Optical/IP Networks

Sycamore Sneaking Into Sprint?

Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR) looks to be close to wrapping up a deal for the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) optical switching RFP.

Two industry sources – both formerly employed with large telecom equipment vendors – have independently corroborated a story that Sycamore has beaten both Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) for the Sprint business. This, if true, would be a nice win for Sycamore's SN16000 switch, which doesn't currently have Sprint as a customer.

Such a turn of events would also be a poke in the eye for Ciena, which has Sprint as a customer. The sources claim that the win is largely due to Sycamore's ability to terminate four-fiber bidirectional line switched rings (BLSR) directly on the switch (see Sycamore Enhances Switch Features. BLSR is a Sonet protection scheme that sends traffic in one direction and, when a fiber cut is detected, it sends the traffic around the failure in the opposite direction.

Table 1: Sprint's Optical Equipment Suppliers
Equipment Supplier Products
Alcatel SA Sonet ADMs
Long-haul WDM (1640)
Metro WDM (1696)
Ciena Corp. Metro WDM (MultiWave Metro)
Long-haul WDM (Sentry and CoreStream)
Optical switching (CoreDirector)
Next-generation Sonet ADMs (Metro Director K2)
NEC Corp. Sonet ADMs
Nortel Networks Corp. Ethernet switches (Passport 8600)
Next-generation Sonet (OPTera Metro 3500)
Source: "The Future of Sonet/SDH," a report by Heavy Reading

By terminating Sonet rings right on the core switch, a carrier can theoretically save the money, space, power, etc., required to install Sonet add/drop multiplexers in the same facility as the core switch. Ciena says it expects to support straight BLSR capabilities on its CoreDirector switch by mid 2004.

In the meantime, Ciena uses a software-defined VLSR (virtual line switched ring) technology, which it says behaves just like BLSR but with intelligent protection and better capacity utilization.

"We believe that service providers will want support for both next-gen and legacy applications, which is why we're building BLSR support into the solution," says a Ciena spokesman. "There isn't another switch with the intelligence of CoreDirector that's been deployed anywhere."

None of the vendors is commenting on their RFP or trial activity with Sprint. Likewise, Sprint didn't respond to a request for comment.

Analysts expect the Sprint deal to generate $30 million in sales over the next two years, as previously reported (see Ciena & Sycamore: New Deals?).

Interestingly, analysts aren't adding much to their projections for Sycamore, which is also set to receive a chunk of the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) project business (see GIG-BE Winners Named). A consensus of estimates put Sycamore's revenues for the year ending July 2004 at $37.9 million, slightly down from its actual revenues of $38.3 million for its fiscal year ended July 2003. According to Multex.com, twice as many analysts have cut their yearly revenue estimates for Sycamore in the past month than have raised them.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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