Cisco pushes DWDM networking out to metro areas

Cisco Systems Inc. has rolled out a line of DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) hardware, touting them as the first solutions capable of providing DWDM services to metropolitan areas.

The company’s ONS 15200 platform consists of three hardware transport devices. The ONS 15201 and ONS 15252 deliver wavelength services, such as Gigabit Ethernet, from a single platform. The ONS 15216 combines wavelengths sent by Cisco’s existing ONS 15327 and 15454 optical transport platforms; it also offers optical performance monitoring and can amplify signals to reach as far as 250 miles.

DWDM technology is one of the most-watched trends in optical networking. The technology increases bandwidth of existing optical lines by bundling data from various sources onto a single optical fiber, allowing service providers to reuse their legacy infrastructure.

Cisco officials claim that the platform will let service providers deliver incremental wavelengths to customers, aggregate wavelength services on clear-channel and transponder-based channels, and integrate with other multiplexers and routers.

Rob Batchellor, technical marketing engineer of Cisco’s optical transport unit, called the ONS 15200 platform “a highly efficient way to handle any service mix. It provides wavelength services all on a common fiber infrastructure and a common management platform.”

“This technology was built specifically for the metro environment,” Batchellor added. “Some of the other players in the field have taken long-haul products and tried to shoehorn them into the requirements of the metro [environment]. But we’ve built our product from the ground up for the metro. We’ve optimized it for the distances, traffic mix, and reach that you find in metro areas. Footprint and power consumption are also important – we have a very compact product with low power consumption.”

The platform builds on Cisco’s successful ONS 15454 platform. It “let Cisco enter into the next-generation SONet [Synchronous Optical Network] marketplace and build out carrier networks that Cisco wasn’t able to address with its more traditional router and switching platforms,” said analyst Chris Nicoll, vice president of telecom infrastructure at research firm Current Analysis in Sterling, Va. The ONS 15454 is a carrier-class optical transport platform that integrates SONet data transmission functionality into a single, easy-to-use platform.

“The new family further opens the door to address not just SONet market requirements, but also wavelength and higher-capacity transport requirements,” Nicoll said.

The ONS 15200 line is not aimed at the metropolitan core – large interoffice facility rings with meshed traffic – but rather at the metro edge.

Industry observers expect Cisco’s 500 existing ONS 15454 customers to be among the first beneficiaries of the new products. Those customers are facing pressure to build and scale their networks, and DWDM offers an attractive means of achieving those goals.

Furthermore, Cisco’s mere presence in the metropolitan DWDM market is expected to influence customer-buying behavior. “Customers didn’t have a good, strong Cisco solution [for metropolitan DWDM] before, so they had to look to other vendors,” Nicoll said. “Now they can stay with their Cisco relationships.”

Shawn Hill, director of TouchAmerica Colorado (the Butte, Mont.-based telecommunications arm of Montana Power), was impressed with the product’s versatility.

“It makes sense for us to use Cisco,” Hill said. “From a service manageability standpoint, the 15200 lets us manage end-to-end services across one platform, essentially with point-and-click applications. It reduces service provisioning times, and from an economic standpoint, it allows us to pass [savings] along to our customers.”

Some reports claim that DWDM can send data as fast as 400G bps, and terabit networks are in the offing. The technology also allows diverse data sources, such as IP, ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode), and SONet traffic, to be transported across an optical network.

Many observers feel that DWDM will resolve the threat that IP traffic may someday overwhelm the physical restraints of existing fiber lines. According to a Lucent Technologies published report, a 1995 study indicated that between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of embedded fibre was being used at the time. Today, many carriers face 100 per cent capacity use on critical parts of their networks.

Furthermore, as service providers and carriers move toward the promise of the all-optical network, they are eyeing metropolitan areas as key pieces in their deployment strategies. Many experts think that the bottlenecks in exploiting long-haul DWDM traffic are concentrated in metropolitan areas, which is why they expect metropolitan networks to be expanded in the immediate future.