Due to its low margins, access networking was always a market Cisco didn’t deign to serve. But as of today, Cisco has announced it’s in the fiber-access business.
The company announced a gigabit passive optical network (GPON) system called the ME 4600 and is describing it as part of the Evolved Programmable Network (EPN) — Cisco’s networkwide fabric built of physical and virtual devices in computing, storage, and networking. In other words: Yeah, it might be just a GPON system, but according to Cisco, it has an SDN pedigree.
Cisco has been saying that the policies driving its Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) will eventually reach all the way out to the access network. Providing its own GPON system is certainly one way to do that.
Access vendors such as Adtran and Calix haven’t been as vocal about SDN as the switch/router crowd have been. But access could have a role in SDN, as the assumption has been that access and transport networks could talk to each other at a depth not previously possible. Bandwidth-on-demand, for instance, is one SDN use case commonly discussed; now Cisco could theoretically apply that feature all the way out in the access network.
Cisco’s full offering is called the Elastic Access portfolio, and it consists of:
- The ME 4600, which includes a box to install at the end user’s home or office as well as the chassis that sits in the carrier’s central office or point of presence (PoP)
- The ASR 902 and 920 aggregation platforms
- The ME 1200 Ethernet Access Device, a demarcation device for controlling Carrier Ethernet services.
Access networking is alien territory to Cisco. It’s a $7 billion market led by Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, and ZTE, writes Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski in a note published today. Most likely, Cisco will go after Tier 2 carriers, particularly in the United States, which makes its GPON entry more of a threat to Adtran and Calix, she writes.
She also notes that according to Infonetics, Cisco’s GPON platform started shipping in late 2013 but just wasn’t announced until today. Cisco claims multiple service providers are already using parts of Elastic Access.
On a side note, Cisco’s press release relates the access network to the Internet of Everything (IoE) and the $19 trillion opportunity it supposedly represents. But it turns out Guido Jouret, the head of Cisco’s IoE efforts, has left the company, as blogger Brad Reese reported.
(Photo: Generic passive optical network diagram from Wikimedia Commons.)