DriveNets teams up with Cisco’s Acacia on optical module integration

DriveNets, an Israel-based vendor for cloud-native networking solutions, unveiled it’s integrated its Network Cloud platform with Cisco Acacia’s 400G ZR/ZR+ optical modules.

According to the companies, the technology aims to accelerate large-scale network rollouts. It’s also a disaggregated networking solution, meaning operators can mix and match hardware and software components from different vendors.

DriveNets’ Network Cloud is an open networking platform that runs over a physical infrastructure consisting of white boxes, or computer hardware that doesn’t carry a brand name. Dudy Cohen, VP of product marketing at DriveNets, explained the 400G ZR/ZR+ technology allows operators to take “very power hungry” optics and put them into “tiny modules that go into the router.”

“Basically, you collapse the networking layers in the site and use just one box – the router – for networking, routing and switching and for the optical transmission, because this model takes and puts it on the right channel of flight and puts it into the optical network,” he told Fierce Telecom.

DriveNets in 2022 upgraded Network Cloud to support ZR/ZR+ optics as native transceivers that can be inserted into any Network Cloud-supported white boxes. Now it’s bolstering that support with Acacia module integration.

“We enhanced our software to support the Acacia models, not only just to plug them into the box and light them up, but also to configure and monitor all the optical parameters,” said Cohen. “So it’s a fully functioning router plus optical machine now, it’s not just the white box running a routing software.”

Network Cloud’s software support for Acacia modules includes channel and power configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting for 400ZR+ transceivers with transmit power greater than +1dBm (decibel-milliwatt).

Also, the joint product collapses Layer-1 to Layer-3 communications into a single platform, which the companies claimed will “deliver significant simplicity and cost savings.”

What removing Layer-1 to Layer-3 means, said DriveNets CMO Inbar Lasser-Raab, is having a “single physical infrastructure for Layers on and three, so it eliminates the whole optical physical layer, which is a lot of complexity. And that cuts costs, power, floor space, truly simplifies the network.”

She said the push for Acacia came from “a large customer,” and the companies currently have joint Tier 1 operator customers who will deploy the solution.

“Once we develop the same level of integration and we finish testing it at scale, like we did with Acacia, then it will be applied to the other optical vendors as well,” Lasser-Raab said. “And that’s one of the benefits of working with us. We’re not locking our customer to one optical vendor.”

Industry implications

What does DriveNets’ and Acacia’s product mean for the telecom industry? Alan Weckel, co-founder and analyst at 650 Group, told Fierce service providers have a “significant interest” in deploying ZR and ZR+, “since they allow for the convergence of the edge optical layer into the routing platform.”

“Hyperscalers are pushing this collapse with significant investment in their DCI [Data Center Interconnect] layer,” he said. “As a result, [service providers] will see considerable capital and operational savings when they deploy ZR and ZR+.”

DriveNets’ and Acacia’s partnership bodes well for the industry, Weckel added, as Acacia is one of the leaders in ZR and ZR+ modules and DriveNets is among the leaders “in pushing the router towards disaggregation.”

“For the telecom industry, the convergence will help drive down costs and enable new deployments that were previously uneconomical,” he said. “This is especially important as the industry drives towards more edge computing, edge services and AI/ML.”