Cisco unveils plan, products for optical networks

Amid a tough financial environment for service providers, Cisco Systems Inc. plans to continue investing in its optical-network equipment line to help carriers and corporations make better use of optical networks, the company announced Dec. 4.

Cisco unveiled at an analyst conference in San Jose, Calif., its Complete Optical Multiservice Edge and Transport (COMET) strategy, which calls for the company to enhance its 15000 series of optical equipment and management software to offer more types of interfaces and greater capacity.

The 15000 series spans optical systems from the edge of metropolitan area networks out to long-distance connections between metropolitan areas. As service providers roll out optical connectivity to customers, they need to be able to support more connections and options, said Rob Koslowsky, optical marketing manager at Cisco.

“You never know what service might be requested out of a given floor or a given building,” Koslowsky said. Corporate customers are beginning to embrace such options as storage area networks and disaster recovery systems over optical networks, he said.

Optical networks, which send information as light waves over fibres, can send many streams of traffic over a single fibre by breaking them into different wavelengths of light. Service providers and some corporations are turning to the high capacity of optical technology to build fast networks around large metropolitan areas and between cities. At the same time, carriers and corporations are looking eventually to make networks cheaper and simpler by combining different types of traffic – including data, voice and multimedia and various data services – over the same infrastructure.

Some carriers claim they have reduced the cost of their long-haul connections by 70 per cent as a result of using all-optical networks, said John Mazur, an analyst at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

While introducing its COMET strategy on Dec. 4, Cisco also expanded its optical portfolio. It unveiled a DWDM (Dense Wave-Division Multiplexing) platform for long-distance transmission – up to 2,000 kilometres – and enhancements to some metropolitan network equipment. It also updated software for managing a wide range of optical equipment.

An update to Cisco Transport Manager (CTM), the company’s software for managing its optical devices, will allow service providers to set up a new circuit for a customer in just minutes, Koslowsky said. CTM 3.0 lets a network manager see what ports and how much bandwidth are available on all the devices across the network. With a CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) software interface, it can be integrated with management, accounting and billing systems already being used by service providers.

Cisco expanded its 15800 DWDM platform to handle transmission over longer distances. A new model, the ONS 15808, can send traffic over extended long-haul (600 to 2,000 kilometres) distances as well as the traditional long haul of up to 600 kilometres. This eliminates the need for regenerator equipment along the way, making it less expensive for a carrier to build an optical link between two distant metropolitan areas, Koslowsky said. The 15808 can carry as many as 80 wavelengths, so it can be fitted with as many as 80 interfaces at 10Gbps (gigabits per second).

A new interface for the ONS 15200, a platform for carrying wavelengths from an optical network directly into a corporate facility, lets companies use the popular Fibre Channel technology over the wavelength to extend a storage network over an optical metropolitan area network.

Within metropolitan areas, most service providers have been using SONet (Synchronous Optical Network) rings, which can transmit the traffic of a number of customers using a single wavelength. However, expanding the capacity of those rings can be difficult and expensive, Mazur said. All-optical networks like the ones Cisco is aiming at with its COMET strategy allow the carriers to simply set up a different wavelength in order to provide service to a new customer.

For corporations, the benefits go beyond cost and convenience, Mazur added. All-optical networks are more reliable, too.

“SONet is good for (overcoming) a single point of failure, but if you have more than a single point of failure, you’re out of luck,” he said.

Contracting for a wavelength also is an easier and less expensive way to link a remote data centre with a corporation’s main office, Mazur said. Until now, many companies have sought out “dark fibre,” unused fibre that the company can use as a dedicated link between the sites. Dark fibre is expensive to maintain and often hard to find, Mazur said.

All the products and upgrades introduced Dec. 4 are available immediately worldwide. Cisco did not disclose pricing.

Cisco, in San Jose, Calif., can be reached at