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Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

In this space a few months ago, I cited the emergence of the packet optical network platform (PONP) as key trend to watch in 2008. (Click here for that blog entry.) Certainly, the analysts' numbers indicate a steep deployment curve, with the market netting as much as $1.7 billion in annual sales by 2010, by some accounts.

But not everyone advocates this approach. I spoke recently with Russ Esmacher, manager of technical marketing for Cisco's Optical Transport Business Unit, on the subject of ROADMs, which lead to a discussion about the PONP. Esmacher gave me Cisco's admittedly contrarian view that the all-in-one-box approach to packet optical networking does not make sense for the many carriers that have already invested heavily in ROADM technology.

Instead, Cisco gives its customers the option of taking an ITU wavelength off a router and plugging it directly into the ROADM, a technology it calls IP over DWDM. Cisco also offers an MSPP on a blade that performs classic SONET/SDH ADM and Ethernet. Finally, the vendor rounds out its packet capability with another card form factor, the Ethernet Xponder, that does Layer 2 Ethernet with 50-msec restoration.

"We saw that the ROADM layer is in place," said Esmacher. "It is a protocol-agnostic converged layer. To our customers who have routers next to it, who have ADM needs next to it, we are basically saying, 'Don't change your back office OSS. Don't change how you deploy things. You've already got this ROADM in place. Just change the on-ramp to it.' This is different from what a lot of our competitors are doing," he admitted, "but, we have enough market input from our customers to think this is the right strategy."

To be fair, the PONP does represent a paradigmatic shift in network build out, particularly from a backoffice and OSS perspective. The folks at Cisco maintain that carriers simply aren't interested in changing their procedures in such a radical fashion.

But Verizon's recent packet optical transport platform (P-OTP) RFP suggests otherwise--to the tune of $500 million or more, which is the estimate Morgan Keegan analysts have given for the contract.

True, this isn't a Blu-Ray versus HD DVD-kind of debate where one format will eventually win the day; individual carriers will continue to deploy whatever architecture suits them best. But like Blu-Ray, the PONP does seem to have some industry heavyweights lining up behind it. And, as is often the case, the smaller guys may well follow suit.


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The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions.

Stephen Hardy is editorial director and associate publisher of Lightwave, which makes him responsible for the editorial aspects of the Lightwave franchise. A technology journalist since 1982, he once had his job duties described as "gets paid to tick off advertisers ".

Meghan Fuller is senior editor of Lightwave. She has degrees from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, and the University of Delaware and is a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation.