Ciena dumps Nortel metro Ethernet but keeps optical

23 Mar 2010

Nortel’s optical transport gear will take center stage in Ciena’s new integrated product portfolio, but not its metro Ethernet or optical switches.

Ciena, which sealed its $773.8 million all-cash acquisition of Nortel’s MEN division over the weekend, revealed its new portfolio of Carrier Ethernet, packet-optical switching and transport products on Monday. While the deal was seen as largely complementary in terms of technologies, enough overlap existed that some product lines had to either be integrated or dumped.

In the Carrier Ethernet space, Ciena will keep its CN 5000 service aggregation switches and CN 3000 service delivery switches, but Nortel’s MERS (Metro Ethernet routing switch) 8600 will be discontinued.

One factor was Ciena’s fundamental support for PBT (provider backbone transport), an Ethernet transport protocol championed by Nortel as a more cost-effective solution than rival technology MPLS-TP, says Anup Chnagaroth, Ciena Asia director of marketing.

“It’s the same fundamental strategy as ours, but they have a newer platform, so it made more sense to spend our R&D dollars on their newer platform than our slightly older platform,” he says, adding that “they’ve had significant quarter on quarter growth in the wireless backhaul space. So that was an easy decision.”

In the packet-optical switching space, Ciena also discontinued Nortel’s Optical Cross Connect HDX and HDXc optical switches in favor of its own 5400 reconfigurable switching systems and CoreDirector FS multiservice optical switches.

For packet-optical transport, however, Ciena will scale back its CN 4200 FlexSelect service platform in favor of Nortel’s 40/100G technology and OME 6500 and 5200 metro optical products.

Ciena also intends to move to a unified management stream and multilayer control plane “over time” under the banner “Ciena One”, which will create a single set of network and service management tools for the entire portfolio, as well as enable consistent behavior and cross-platform intelligence for traffic optimization and restoration.

In the meantime, Ciena's Ethernet Services Manager and ON-Center Network Management Suite and Nortel's OMEA and Preside will continue to manage their respective products.

Despite initial speculation from industry observers that product integration could prove to be a headache even with the relatively minimal overlap, Anthony McLachlan - a Ciena Asia vice president(and formerly Nortel’s Asia VP of carrier networks) – said the process has been reasonably smooth both in terms of the products themselves and the teams in charge of them.

“In Asia our team has made the transition pretty well – only one person declined the offer to come over to Ciena,” he told “We’ve spent the last few months getting them in place to make sure everyone understands where they fit into the overall portfolio and what their function is so there’s no confusion.”

He adds that all of the relevant customer contracts for Nortel MEN products have been ported over as well, and that those with discontinued products will still get the same service and support as before.

“We’ve made sure there’s no risk or uncertainty for customers, so we’ll be able to the customers in the eye and tell them that their platform is going to survive,” he said.

Meanwhile, McLachlan says Ciena will put extra emphasis on tech innovation as it pitches its expanded Ethernet and optical portfolio against a highly competitive market as vendors woo carriers with next-generation solutions promising faster, flatter and more cost-effective architectures.

“Nortel was doing $50 million R&D per quarter, and the combined operation of our two R&D teams will spend $80 million per quarter,” he said.

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