Riding on the metro

Despite the downturn in the telecom industry, some leading vendors are attempting to hit the few hotspots in the market with products designed to convince frugal carriers of the revenue and cost savings potential inherent in new investments.

Two such vendors, Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., unveiled two such offerings at a downcast NFOEC 2002 conference in Dallas last week. The companies rolled out enhancements and extensions to their portfolios for metropolitan-area SONET networks, one of the lone flickering stars in a telecom constellation that's gone dim over the past 18 months.

As expected, Cisco announced a SONET grooming switch that the vendor described as a "bigger brother" to its popular ONS 15454 metro transport system. The new ONS 15600 is designed for high-density aggregation switching of SONET/SDH traffic collected from multiple ONS 15454 rings.

A key feature of the ONS 15600 is its ability to groom traffic at the 52M bit/sec STS-1 level, which makes more efficient use of bandwidth by packing SONET rings with more traffic.

Nortel, meanwhile, added Gigabit Ethernet service interfaces to its OPTera Connect DX SONET/SDH switch. The dual-port Gigabit Ethernet interfaces enable the DX to support 32 per bay for Ethernet-over-SONET aggregation and switching in the metro core.

Indeed, Nortel says the DX enhancements will help position the switch away from its traditional niche in the depressed long-haul market - where the fiber/bandwidth glut is most prevalent - and into the metro.

"The metro area is the hot area," says Deb Mielke, principal at Trelliage Network Strategies. "It's certainly not long-haul right now."

Cisco believes it just got hotter with the introduction of the 15600. The STS-1 switch combines the functions of a SONET add/drop multiplexer (ADM) with an optical cross-connect, says Dave Lively, senior manager of optical strategies at Cisco.

This helps service providers save money by eliminating the need for multiple ADMs at the core central office to aggregate rings from the edge, Lively says.

The 15600 supports 128 OC-48 interfaces and 320G bit/sec of switching capacity per shelf. Three shelves can fit into a single telco rack.

Sixty-four protected rings can be configured with the switch. For SONET, it supports unidirectional path switched ring and bidirectional line switched ring configurations.

Lively claims that through some Cisco patent-pending innovation in cooling, each slot in the 15600 is 160G bit/sec-capable, meaning a shelf can achieve a total system throughput of 1.28 terabit/sec, or 4 terabit/sec per rack. These same innovations allow the 15600 to achieve restoration times of 15 to 25 msec vs. SONET's 50 msec restoral, Lively asserts.

The switch was under development at Cisco for 18 months, he says, and it will ship in the fourth quarter.

The 15600 is currently in trials at US Signal and Looking Glass Networks.

On the competitive front, Lively says the 15600 will compete most directly with digital and optical cross connects from several vendors. It may also bump up against Nortel's DX, which gained optical Ethernet capabilities with the addition of the Gigabit Ethernet interfaces.

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