Ciena flexes networking options

By Ann Silverthorn

—Ciena recently announced technologies designed to help IT organizations better manage costs associated with the changing landscape of wide area networks (WANs). For users gradually migrating from higher-cost services (e.g., SONET) to lower-cost services (e.g., Ethernet), Ciena provides a service-oriented foundation for efficient network evolution.

"Ethernet costs 1/10th of SONET, but most of our customers must still use both and they find it difficult to find the right balance between the two," says Vinay Rathore, Ciena's senior manager for segment marketing.

To help users find the right balance between not only SONET and Ethernet, but also the many other types of services, Ciena introduced its FlexSelect Architecture--a blueprint for packet service migration. The architecture combines programmable hardware with service-oriented management to automate provisioning, transport, and management of any mix of services, including SONET/SDH, Ethernet, storage, and video.

The first proof point in Ciena's FlexSelect Architecture is its CN 4200 FlexSelect Advanced Services Platform, a multi-service transport and service aggregation switch designed to create service-selectable networks supporting voice, data, and video services on any port of any line card using remote service provisioning and management.

The CN 4200 consists of hardware, an operating system, and a management component. The most notable feature of the CN 4200 is its "any service, any port" capability, according to Rathore. Using a traditional approach, a system could require multiple service-specific line cards for multiple protocols when provisioning for services such as Fibre Channel, ESCON, Gigabit Ethernet, OC-48, OC-12, OC-2, OTU, etc.

Ciena's FlexiPort line card handles all of those services on one card with on-demand service delivery at speeds up to 10Gbps. Changes can be made via software upgrades. In addition, each port can be programmed to function as a transponder, muxponder, ADM, or crossconnect, which provides increased flexibility and optimization of traffic on a wavelength.

"The migration from time-division multiplexing [TDM] to packet services can potentially cause customer churn for service providers, so creating networks that can quickly adapt to changing service requirements and reduce service provisioning times is critical," says Sterling Perrin, research manager, optical networks, at International Data Corp. (IDC). "Software-programmable multi-service cards--such as those in the Ciena CN 4200--address service provider concerns about investment protection and cost reduction as they migrate toward more packet-based services."

This article was originally published on May 24, 2005