Cisco, other vendors TIP into disaggregation across optical vendor ecosystem

Cisco is among the vendors that have tossed their hats into the ring for the Telecom Infra Project's Phoenix project.

The Phoenix project, which is a subset of the Telecom Infra Project's open optical and packet transport (OOPT) group, is working to create open disaggregated hardware and software solutions by forging an ecosystem of hardware and software vendors.

The Phoenix project has the weight of prominent service providers, including Vodafone, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, Telia, MTN, and NTT, behind it. The technical specification for Phoenix "is based on an efficient design for metro, core, and data center interconnection (DCI) applications, and is especially well-suited for service providers (MNOs and ISPs) and content providers," according to TIP.

TIP’s OOPT project group is working on creating open DWDM solutions, models and APIs, covering transponders, open line systems, and routers. All of which will help accelerate industry standardization of packet optical interfaces, and drive broader adoption of disaggregated transport platforms.

"The TIP Phoenix project is a great initiative to take disaggregation further," said Cisco's Bill Gartner, senior vice president and general manager for Cisco's optical systems and optics group, in a blog post. "We already see disaggregation of coherent transponders from Open Line Systems. Our NCS 1004 platform, which was shortlisted by some of these operators during a multi-operator RFI process executed in 2020, will be validated across different combinations of transponder and line system vendors in the new phase of the Phoenix project.

"The final goal we aim to accomplish together with our collaboration partners is software disaggregation. While software disaggregation for optical transport applications still has open questions on commercial and operational models, the Phoenix project provides a great collaborative forum to investigate feasibility further and collaborate on these issues."

Additional vendors that have been shortlisted for TIP's Phoenix project include Fujitsu, Infinera, IP Infusion, Wipro and Wistron, according to Dell'Oro Group's Jimmy Yu.

"When it comes to the hardware, the main vendors are Cisco, Fujitsu, and Infinera," said Yu, vice president at Dell'Oro Group, in an email to FierceTelecom. "But maybe more impressive is the list of service providers that are actively participating. These are all Tier 1 operators that spend a lot of capital on optical equipment. So, any effort to get closer to what these operators want is a positive step."

According to research by Yu, the disaggregated transponder unit market has been one of the fastest growing segments in optical transport. In 2019 and 2020, revenues for disaggregated transponder units increased by about 20% annually.

Yu said TiP's Phoenix project was basically a transponder unit that houses coherent optics, which plays into Cisco's hand on several fronts. Cisco can sell disaggregated systems, including optics that are part of its original business, or sell only the coherent optics that can be used in other vendors' systems due to its $4.5 billion Acacia acquisition, according to Yu. Acacia's customer roster has included ZTE, Infinera and Adva, among others.

RELATED: Cisco and Acacia move forward on merger but price tag goes up to $4.5B

"I would say that, in general, TIP’s Phoenix is a very good project for Cisco and others to take part in," Yu said.