NEC America unveils new optical network product strategy

June 17, 2004 Nashua, NH--Under the radar since 2001, when it built a nationwide DWDM-based network for AT&T, NEC America's Optical Networking Systems division is expected to re-emerge next week at SuperComm 2004 to promote a new product strategy, reports Senior Editor Kathleen Richards.

June 17, 2004 Nashua, NH--Under the radar since 2001, when it built a nationwide DWDM-based network for AT&T, NEC America's Optical Networking Systems division is expected to re-emerge next week at SuperComm 2004 to promote a new product strategy.

A division of Tokyo-based computer and communications powerhouse NEC Corp., NEC America (Irving, TX) focuses on the equipment and services needs of carriers in the North American market. NEC America's Optical Networking Systems division (formerly the Public Networks Group) built some of the first terrestrial networks based on four fiber-bidirectional line-switched ring SONET, ATM and WDM technologies, and counts AT&T, Frontier--acquired by Global Crossing--and Sprint among its customers.

Quiet period
As its long haul competitors in North America shifted gears to zero in on the metro market, NEC America's ONSD, primarily known for its SpectralWave long haul DWDM transport, and SONET ADM platforms, kept a relatively low profile. Parent company NEC's new optical networking product strategy may change those dynamics.

NEC's vision of the carrier network features an all-optical switching core made up of a series of integrated transport nodes (ITNs), and an optical edge consisting of ITN devices with pluggable service interfaces such as SONET, IP and Gigabit Ethernet. The family of ITNs is divided into two types of nodes, described as full size, shelf-types systems in the all-optical network core, and pizza-box style, modular systems at the edge of the network. All of these systems will support the same interface modules.

At the conceptual level, the network is described by NEC as operating similar to a "virtual optical crossconnect," implemented through a mesh of nodes directed by an end-to-end intelligent control plane. The optical control plane will conform to the emerging standards supported by many carriers. Toward that end, NEC is participating in both the Optical Internetworking Forum's world interoperability demonstration and the ISOCORE integrated IP/MPLS and optical control plane demonstrations at the SuperComm tradeshow, which will be held at McCormick Place in Chicago next week.

Without boundaries
Having heard from at least one carrier that the word metro didn't work with the type of functionality it was looking for, NEC America is promoting NEC's new product strategy as "optical networking without boundaries."

"Industry folk seem to like the concept of what we are doing in terms of trying to remove the classification of this is metro, this is long haul, and this super-extra long haul," says Rich Moran, director of product marketing, NEC America. "Just trying to knit it all together and unite all the elements under a control plane."

In this scenario, the core in the metro space is similar to the core in the ultra long haul network in terms of traffic handling and reliability, what differs are the transmission distances. "The metro core is usually less than 100 km, but what carriers need is the ability to scale that and take the same architecture with different building blocks to achieve greater distances, as much as 600 km," explains Moran.

Distance is just one aspect however. "What has restricted some of the more widespread use of optical technology in networks is too much of a focus on distance," says Moran. "Not enough equipment vendors focus on the dynamics that metro applications demand. I think what carriers are looking for now is the grooming, the flexibility, and the intelligent control of the networks."

NEC is expecting to roll out a family of ITN core and edge products in 2005. Some existing products and technologies will be incorporated in the ITN product line. According to Moran, the company plans to release all of its own systems, rather than partner to offer a bundled solution. NEC and NEC America will be exhibiting in booth 12751 at the SuperComm tradeshow, June 22-24, at McCormick Place in Chicago.

-KR

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