Cox Communications has awarded Ciena Corp. a master purchase agreement for next-generation dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) equipment. The company also has agreed to buy an undisclosed amount of equipment from Ciena. DWDM—which holds the promise of cutting both capital and operational expenditures by more efficiently adding and managing new services—is an increasingly potent tool for cable operators. The savings can be particularly advantageous for a company such as Cox, which can piggyback its residential and commercial networking needs. The flexibility of the new gear is suggested in the first services for which Cox will use it. The announced tasks—storage-area networking, gigabit Ethernet services and video-on-demand—serve both consumers and the small- and medium-size businesses that Cox is courting. The alternative is to cobble together networks. But these can be expensive to run, difficult to expand and inefficient to manage. “The best or the simplest way to look at it is that instead of allowing only a single service, this allows multiple services per fiber,” says Tom Mock, senior vice president for Ciena’s solutions unit. The contract with Cox represents Ciena’s first big win in the cable industry. Second Source The Cox/Ciena deal focuses on the Online Metro and Online Edge gear. Both cram 10 Gbps on a single wavelength. The Online Metro product features 32 operational wavelengths—for a total capacity of 320 Gbps. The Online Edge offers eight 10 Gbps wavelengths for a total of 80 Gbps, Mock says. The Ciena gear will represent Cox’s second generation DWDM gear. No third vendor will be added in the near future, says Cox Director of Network Architecture Darryl Ladd.
The agreement gives Ciena the green light to approach various Cox regions with the Online Metro and Online Edge gear. The incumbent vendor for metro and regional DWDM is Sorrento Networks, whose gear is functioning well and will continue to be used. The competition provided by Ciena could lead to lower pricing for Cox. “They can go to any of the systems and go head to head with the incumbent and try to win some business,” Ladd says. Not just speed The crux of the difference between the older Sorrento equipment and the new gear from Ciena has little to do with how much data can be transported: The capacity of the two generations of DWDM gear is about the same, Ladd says. The differentiators are management and interfaces. “The first generation has fewer interfaces, mostly SONET and ATM,” Ladd says. “The second generation may have Ethernet and maybe some video interfaces. The other thing we expect in the later is provisioning tools to manage the system. That’s being defined now.” Each DWDM product has its own element management system, Ladd says. The Online Metro and Online Edge products support the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), which is the approach that Cox wants to use. Ladd said that the element manager will communicate via a middleware layer with other Cox network management elements, and that the Ciena and Sorrento equipment will not be able to communicate directly. —Carl Weinschenk Living by the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” paid off during the “Great Power Blackout of 2003.” When the lights went out in mid-August, MSOs with battery-based uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and diesel generators were ready. “Most of our headends have UPSs and diesel generators, which kicked in as soon as the power went off,” says Marwan Fawaz, Adelphia’s SVP of engineering and CTO. “We had no interruptions on the data side at all, and most of our cable TV systems kept running. In fact, in markets like Cleveland, we were providing cable TV service before our subscribers had power restored.” “Our backups worked as planned,” says Comcast spokesperson Jenni Moyer. “We have backup power supplies, and all operated as they should.” That said, sister publication CableFAX Daily reported that Comcast suffered some temporary power losses in Detroit; also that some Comcast Digital Phone customers lost service. In Toronto, Rogers Cable’s Internet backbone never lost power, nor did most of its cable TV infrastructure. “The vast majority of our primary hubs have UPSs and diesel generators,” explains Dermot O’Carroll, Rogers’ SVP of network engineering and operations. “As soon as our customers got their power back, they could watch cable TV.” As with Adelphia, the majority of Rogers’ cable TV networks stayed live even when the main power was off. The trouble was that no one was watching, except perhaps subscribers with their own backup generators or battery-powered TVs. Switch to one-way As for digital cable? Neither Adelphia nor Comcast reported any problems keeping their digital tiers running. However, Rogers switched its set-tops to one-way broadcast mode during the blackout, then restored them to two-way afterwards on an area-by-area basis. “We were concerned that as the set-tops started coming back online, they would overload our servers by sending in registration requests,” says O’Carroll. “As a result, we wanted to control the re-registration process, to keep the traffic load manageable.” The virtues of backup systems are perhaps obvious; the benefits of anticipating digital set-tops requests less so. Other lessons learned and best-practices exhibited at Rogers, Adelphia and other MSOs include the following: —James Careless, with Laura Hamilton

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