Cyan Inc. (Nasdaq: CYNI) is making a bid for the “webscale” datacenter market with the announcement of the N-Series, a 100 Gbit/s optical networking product line that is built on an open architecture, combining commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) silicon and photonic components with a modified Linux operating system.
It’s a bold move for Cyan. It’s going to be making an optical networking system in the style of a Software Defined Networking (SDN) “white box,” in which the software elements and an open operating system (OS) can run on commodity hardware. This gives customers more flexibility. Most networking systems in the optical market are still integrated with proprietary OSs and run on purpose-built chips.
The N11, the first product in its N-Series, will deliver a total of 8 100G ports for 800 gigabits per second (Gbit/s) of optical capacity in one rack unit (RU). When the products are stacked in a rack, Cyan says it can deliver as much as 34 terabits per second (Tbit/s) in a seven-foot rack. It’s scheduled to have trial customers by the second quarter of 2015 and will ship in Q3 2015.
The product is targeted at the Data Center Interconnect (DCI) market, where large content providers and social networking companies need large amounts of capacity to connect hyperscale datacenters together. Companies such as Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), and Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) have been pushing the limits of scale and openness.
Petaluma, Calif.-based Cyan is also responding to its Northern California rival, Infinera (Nasdaq: INFN), which in December introduced its own 100G optical networking product for the DCI market, the CloudXpress. Infinera’s stock price has jumped about 40% since introducing the product, indicating investor excitement for the cloud DCI market.
Cyan’s not shy about competing with Infinera. In a briefing, company officials pointed out that the N11 has 800 Gbit/s of capacity — versus 500 Gbit/s for the CloudXPress — in a single RU, with lower energy consumption. Cyan also says that by using off-the-shelf chips, it will have a faster development cycle because the chip manufacturers will be introducing faster processors more quickly than can be done with proprietary chip development.
The DCI market could be big enough for the both networking companies. It’s now bigger than $3 billlion annually, and represents the fastest growing portions of the $17 billion optical market, according to research firm Ovum. Both Infinera and Cyan are looking to break into the growth of cloud and content services, which are growing much faster than the traditional service provider markets, a mainstay of optical networking.
Cyan says its Z-Series packet-optical platform will remain a proprietary system, running its CyanOS and BluePlanet orchestration and network management software. But it can be combined with the N-Series to deliver 19.2 Tbit/s on a single optical fiber.
Cyan’s move is likely to get many optical networking companies thinking about the impact of SDN on optical networking products. Cyan appears to be positioning itself to become more of an SDN software company, if it needs to be. Its BluePlanet orchestration software works with other vendors’ gear.
“We’re really disaggregating the last part of the datacenter ecosystem,” said Joe Cumello, Cyan’s VP of Marketing, in a company briefing. “We are taking the step based on feedback from the customers. It really wasn’t that hard to do. It was based on the Open Compute project. They made it clear they were looking for the industry to have a standard way to operate.”