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Ciena goes stackable with 8180 'white box' and 6500 RLS

Ciena has unveiled two products - the 8180 coherent networking platform and the 6500 reconfigurable line system - that target cable and cellular operators that are deploying fibre deep in their networks, closer to subscribers.

The 6500 line system is also aimed at the data centre interconnect market given how the webscale players are experiencing a near-doubling of traffic each year.

Source: Ciena

The cable industry is moving to a distributed access architecture (DAA) that brings fibre closer to the network’s edge and splits part of the functionality of the cable modem termination system (CMTS) - the remote PHY - closer to end users. The cable operators are deploying fibre to boost the data rates they can offer homes and businesses.

Both Ciena’s 8180 modular switch and the 6500 reconfigurable line system are suited to the cable network. The 8180 is used to link the master headend with primary and secondary hub sites where aggregated traffic is collected from the digital nodes (see network diagram). The 8180 platforms will use the modular 6500 line system to carry the dense wavelength-division multiplexed (DWDM) traffic. 

“The [cable] folks that are modernising the access network are not used to managing optical networking,” says Helen Xenos, senior director, portfolio marketing at Ciena (pictured). “They are looking for simple platforms, aggregating all the connections that are coming in from the access.”

The 8180 can play a similar role for wireless operators, using DWDM to carry aggregated traffic for 4G and 5G networks.

Ciena says the 6500 optical line system will also serve the data centre interconnect market, complementing the WaveServer Ai, Ciena’s second-generation 1RU modular platform that has 2.4 terabits of client-side interfaces and 2.4 terabits of coherent capacity.     


With the 8180, you are only using the capacity on the fibre that you have traffic for 


“They [the webscale players] are looking for as many efficiencies as they can get from the platforms they deploy,” says Xenos. “The 6500 reconfigurable line system gives them the flexibility they need - a colourless, directionless, contentionless [reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer] and a flexible grid that extends to the L-band.” 

A research note from analyst house, Jefferies, published after the recent OFC show where Ciena announced the platforms, noted that in many cable networks, 6-strand fibre is used: two fibre pairs allocated for business services and one for residential. Adding the L-band to the existing C-band effectively doubles the capacity of each fibre pair, it noted.


The 8180

Ciena’s 8180 is a modular packet switch that includes coherent optics. The 8180 is similar in concept to the Voyager and Cassini white boxes developed by the Telecom Infra Project. However, the 8180 is a two-rack-unit (2RU) 6.4-terabit switch compared to the 1RU, 2-terabit Voyager and the 1.5RU 3.2-terabit Cassini. The 8180 also uses Ciena’s own 400-gigabit coherent DSP, the WaveLogic Ai, rather than merchant coherent DSP chips. 

The platform comprises 32 QSFP+/ QSFP28 client-side ports, a 6.4-terabit switch chip and four replaceable modules or ‘sleds’, each capable of accommodating 800 gigabits of capacity. The options include an initial 400-gigabit line-side coherent interface (a sled with two coherent WaveLogic Ai DSPs will follow), an 8x100-gigabit QSFP28 sled, a 2x400-gigabit sled and also the option for an 800-gigabit module once they become available.


Source: Ciena

Using all four sleds as client-side options, the 8180 becomes a 6.4-terabit Ethernet switch. Using only coherent sleds instead, the packet-optical platform has a 1.6-terabit line-side capacity. And because there is a powerful switch chip integrated, the input ports can be over-subscribed.“With the 8180, you are only using the capacity on the fibre that you have traffic for,” says Xenos.  


6500 line system 

The 6500 reconfigurable line system is also a modular design. Aimed at the cable, wireless, and data centre interconnect markets, only a subset of Ciena’s existing optical line systems features is used.

“The 6500 software has a lot of capabilities that the content providers are not using,” says Xenos. “They just want to use it as a photonic layer.”

There are three 6500 reconfigurable line system platform sizes: 1RU, 2RU and 4RU. The chassis can be stacked and managed as one unit. Card options that fit within the chassis include amplifiers and reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers (ROADMs).

The amplifier options area dual-line Erbium-doped fibre amplifiercard that includes an integrated bi-directional optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR) used to characterise the fibre. There is also a half-line-width RAMAN amplifier card. The line system will support the C and L bands, as mentioned.

The reconfigurable line system also has ROADM cards: a 1x12 wavelength-selective switch (WSS) with integrated amplifier, a colourless 16-channel add-drop that support channels of any size (flexible grid), and a full-width card 1x32 WSS. “The 1x32 would be used for colourless, directionless and directionless [ROADM] configurations,” says Xenos.   

The 6500 reconfigurable line system also supports open application porgramming interfaces (APIs) for telemetry, with a user able to program the platform to define the data streamed.“The platform can also be provisioned via REST APIs; something a content provider will do,” she says. 

Ciena is a member of the OpenROADM multi-source agreement and was involved in last year’s AT&T OpenROADM trial with its 6500 Converged Packet Optical Transport (POTS) platform. 

Will the 6500 reconfigurable line system be OpenROADM-compliant? 

“This card [and chassis form factor] could be used for OpenROADM if AT&T preferred this platform to the other [6500 Converged POTS] one,” says Xenos. “You also have to design the hardware to meet the specifications for OpenROADM.”

Ciena expects both platforms to be available by year-end. The 6500 reconfigurable line system will be in customer trials at the end of this quarter while the 8180 will be trialed by the end of the third quarter.

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