Ciena Launches Switch to Deploy VNFs at the Edge

Ciena launched a trio of new programmable packet networking products and enhanced a current product focused on the growing movement toward edge deployments.

The first new product, dubbed the 3928, is a service delivery switch that support flexible power supplies often needed for edge deployments. John Hawkins, Ethernet product and technical marketing manager at Ciena, said this product is “really intended for a disaggregated NFV model” that can use either Ciena’s platform or an open source platform. “It really helps in deploying the VNFs [virtual network functions] out at the edge and can also accommodate legacy TDM services,” Hawkins said. “We get a lot of calls for this from utilities.”

He also noted the product was a good fit for a wireless uplink in case an edge deployment does not have access to fiber for backhaul. “It can use an LTE or upcoming 5G connection, though you are probably looking at a more modest amount of bandwidth,” Hawkins said.

The second product — the 3926m — is a 10-gigabit Ethernet platform that includes expansion slots for modules supporting third-party VNFs.

The final new product is the 5170, which is a service aggregation switch that can deliver 100-gigabit Ethernet to a customer premise using an x86 server, Ciena’s Service Aware Operating System (SAOS), and open VNF hosting capabilities.

The new products join the 15 platforms already offered by Ciena as part of its carrier packet networking family.

One of those is the 8700, which received an upgrade. Hawkins said that platform is now available with a doubling of capacity up to 100-Gb/s and is targeted at enterprise business services, mobile backhaul, and data center interconnect (DCI).

5G, IoT Targeted

Hawkins described three target market scenarios for the new products. These include “pre-build” for 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) where demands for backhaul are starting to build; multi-tenant support within “tall shiny buildings” and campus locations where “one tenant might lead your high-end service while others might just want efficient Internet access” without an overbuild; and a “colocation hotel kind of application” where operators are looking to exchange information within a single location.

Hawkins said the new platforms are targeted at the middle of the performance envelope. He explained Ciena was willing to give up some of the performance high-end for cost and energy consumption considerations.

“We are responding to the bandwidth demands from customers, but without breaking the bank in terms of the sheer amount of needed equipment,” Hawkins said. He noted two aspects Ciena is looking at with this tactic are allowing operators to build out only what they need, and having the right product for the right niche in the market.

“These are really about getting the right cost point for the right applications,” Hawkins said.

Analysts applauded Ciena’s move to the edge, with Ovum analyst Mike Sapien noting operators are beginning to feel the pinch from “bandwidth-hogging applications.”

“Customers putting more intelligence at the edge is creating this demand in their core networks,” Sapien noted in a statement.

And, of course, there is the market opportunity for Ciena.

Timon Sloane, VP of marketing and ecosystem at the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), recently noted the organization sees a $300 billion market opportunity tied to work in transforming network edge sites to modern data centers.