TIP optical transport members vary in Voyager white box transponder support

The membership roster of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) includes several optical system vendors interested in helping shape the next generation of open optical transport gear. Yet the announcement of TIP's Voyager open packet DWDM architecture framework and white box transponder put several in the uncomfortable position of expressing support for a product that could compete directly with their own data center interconnect platforms. Not surprisingly, the warmth with which various TIP members initially have expressed that support has varied.

The membership roster of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) includes several optical system vendors interested in helping shape the next generation of open optical transport gear (see, "Telecom Infra Project attracts optical communications companies"). Yet the announcement of TIP's Voyager open packet DWDM architecture framework and white box transponder put several in the uncomfortable position of expressing support for a product that could compete directly with their own data center interconnect platforms. Not surprisingly, the warmth with which various TIP members initially have expressed that support has varied.

The Voyager transponder combines packet switching, routing, and optical DWDM functions in a single 1RU platform – the same dimensions (or an RU or two smaller) as the purpose-built data center interconnect systems several vendors have announced.

ADVA Optical Networking, whose FSP 3000 CloudConnect data center interconnect platform comes in 4RU and 12RU versions (see "ADVA Optical Networking enhances FSP 3000 CloudConnect data center interconnect platform"), has emerged as the Voyager's most enthusiastic supporter. The first optical transport systems supplier to join TIP, ADVA also was the first to announce it would offer the Voyager for sale.

The open architecture of Voyager complements the company's previous work with open line systems and other optical transport hardware, ADVA CEO Brian Protiva told Lightwave. He therefore believes ADVA can create differentiation through this experience. This expertise would manifest via superior provision of the overall optical environment in which the Voyager system would operate as well as the ability to integrate the company's network management system software with the platform. Complementary commercial services, including network operations center and maintenance offerings, will give ADVA a further advantage, Protiva believes.

"For us, it's being open," Protiva says in summarizing ADVA's potential differentiation. "We're going to listen to the customer – and, depending on the customer, we will work with a competitor's transponder/muxponder solution; we'll work with our own; we'll work with the Telecom Infra Project, the Voyager; we'll work with the Inphi pluggables. And that's exactly what we're doing. We're giving the customer choice."

Protiva said his company should have the Voyager available "in the next few months timeframe." He doesn't appear to be concerned about being beaten to market, given that only Coriant joined ADVA onstage at the TIP Summit for Voyager's unveiling. "The other players? I don't think they're going to support it at all to begin with, just because they think it is a competitive threat," Protiva said.

For its part, Coriant isn't yet discussing whether it will include Voyager among its data center interconnect platform offerings, which include the Groove G30 (see "Coriant Groove G30 1RU data center interconnect platform offers 3.2 Tbps"). However, it has announced its intention to enable support of the white box system within the Coriant Light IP Solution open software platform, which targets IP and optical layer integration (see "Coriant targets IP/optical integration with Light IP Solution"). Coriant will deliver an engineering proof of concept to the TIP community that demonstrates this support.

"We will be exploring options with the TIP community, but the initial engineering proof of concept is tied to the extensions of our field-proven networking software to the Voyager solution and interworking with Coriant Light IP," said Uwe Fischer, executive vice president, R&D and PLM, and CTO at Coriant in a written response to Lightwave queries regarding possible sales of the hardware platform.

Other TIP members from the optical transport community, while expressing support of the organization's goals, have touted their ability to offer enhancements or alternatives to Voyager. For example, Mike Capuano, vice president of marketing at Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN), said yesterday that the company welcomes the open source aspect of the Voyager framework, as it enables Infinera to apply its photonic integrated circuit and optical engine expertise toward improving Voyager's initial design. He pointed to the company's recent Cloud Xpress 2 announcement as an example of what it could accomplish (see "Infinera Cloud Xpress 2 sports Infinite Capacity Engine for data center interconnect").

"Infinera is particularly excited about this announcement because TIP is different than a standards body – it is about defining a reference design, open interfaces, information models and open software requirements, but also leaves room for industry innovation to drive successful commercial models and rapid deployments," Capuano reiterated in a blog posted today. "The reference design provides the innovation headroom to exceed the specification baseline where Infinera can deliver an implementation that utilizes our family of Infinite Capacity Engines leveraging our digital signal processor (DSP) and photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technologies to provide a best-in-class solution and achieve an industry-leading cost structure that is a key benefit of vertical integration with no margin stacking."

Jamie Moody, director, corporate communications at Ciena Corp. (NYSE:CIEN), also said her company supported TIP's overall thrust. However, "we have not yet announced plans to support the implementation of the transponder," she wrote in an emailed response to Lightwave's questions.

"We believe that our recently announced WaveLogic Ai chipset, as part of our Waveserver platform, will provide unmatched levels of scalability in a small footprint with lowest power, providing an incredibly compelling value to our customers for this use case," Moody added.

Other TIP members chose not to comment directly on their Voyager-related plans. "Cisco is committed to open standards, open source, and other open initiatives. Cisco joined TIP last spring and was then asked to join the Open Optical Packet Transport project (the project that developed Voyager) this summer. While Cisco did not contribute IP to Voyager, Cisco is involved in other aspects of the Optical project and is co-presenting a session at this week's TIP Summit," wrote Bill Gartner, vice president/general manager at Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO).

"TIP is just one of the 20 or so open source projects we are currently contributing to as we've seen multiple benefits for both Cisco and the overall industry that have had tremendous benefits to the customers we serve," he concluded.

Representatives at Nokia and Juniper Networks were working on responses as we posted this article. We'll add them to this story as they are received.

UPDATE November 3, 2016 1:15 PM EDT: Nokia responded to Lightwave's request with the following statement, attributed to Sam Bucci, senior vice president and general manager, Optical Networking Business Unit for Nokia’s IP/Optics Networks Business Group: "As a founding member of TIP, Nokia supports its efforts and commends the rapid development of open hardware such as Voyager. Nokia believes that there are multiple paths to innovation in optical networking, including consortiums such as TIP.

"Nokia’s optical investments continue to provide sustainable competitive differentiation for our customers, on multiple fronts, from industrialization of the supply chain, to new form factors, and with our continued research and development of the industry’s leading coherent signal processor, providing compelling value to our customers globally."

The coherent signal processor to which Bucci referred likely is the Photonic Service Engine-2 Super Coherent (PSE-2s), which Nokia introduced this past March (see "Nokia upgrades 1830 PSS packet-optical transport family with new coherent chipsets, improved multi-rate performance").

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