Is Ciena cooking a PBT control plane?

Recently I reported that Soapstone Networks, which pioneered the market for Provider Backbone Transport control planes, won’t be alone for long. Equipment vendors in the PBT space know that other control planes have been developed for the Ethernet transport technology and expect them to be unveiled soon. My source said a pair of startup suppliers will probably emerge in the first half of this year. As I said, one of them seems likely to be Gridpoint Systems. I wonder if another near-future entrant will be Ciena.

Worldwide Packets, whose acquisition by Ciena closed this month, is known as not only a major proponent of PBT but also an early authority on it. Ciena has been increasingly promoting PBT as part of its overall commitment to Ethernet. Though the optical vendor hasn’t developed its own PBT gear, it claimed a PBT win last December when British Telecom, the leading PBT torch-bearer in the carrier world, selected PBT-capable gear from Ciena’s partner, Anda Networks.

Ciena has also cited PBT as a factor in the decision to acquire WWP. And it has singled out WWP’s carrier Ethernet software expertise and innovation as an asset.

When the acquisition was announced, Ciena’s chief technology officer Steve Alexander said, “[WWP] has addressed a number of the operations and management, service and provisioning pieces of Ethernet. When you look at how a carrier operates, the ability to have a demarcation capability, the ability to provision remotely and diagnose what’s going on in the network is very important. Worldwide has basically solved many of those problems.”

It’s hard to talk about PBT and provisioning software without talking about the market for PBT control planes.

I asked Ciena this week if they’re working on a PBT control plane. A spokesman replied, “Automating the control of carrier Ethernet networks is an integral part of our strategy and where we plan to leverage our extensive control plane technology and experience to control both Ethernet (PBT and non-PBT) as well as non-Ethernet solutions.”

When asked when the company might introduce such an offering, Ciena said, “We are not prepared to make any product announcements (or a timeframe for one) at this time.”

Can anyone out there with some inside knowledge shed any light on this?

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