Cisco extends optical range

Despite the meltdown in optical service providers, Cisco is launching an optical switch as well as extending its products for optical networks in enterprises

With long-haul optical networking in a parlous state, Cisco is launching products for the parts of the market where it sees the strongest future: a multi-service SDH platform and a Metro DWDM switch for enterprises and local service providers.

"Historically, networking growth was expected in long-haul networks but in reality the bottleneck is in the metro area [which links the long haul networks to the end users]," said Dave Smith, head of optical marketing for Cisco in Europe. "But in the metro, SDH has become a commodity so it is hard for service providers and product vendors to differentiate their offerings."

The ONS 15454 SDH represents Cisco's first SDH (synchronous digital hierarchy) offering, he said, and is a "new generation" SDH product, which will compete with products from Lightscape (part of ECI Telecom) and with traditional SDH from companies such as Nortel and Marconi.

The switch is an SDH version of a product already available in the US, which uses the Sonet protocol. Sonet and SDH are the European and US protocols evolved for carrying voice and data on fibre rings. They differ significantly, so SDH products have been limited, said Smith.

The new Cisco product includes Ethernet SDH and DWDM interfaces so that the service provider using it can deliver services in the form the customer likes best and, as you would expect from any new networking product, it is smaller, and uses less power than previous ones. It also offers quality of service and supports VLANs. The fact that it uses Cisco's well-known IOS operating software will make it easier for service providers and their customers to set up networks compared to a non-Cisco product, said Smith.

One customer already using the 15454 SDH product is EKT, a Swiss electricity supply company, which also providers voice and data services to businesses.

The other new product is a dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) switch which can be used by enterprises running their own WANs. The 15530 is a cut down version of the 15540 launched in January. DWDM uses several wavelengths of laser light to multiply the data carried on a fibre -- the 15530 only supports four wavelengths, while the 15540 went up to 32.

The 15530 is intended for aggregating ESCON links used in storage area networks as well as LAN connections. It also supports the newly-ratified 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard.

The two products are both part of Cisco's complete optical multiservice edge and transport (Comet) architecture, a planned product portfolio for optical networking. Cisco promises that under Comet its optical network products will become more closely aligned with its IP products.

Networks and networking products have seen huge innovation and growth in the last few years. High bandwidth LANs and Storage Area Networks are now in common use. ZDNet UK's Networking Central keeps you up to date with the latest news and views.

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