Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead

Four years ago, Gordon Stitt declared: "Sonet is Dead." This week, the Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) CEO got to come back and say the same thing, without the same controversy.

"10-Gbit/s Ethernet combined with IP really accelerates the demise of Sonet networks," Stitt said during his keynote speech at yesterday's Light Reading Live! event, "10-Gbit/s Ethernet Components: Ready for Prime Time." The day-long session, moderated by Heavy Reading analyst Simon Stanley, focused on the semiconductors, optical modules, and network processors being targeted at 10-Gbit/s Ethernet.

Stitt had predicted the death of Sonet in 2000 at George Gilder's Telecosm conference, raising some protests from the non-believers. Most 2000 predictions are about as valued as Gigli DVDs, but Stitt's seems as if it's going to hold up.

Stitt emphasized that it's going to take a long time before the U.S. installed base makes the shift to Ethernet, but he thinks Ethernet has won the long-term race. What's going to trigger the change? Stitt said he heard the answer over lunch, when a banking CIO described how his industry is getting weaned off mainframe computers: "It's not really the cost. All the people who know how to run these mainframes are dying."

More literally, they were retiring, Stitt noted (sorry, we don't live in an Agatha Christie novel), but his point was that Sonet, like mainframes, has a knowledge pool that will be shrinking. The new talent in networking is "all going to be well versed in Ethernet," he said.

Stitt underscored that the 10-Gbit/s generation differs from previous Ethernet generations because telecom has taken a stake this time. Rather than accepting another best-effort technology, customers are expecting 10-Gbit/s Ethernet to come with more intelligence for features such as security and quality of service (QOS).

"Network managers won't accept the bandwidth without the control," he said. "This will be a very different market than the 90s, where bandwidth was everything," Stitt said.

Stanley emphasized that point in a later session, noting that Gigabit Ethernet had been presented to the world as a "dumb pipe" that happened to be really fast. The same tactic won't work this time. "We've now moved on to 10 Gbit/s, and QOS is important because of the new applications," he said.

One trait that didn't change from previous generations was the rapid decline in prices. Announced 10-Gbit/s Ethernet prices have hit $5,000 per port, compared with more than $50,000 at the end of 2002 (see Cisco Bombs 10-GigE Pricing). The sinking price was what pushed the technology out of the lab and into production networks during the past year, Stitt said.

Not everything is sunshine and rainbows with 10-Gbit/s Ethernet, though. Stitt decried the number of module options out there, with Xenpak, XPAK, X2, and XFP all vying for attention. "Frankly, our customers get grumpy about that as well. They don't want to have to keep a lot of spares around. Every time we go to a new low-cost form factor, my phone starts ringing," Stitt said.

It's also worth pointing out that a lot has happened to Sonet since Extreme launched its attack on it four years ago (see Extreme Launches A Sonet Killer). Next-generation Sonet/SDH developments have enabled carriers to roll out Ethernet services over their existing infrastructures, and the cost of doing this has been slashed, thanks to the arrival of off-the-shelf Sonet/SDH silicon.

In a recent Light Reading poll taken by nearly 300 readers, close to 50 percent of respondents thought Sonet/SDH had changed more than Ethernet since the year 2000. The technologies tied, each getting 37 percent of the vote, on how much impact they'd made on carrier infrastructure in that time period (see Why Sonet Chips Are Sexy).

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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douggreen 12/5/2012 | 1:21:38 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead I can just see Stitt standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier under a banner that reads "Sonet is Dead".

Why the religious fanaticism? Why must Ethernets' success depend on the demise of SONET?

In fact, if you succeed in positioning the argument as "Ethernet or SONET", you are giving the SONET vendors a gun to shoot you with. Talk about how Ethernet is evolving to work with the existing network, not against it.

Why can't we all just get along? :)

CoolLightGeek 12/5/2012 | 1:21:37 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead So if SONET is dead, why does the 10K filing indicate R&D includes SONET???
Are LR readers being misled or just Extreme Network investors?
www.extremenetworks.com/aboutu... :

Our product development activities focus on solving the needs of enterprises, service providers and metropolitan area network markets. Current activities include the continuing development of a next-generation chipset aimed at extending the capabilities of our products. Our ongoing research activities cover a broad range of areas, including, in particular, 10 Gigabit Ethernet and SONET, metropolitan network and Internet routing software, ASIC design, network management software, broadband access equipment, wireless networking equipment and content networking devices.

Scott Raynovich 12/5/2012 | 1:21:37 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead "Why the religious fanaticism? Why must Ethernets' success depend on the demise of SONET?"

Doug... that's easy... because it makes for better headlines!!
dodo 12/5/2012 | 1:21:37 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead Doug

We have to take these naive (instead of saying stupid)comments like Stitt's with a smile.

We just have to see the state of the Telecomm industry to realize that the people coming from the IT arena think that they have the answer and/or solution for everything. Just ask them to differentiate IP from cct switching or TDM.

We have a lot of examples from the bubble years to see that knowledge of data or networking does not make one an expert in TELECOMs.

but the world is still turning...........

DoTheMath 12/5/2012 | 1:21:34 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead Here is from someone who was in IP and data networking, got suckered into telecom during the bubble (against better judgement, against the instinct that said "Ethernet/IP will rule"), and now back to data networking & IT, and doing well again, thank you. I hope Sonet dies, and along with it takes the Bells and the Bellheads and the Telcordias. Good riddance to all of them. I have met many of these types, and all I have seen is "carrier class" public sector arrogance with the "I need a manual to go the bathroom" attitude. I have banned "carrier class" in my circles. Thank God the bubble burst and we got out of that swamp. No, this is not John Chambers' inner voice talking ;-)
indianajones 12/5/2012 | 1:21:33 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead Stitt must be smoking something here. SONET has made far more advancements (GFP, LCAS, VT1.5 et al.) and the price points have dropped considerably as well. In fact next-gen SONET platforms have become very competitive and are threatening packet based architectures.

I understand that Stitt must make some wild remarks to get attraction but he needs to be a little grounded in reality as well
douggreen 12/5/2012 | 1:21:31 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead dodo, Scott, et all,

In spite of the fact that I recieved my high school and undergraduate education in the state of Alabama, I do understand the conept of hyperbole ;) In fact, I have been accused of it (rightly) many times in my former career in Marketing.

What I always tried to do, however, is make sure that I didn't go so far over the edge that I lost credibility, especially with my customers.

These arguements often show an ignorance of the differences between services and infrastructure, Switching technology and transport, framing and routing, etc. Sometimes this is real ignorance. Sometimes the individual really knows the differences, but ignore them to make their point (I am sure that Stitt is extremely smart and knows the real scoop).

I don't want to fall into the same trap, but I will risk it by saying this: SONET network elements are being forced to incorporate data technology, and Ethernet is being forced to incorporate elements of SONET framing and management.

We can all sit back and be entertained while the marketing guys spend huge amounts of time and money arguing over the nomenclature of what we are shooting for: data friendly SONET or carrier class Ethernet.

CoolLightGeek 12/5/2012 | 1:21:31 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead DotheMath,
Your disdain for the Bells is common among NetHeads. And it is a major reason why I am not worried about NetHead companies taking over Telecom.

The Bells are the ones with most of the money to spend on telecom. Blending technologies and evolutionary approaches that take into account existing network and operations value are the only ones that will be successful.

Any slight opportunity for revolution died when the bubble burst. No one has deep enough pockets nor enough ignorance to try that again for at least a long while.

Getting the best out of both Ethernet and SONET working together will be the drivers for a significant portion of telecom for at least another 10 years.

One man's swamp is another man's beautiful lake full of livelihood. I appreciate you moving back to an environment you appreciate: I do wish you would stop dis'ing mine.

douggreen 12/5/2012 | 1:21:30 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead CoolLightGeek,

THere is never an appreciation by one side of the other. Part of one of my jobs in a past life was to manage the relationship of my company (fiber optics) and a data company. I was chosen for this because I had worked on the data side for 15 years before moving to telecom.

The optics company thought that they brought more value to the table. Router code, hey, you can download that for free off the Internet. (I assume that none of them ever tried to get the GateD version of BGP to work).

The data company though that SONET was an interface chip that you put on a router. And optics, doesn't that come from sand that you can pick up on the beach? (they later learned the hard way when they tried to get into the optics business).

Most Bellheads don't understand how the relatives simplicity of an enterprise makes their operating systems and hardware seem like overkill. Most enterprise (and Internet) people don't understand what it means to manage billions of connections and a network that covers hundreds of thousands of route-miles. To them it's just a "cloud" that is always there.

DoTheMath 12/5/2012 | 1:21:30 AM
re: Stitt: Sonet's Even More Dead CoolLightGeek:
The revolution died? It has just gotten started. Telcordia is the first domino to fall. Wait for ever more ruthless price cutting on all forms of value-padded Bellheadware. Voice is just a free application - my Costco card or Shell gas card would some day include unlimited VOIP calling just for the privilege of signing up for the card and buying groceries/gas.

The Bells think they found a refuge in DSL and Wireless. Wait till WiFi finishes off the margins in cellular ($20 nationwide unlimited, anyone?), and DSL getting into price war with Cable and/or Wimax. Bells are toast, unless they import some serious Nethead thinking and get rid of their ITUtidue. This time, the lecture will be given by people like us. There is justice in this world, after all!

-- Not-the-inner-voice-of-John-Chambers.

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