Ciena adds adaptive IP and new hardware to Packet Networking portfolio

Ciena is branching out with the addition of new adaptive IP capabilities, coherent optics and purpose-built hardware platforms in its Packet Networking portfolio.

The new additions were designed with 5G deployments in mind as well as the cable industry's fiber deep and business services initiatives.

"So first and foremost is what we call our SAOS, which stands for our Service-Aware Operating System," said Brian Lavallée, Ciena's senior director of portfolio marketing, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "This is the software that runs on all of our packet platforms, and we have about 20 of them.

"This version has IP capabilities. So for the first time, Ciena will have products in the packet space that will serve applications that require IP. A good example here is 5G. But the way we're implementing our IP offering is quite different from our competitors. So that's on the software front."

Ciena also has three new hardware platforms entering the market. Ciena's 5162 service aggregation platform and its 5170 service aggregation platform will be the first devices to host the IP-enabled SAOS software. The software will allow service providers to address Layer 3 VPN services. Ciena plans on offering additional IP features across its Packet Networking platforms.

"The difference between those two platforms is basically the number of ports, the speed on the ports, the switching capacity and so on," Lavallée said. "But the software loads are all IP-enabled."

Also on the hardware front, Ciena has developed a new system for its flagship 6500 optical product that now converts legacy TDM systems, such as SONET, SDH, PDH, T1s, and E1s, into packet flows that can be carried over a more efficient and scalable packet network.

"We developed a solution where we can help our customers maintain their legacy TDM services," Lavallée said. "Our customers are able to update and modernize the core network with a packet core, but their end users will still get the TDM services that they know and love.

"So we're cost-reducing the ongoing operation of those services. Right now it's very hard to get product support anymore on SONET equipment, for example. There are no more spare parts and fewer personnel, but the need for the service is still there. So we allow them to carry the old services over a modern new packet solution."

Lavallée said the SAOS software, 5170, 5162 and 6500 Packet Transport system are currently in customers' labs. He said those customers include large cable MSOs as well as large Tier 1 providers in North America.

Ciena's coherent optics enables cost-effective scaling to address bandwidth growth, particularly at the network edge. Ciena said that supporting coherent optics simplified network designs while also reducing power, space, cost and operational complexities.

Ciena also announced today that it has added new Layer 3 aware route optimization, management and assurance capabilities to its Blue Planet Management portfolio. Ciena was able to make those additions to Blue Planet after buying Packet Design in May.

"This allows us to complement the IP platforms and software we're introducing in this launch with the management side," Lavallée said. "There's path computation engine capabilities from Layer 0 to Layer 3. That's also being included as part of the Blue Planet IP-enabled solution."

Ciena will see familiar competitors in the IP space, which include Cisco, Juniper Networks, and Nokia.

"We compete with them today in the Layer 2 space," Lavallée said. "With the IP capabilities we're adding, we'll end up competing with them in Layer 3 space as well. It's similar competitors, just different parts of the network."

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Ciena's 5G play

Ciena currently serves 50% of the cell towers in North America, so it makes sense to follow that into 5G, according to Lavallée.

"What we're trying to do is leverage that footprint that's primarily in the backhaul space," he said. "So leverage that footprint for 5G backhaul. We believe, and our customers tell us our belief is correct, it will be a converged network. They (telcos) don't want to build an overlay network, a separate 4G and separate 5G wireline network. We're looking at converging our packet platform so we will support 4G and 5G not only in the backhaul space but also in the fronthaul space."