum ROADM. It's colorless, directionless, and flex-grid-ready -- all of these being optical-switching trends that have emerged in the past several years. The gist of it is that new ROADMs help the optical network become more flexible in terms of which wavelengths can go to which destinations. It's also become easier to change those assignments through software. (See With ROADMs in Place, Next Step Is Software.)
Eventually, it would be nice to combine the programmable optical layer with a programmable packet layer. For the latter, Juniper has its NorthStar SDN controller, which is going to remain a separate product from proNX, although they can cooperate by exchanging YANG models with one another.
"That integration seems to be a challenge, not just for Juniper, but for everybody," Perrin says.
Disaggregation is more commonly talked about in the packet layer, where white box switches have been trying to build market share against the likes of Cisco. Whether there's demand for such a thing at the optical layer is up for debate. In a recent survey, carriers told Heavy Reading that optical disaggregation isn't a priority.
"When you look at disaggregation, disaggregation of the optical functions is the least important," Perrin says, based on the results of a recent Heavy Reading survey.
The new openness that products like TCX1000 represent should be welcome, though. "The SDN component and open APIs and service control -- for service providers, that's the number one priority," Perrin says.
Juniper's target customers here aren't service providers, but the cloud giants -- the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Tencent or Baidu. That segment is becoming increasingly important to equipment vendors, although it's presented some snags, particularly for Juniper lately. (See Juniper's Cloud Woes Likely to Continue Into Q4.)
"As the opportunity arises, we will address this with the traditional service providers, but I would say the cloud vertical is the top priority," says Donyel Jones-Williams, Juniper's director of service provider portfolio marketing.
- Juniper: Packet-Optical Convergence Driving BTI Acquisition
- What Juniper Paid for BTI
- Juniper Buys Aurrion for Silicon Photonics
— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading