100 Gigabit Adoption Accelerates as 400G Takes Shape

High speed Ethernet transport is no longer just a promise; it’s a reality as 100 Gigabit (100G) deployments continue to grow.

Among the vendors that are benefiting from the speed advance offered by 100G is Ciena, thanks in no small part to technology the company acquired from Nortel. Ciena acquired the Metro Ethernet Networks division of bankrupt telco vendor Nortel in 2010, for $774 million.

In 2008, Nortel was the first vendor to demonstrate 100G coherent technology enabling a 100G signal to be sent over a single optical wavelength. It’s an innovation that four years later in 2012, has led to over 40 major deployments at carriers worldwide.

“Because of our lead with coherent technology we were able to have a 100G technology solution quicker to market,” Helen Xenos, Ciena’s director of product and technology marketing at Ciena told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet.

Nortel had been shipping coherent optical 100G solution since December of 2009. Xenos noted that at this point, Nortel and its successor Ciena has now shipped over 1,000 line interfaces to over 44 customers around the world.

“We have expanded beyond the trial stage with 100G and we’re now in mainstream wider deployment phase with our customers,” Xenos said.

Xenos added that in 2012, 100G deployments are now accelerating as bandwidth demands from service providers are growing. Ciena has announced a string of 100G wins in recent weeks including Sunset Digital, Janet6, XO and Vodafone, among others.

100G coherent technology can carry significantly more bandwidth than legacy solutions. It should also be noted that 100G is not limited to only 100 Gigabits of traffic that can be carried on an optical fiber.

“You can carry 88, 100 Gigabit wavelength over one fiber with our solution,” Xenos said. “That’s 9 Terabits per second of information that can be transported over one fiber.”

What is of even more value to service providers with 100G is the fact that it doesn’t necessarily require them to replace the fiber that is already in the ground. The Ciena solution leverages existing fiber that previously might have only been used for 10 GbE wavelengths.

“Ciena customers are able to leverage their existing infrastructure to be able to deploy 100G quickly on their existing network,” Xenos said.

She added that the upgrade path to 100G is as easy as plugging in a new 100G card into an existing Nortel/Ciena optical shelf. There is also a software update that might be required as well.


While 100G might seem fast today, Ciena has already tested its gear to deliver up to 400G.

“So the same equipment that Ciena customers have deployed, they know they can use for speeds beyond 100G in the future,” Xenos said.

The race toward 400G is one that has multiple vendors in it. Ciena rival Alcatel-Lucent, is also pushing a roadmap towards 400G optical networking

With the Ciena approach to 400G, Xenos explained that a service provider will be able to fit 40 channels of 400G on a fiber to deliver up to 16 Terabits per second of data transfer.

Currently from an IEEE perspective, there has not yet been a working group started for 400 Gigabit Ethernet.

“They need to decide whether to go with 400G or 1TB,” Xenos said. “The decision will come in the next few months.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eSecurity Planet andInternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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