Sycamore Goes the Distance (At Last)

Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) is garnering a reputation as the catchup kid of optical networking. It was late coming out with an optical switch, although it has been making up ground this year since it started shipping its product. Now it's making a late move into ultralong-distance transmission, with today's announcement of a new product called the SN 10000 (see Sycamore Launches Long-Haul DWDM ).

At first glance, the SN 10000 doesn’t look that remarkable. Sycamore says it can carry 1.6 terabit/s over a single fiber, significantly less than some recent records (see Siemens Claims Speed Record and Alcatel Claims DWDM Speed Record). Its maximum distance without regeneration, 4,000 kilometers, is also neither better nor worse than other vendors' claims.

However, there’s more to Sycamore’s SN 10000 than meets the eye. In particular, the product boasts some practical benefits that carriers are likely to find a lot more important than busting new limits on bandwidth and distance.

The three main points are these:

Flexibility The SN 10000 enables carriers to save money by selecting the most appropriate transmission technology for each individual span of their network. They’re not faced with treating every single span with the same blanket approach, as they are with some competing products -- notably those from Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV) and the Qtera division of Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

Sycamore offers two ways of extending distance -- forward error correction and Raman amplication -- and can use either or both to suit different circumstances.

As with all this type of equipment, there are tradeoffs among the number of wavelengths, the bandwidth they can carry, and the maximum distance. For 10-Gbit/s transmissions, the SN 10000 can support 160 wavelengths at 800km, 108 wavelengths at 1500km, 80 wavelengths at 2,500km, and 40 wavelengths at 4,000km, according to Sycamore.

Density Sycamore says that it can regenerate optical signals on 64 wavelengths in a single rack. That compares with 48 per rack for Ciena Corp. and significantly less for some other vendors.

Density is a crucial issue for some vendors, according to Peter Hunt, a product manager with Sycamore. “We sometimes get operators saying to us: ‘I only have two bays, or three bays. How much bandwidth can I get out of that?’,” says Hunt.

Manageability Sycamore makes a big thing out of monitoring each individual wavelength and Sonet connection, so that performance can be optimized automatically. Ciena says it already offers similar features in its Corestream product

The SN 10000 will ship in the first quarter of next year. Base system prices start at $45,000; service interfaces cost between $5,000 and $160,000 each.

-- Peter Heywood, International Editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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