Agilent looks to drive business with tech truck tour

All that was missing at Agilent Technologies’ Mississauga, Ont. office last month was the smell of diesel and a diner, complete with Sloppy Joes.

That’s because the company was showing off an assortment of lightwave test and measurement networking equipment from Agilent’s Communications Solutions Group (CSG)

in a 53-foot tractor-trailer. The event was one of three Canadian stops in the Dreams Made Real Tour, designed to demonstrate Agilent telecommunications solutions directly to its customers across North America.

On board the big rig, Agilent engineers showcased several products to rid corporate fibre optic networks of a case of the jitters. Agilent showed off the OmniBER 718 STM-1/OC-3 Communications Performance Analyzer, which offers a one-box field-portable multi-rate BER (bit error ratio) and jitter tester up to 155Mbps for development qualification, commissioning, system verification and manufacture of SDH, SONET, ATM and POS transport networks and network equipment. The OmniBER features a smart set-up auto-discover wizard for fast test setup, automatic detection of mixed payload signal structures and accurate measurement of protection switching times of both ring and linear networks.

“The OmniBER tests frequency, data errors and signal loss,” said Yungi Zhang, applications engineer for Agilent. “What it does is notify you of any errors at the installation and management stage of network deployment.”

Zhang added that in a perfect world, signals would stay at their designated fixed positions, but in the real world, signals shift and become unsynchronised, causing interference and jitters.

“[The OmniBER] lets you know if your transmitter is synchronized with your receiver,” he said.

Agilent also demonstrated the J1955A Agilent Advisor Software (SW) Edition, offering new support for token ring networks. The software-based protocol analyzer offers tools to isolate and solve network problems on 10/100 Ethernet, gigabit Ethernet and token ring networks. Installed on a standard PC or notebook with Microsoft Windows 98, 2000 or NT operating systems and an NDIS network interface card, the SW Edition features the identical graphical user interface, Expert Analyzer and analysis functionality of the Advisor LAN/WAN/ATM protocol analyzer.

Other equipment candidates on display were the ParBERT 81250 43G and the BERT E2150A 43G test systems that support emerging 40Gbps technology. The 40Gbps technology aims to offer network operators benefits such as higher capacity and a smaller equipment footprint. The ParBERT tests electrical devices including 16:1 muxes and demuxes. The BERT electrical and optical system tests optical devices. Agilent said that the two products are essential systems for testing 40G transmission lines.

The abundance of equipment aboard the rig may have given the wrong impression of the state of the market for fibre optic networks. According to Mark Quigley, associate director of research for Brockville, Ont.-based The Yankee Group in Canada, there has been a significant slowdown in capital expenditures within the fibre optic arena.

“With bankruptcies, with companies holding back on those expenditures – (these facts) coincide with the economy starting to slow,” Quigley said. “(This attitude) has definitely seeped into the folks that are actually building the networks, and downstream from that would be the folks that are supplying the equipment for it. There are certainly some networks that continue to be built. Some companies continue to upgrade, to extend and to expand, but it is certainly not the same environment that we saw 12 months ago for these services.”