Cisco highlights how ZR pluggables are changing optical architecture

Bill Gartner, SVP and GM of Cisco’s Optical Systems and Optics Group, tipped the proliferation of ZR pluggables to spark a big shift in the optical world, noting access to an open interface and economic benefits could help spur adoption of a new networking architecture.

“We have a pretty strong belief that the big shift that’s going to occur in the industry is driven by this coherent pluggable, the ZR pluggable,” he said during an Evercore ISI investor conference.

While transponder and chassis-based solutions will continue to be used, Gartner argued “pluggables have a fantastic advantage in terms of simplifying the network and the fact that they are open when none of the transponder-based solutions are open today – they’re open and they’re multi-vendor – we think that’s really going to change the economics of the industry as any open standard has.”

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The executive explained networks were traditionally designed with multiple layers, with separate lanes for packet control, Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) and the Optical Transport Network (OTN). The idea, he said, was to bypass routers in the network since it was “very expensive” to fill ports in these. But now there’s an opportunity to collapse these into a single layer, Gartner said.

“We think that with the combination of this massively scalable router and a DWDM pluggable we can vastly simplify the networks that are being offered today,” he said.

Cisco offered up its vision for this architecture in March, when it unveiled its Routed Optical Networking solution. Gartner noted that since both pluggables and routers are now open, “this is not a Cisco-only solution. This is an architecture that could be adopted by a customer for use with third-party routers and third-party optics…This is truly open. No optical solution that they deploy today, including a Cisco optical solution, offers the level of interoperability that these pluggables will.”

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Gartner said the new setup offers significant opex savings, adding he expects the “economic value will drive customers toward this architecture.” However, that won’t happen overnight, with Cisco expecting this to be a five-plus year transition, he said.