(UPDATE 1:45 p.m. — Added specifics about how Cloud Xpress differs from DTN-X, and listed some competitors.)
It’s meant for what Infinera calls the metro cloud — the network connecting data centers in any given metro area. That network is buzzing loudly because of a multiplier effect, where any given request into the network can trigger signaling and messaging adding up to 10 times the bandwidth of that request, said David Welch, an Infinera founder, during a press and analyst event held in Santa Clara, Calif.
That makes the metro cloud interesting to begin with, but for optical networking vendors, it’s also a hotspot for 100 Gb/s transmission. That’s important, because it makes the metro cloud a more immediate prospect than the long-haul and aggregation markets that Infinera more typically targets.
The aggregation market, in particular, won’t become “interesting” until 2015 or 2016, and Infinera doesn’t expect to launch a product for that market until next year, said Tom Fallon, Infinera’s CEO (pictured above).
ACG Research figures the metro cloud will be a $200 million market this year, growing to $3 billion in 2019. Given that growth is already underway, “we believe we need to get a product to address this market right now,” Fallon said. (Cloud Xpress is due to ship in production in December, and Infinera announced Equinix, Internap, and XO as early customers.)
This optical metro market has been occupied by competitors including ADVA Optical Networking, BTI Systems, and Cyan, said Heavy Reading analyst Sterling Perrin in a conversation with SDxCentral. Ciena also participates here with its 8700 system, he added.
Infinera already has metro-sized versions of the DTN-X, its flagship system for optical transport, but the Cloud Xpress is a different beast. The DTN-X is intended for optical mesh networks (think Grand Central Station), whereas Cloud Xpress is more about point-to-point delivery (think, “You. Go over there.”).
“If all you’re about is taking Ethernet in and moving it across [the metro], this does it,” said Stuart Elby, senior vice president of Infinera’s cloud group. Elby recently joined the company out of Verizon.
Cloud Xpress also aims for tighter density. It’s a 2-rack-unit system with capacity of 500 Gb/s on the line side and another 500 Gb/s on the client side. Twenty-one of the boxes can fit in a 7-foot equipment rack, and the power consumed is is 130 W per 100 Gb/s port, 50 percent better than the nearest competitor, Infinera claims.
Another difference from the DTN-X is an operating model cued up for the cloud, including the ability to use open APIs to plug into cloud environments. Cloud Xpress also has a simplified turn-up process, where the user just assigns an IP and system name, and then selects configuration for the line- and client-side ports. Cloud Xpress boxes can be clustered together to manage as one node.
One usage model Infinera discussed is Instant Bandwidth, an idea it’s been selling on the DTN-X platform for some time. It involves the customer buying that 500 Gb/s of line-side capacity in slices of 100 Gb/s at a time — making the platform more palatable for customers that don’t need all 500 Gb/s right away.
Separately, Infinera also announced the PXM packet-switching module, which places packet traffic directly into optical streams. It’s a further example of the packet-optical convergence that Infinera, Ciena, and others have been pursuing. Applications for this would mostly be in the telecom realm, and it’s not necessarily an “SDN” kind of invention — although an Infinera demo does show the process being controlled by an OpenDaylight controller.