Nortel Networks has announced a new range of optical networking products that it claims will let telecom carriers build much faster and higher capacity networks.
Over the next 12 months, Nortel will unveil the components of its Optera Packet Solution range, which includes its first terabit switch routers and a product that will link older circuit switched and packet networks with modern optical networks.
Analyst Jim Slaby at Giga Information Group said the products will help Nortel compete better with Lucent and also with Cisco, which has gained an early lead in this market through its acquisition of Cerent and Monterey Networks.
"This is a very significant move for them into the carrier optical space, which we view as a counter-punch against Cisco," said Slaby.
Nortel's Optera Packet Solution includes: the Optera Packet Core, which transports IP, ATM, and Sonet traffic with direct interface to the optical layer, due for trial in Q3 2000; the Versalar Switch Router 25000, a terabit switch router due in Q4 this year; and Optera Connect DX, a smart optical switch, due for trial in Q2 next year.
It also includes Nortel's ATM based multiservice switch, the Passport 15000 and network management software, both already available.
Optical networking, which transports signals along light waves in a fibre optic cable, has massively increased fibre bandwidth. Technologies like dense wave division multiplexing (DWDM) have helped push fibre capacity up to the terabit speeds Nortel and others have now achieved.
Optera is a product line inherited from Nortel's acquisition of Canadian networking vendor Cambrian Systems, which used it strictly as a broadband technology for metropolitan area networks.
"It is interesting that Nortel has expanded Optera beyond its current role of providing DWDM in metropolitan networks and turned it into a true multiservice carrier optical product," said Giga's Slaby.
The Optera line will let carriers take multiple legacy sources, including frame relay, IP, ATM and Sonet/SDH, and feed them into an optical backbone.
"This is pretty significant, because it represents a next generation in optical switching equipment. Today if you want to run multiplatform services, you need multiple switches in the office - this means you don't have a lot of flexibility in terms of upgrade," said Slaby.
"My only concern is that it seems to have a significant time to market disadvantage against Cisco," he added.
Nortel claims optical networking will replace "old world" narrowband routers and unblock the Internet's bottlenecks. Slaby said there are a lot of vendors tackling this same problem.
"Certainly no one vendor is capable of unclogging the Internet, but this particular approach is a great way for carriers to tackle the slow 'on ramp'," he added.
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