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The New Metro

Metro networks are changing. Pressured on one side by a wave of access innovation and investment including 5G and fiber broadband, and on the other side by the migration of hyperscale data centers into geographically dispersed edge clouds, metro networks are no longer simply about aggregating long-haul-bound traffic; they’re a key enabler of the cloudification and disaggregation of the applications that run our world.

Powered by the relentless march of switching silicon, the massive switching capacity previously reserved for the core is being distributed further into the metro via space and power-efficient platforms. Along with it, IP routing is extending its reach as the forwarding mechanism of choice; its scale, flexibility, and ubiquity have increasingly led to IP/MPLS supplanting layer 2 transport in its last stronghold of access and aggregation.

It is in this re-architected and rejuvenated metro that Ciena sees an opportunity to expand its market presence. Combined with the transformational shift to IP-over-DWDM, it’s a space that presents a major threat and a significant opportunity for the company. Long an access and layer 2-focused packet vendor, Ciena has been steadily augmenting and expanding its portfolio to embrace the growing predominance of IP routing in metro/aggregation networks (it began reporting Edge routing revenue in 1Q22). Over the past several years, the company has steadily moved up the stack by adding IP features to its platforms and investing in its Blue Planet automation portfolio. On the other hand, the high likelihood that router-hosted 400ZR/ZR+ optics will handle optical transport for these newly beefed-up metros threatens to eat into Ciena’s much larger optical business.

The New Router

On October 17th, Ciena announced the 8190 Coherent Aggregation Router. Its introduction comes on the heels of several prior announcements of 8100 family routers over the past year, but this one is different. Supporting 14.4 terabits of switching capacity (compared to 2.4 Tbps in the 8110/12/14), it expands Ciena’s addressable market beyond the access and small aggregation market, on which it has traditionally focused, into the large aggregation and edge routing space squarely in the realm of routing giants Cisco, Nokia, and Juniper.

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