Cisco's MAN for SAN

Cisco Systems Inc. this week unveiled a metropolitan-area networking platform that enables users to aggregate up to 40 data connections over a single wavelength.

The system, called the ONS 15530, is a dense wavelength division multiplexer (DWDM) optimized for storage area networking (SAN) applications. It can multiplex up to 40 ESCON channels over one 10G bit/sec wavelength.

Alternatively, users would have to dedicate a separate wavelength for each ESCON channel. But a single ESCON channel operates at 200M bit/sec, which would utilize less than 2% of the available bandwidth in a 10G bit/sec wavelength.

In addition to ESCON, the ONS 15530 also supports SONET/SDH, ATM and FICON networking and storage applications. In future releases, the ONS 15530 will be able to aggregate multiple higher-speed networking and storage services, such as Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel, over individual wavelengths, Cisco says.

Cisco is also looking to multiplex different types of services onto a single wavelength as a future enhancement, says Dave Lively, senior manager of optical strategy at Cisco.

With the SAN service aggregation capabilities of the ONS 15530, Cisco is just now playing catch-up to the likes of ONI Systems -- which was recently acquired by Ciena -- and Nortel Networks. But the ONS 15530 is only a first step, analysts say. Cisco still has a long way to go.

"Cisco's been a bit lacking with regard to service aggregation," says Dave Dunphy, senior analyst for optical infrastructure at Current Analysis. "ONI and Nortel were all over that. Cisco is now responding to the hotter opportunity (in metro optical) that's expected to drive wavelength services in the metro."

But ESCON support alone does not go far enough, Dunphy adds.

"ESCON is not nearly as prevalent as Fibre Channel," he says. "But they don't have a timeframe yet for Fibre Channel or Gigabit Ethernet. So this is not going to flip the charts in market share or short-term revenue."

As a result, Dunphy considers the ONS 15530 an early phase statement of direction for Cisco. Deb Mielke, principal at Treillage Network Strategies, thinks ESCON-only support is only a near-term shortcoming.

"Cisco's filling out its portfolio incrementally," Mielke says. "People need to see how SANs work in a highly dispersed environment" before incorporating all features at once.

The ONS 15530 supports up to 32 wavelengths of 2.5G bit/sec or 10G bit/sec each on a single fiber pair, for a maximum capacity of 320G bit/sec.

Other DWDM features include a so-called Optical Supervisory Channel, used for management and performance monitoring, and four-channel Optical Add/Drop Multiplexer modules which allow the systems to be configured in point-to-point, ring, or meshed network topologies.

Cisco and IBM are conducting joint testing of the system in IBM server and storage environments. The testing is expected to be completed within the next quarter, Cisco says.

The base ONS 15530 system is list priced at US$54,000. It is available now and currently in less than 10 trials, according to Lively.

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