PBT Key to Ciena Acquisition
John-Paul Hemingway, Ciena's chief technologist for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region (effectively the European CTO), told journalists at a London briefing that while its takeover target's PBT progress wasn't the only driver behind its decision to buy World Wide Packets (WWP), "we probably wouldn't have made this acquisition" if WWP hadn't added PBT to its technology roadmap. (See WWP Combines MPLS, PBT, WWP Supports PBT, PBT: New Kid on the Metro Block, and PBT's Ethernet Appeal.)
WWP's development and integration of Provider Backbone Bridging-Traffic Engineering (PBB-TE), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) version of PBT that's still in standards development, helped make the Ethernet vendor an attractive target for Ciena.
"WWP has cracked the PBB-TE problem," said Hemingway, adding that the Ethernet equipment firm already has live deployments of PBB-TE-enabled Ethernet gear in carrier networks. WWP didn't have any names to dish up, though, but said a deployment in Africa is to be announced soon.
Adding WWP's aggregation and Ethernet switching products to its portfolio will, in the future, give Ciena a complete PBT offering from the metro core, with its recent CN 4200 Ethernet blade launch, to the enterprise customer location, where the CN 3000 products -- OEM'd from ANDA Networks Inc. -- have already attracted a contract from PBT's leading operator supporter, BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA). (See Ciena Enhances 4200 With Ethernet, Ciena Takes ANDA Into 21CN, and BT Counters PBT Claims.)
Hemingway, though, says he can't comment on suggestions that Ciena is paying over the odds for WWP, or answer questions on any M&A possibilities involving ANDA.
Ciena is now a very firm supporter of PBB-TE, though it isn't ruling out supporting alternative approaches to connection-oriented packet transport, especially Transport MPLS (T-MPLS). (See Ciena's PBB-TE Play.)
"We like PBB-TE because it's the Ethernet layer -- it's an extension of Ethernet, and we like that. T-MPLS adds another layer, and why would you want to have another layer? And T-MPLS has some interworking issues to sort out. And then there's the market traction that PBB-TE is getting. That's why we decided to do PBB-TE first," says Hemingway, who doesn't look anything like Ernest.
He adds: "If we see market traction for T-MPLS, which we don't at the moment, then we will develop it. The way we build our products, we can support both."
Hemingway also makes it clear that it is the PBB-TE route that Ciena is taking, rather than the early PBT version of the technology that Nortel Networks Ltd. developed and marketed with some success. "We always take the standards route," he claims. (See Nortel Preps New PBT Switch, Nortel Lands More PBT Action, Nortel Wins Dakota PBT Contract, Nortel Pushes PBT Pact, and Nortel, Siemens Win PBT Deals at BT.)
The Ciena man says the main difference between Nortel's PBT and PBB-TE's development is the "definition of the headers," but that "we can interwork with Nortel. It has done a lot of work on this and done a good job. So has BT," which, of course, is an important Ciena customer.
Ciena has other European incumbents in its customer reference list, including Orange (NYSE: FTE), Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM), and Telia Company , plus another unidentified national operator that Ciena isn't naming just yet. And Hemingway says the interest in PBB-TE among the region's major service providers is intensifying.
"A number of major European incumbents are now looking at PBB-TE seriously, moving from being skeptical to saying that it makes sense, but not being as public about their views as BT. A lot of them are at the cost modeling stage, and looking to move into trials, and some are still deciding between PBB-TE and T-MPLS," notes the Ciena man.
But there's a limit to how far PBB-TE will extend in the network, he believes. "I am hearing some conversations about PBB-TE in the [long-haul] core, but I don't think it will replace IP/MPLS there. IP/MPLS scales well and performs well in the core and I don't see that changing," says Hemingway.
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading