IHS Markit: Ciena tops the list of optical equipment vendors + Cignal AI’s OFC Preview

By Heidi Adams, executive director, network infrastructure, IHS Markit

Each year IHS Markit surveys service providers, in order to find out which companies they view as the leaders of the optical equipment market. The survey also explores their perceptions of vendors in key decision metrics, like pricing, total cost of ownership, technology innovation, research-and-development (R&D) investment, and product reliability.

Following are some of the key findings from this year’s survey:

Optical equipment vendor leaders:

In brand awareness, respondents perceive Ciena, Huawei, and Nokia as the overall leaders for optical transmission and switching equipment in 2018, with no change in the rankings from last year. These results are well aligned with positioning in the global optical network hardware market in the first three quarters of 2018, where Huawei, Ciena, and Nokia were ranked as the top three vendors by market share in this period.

Ciena was the most cited leader in optical DCI, with Huawei and Infinera tied for second place. Ciena also made significant strides this year in market perception for leadership in optical disaggregation, rising from third position in our 2017 survey to first-ranked position in 2018. Coriant (now Infinera), Huawei and Nokia all tied for second place.

Purchasing criteria:

IHS Markit survey respondents were also asked to identify the leaders in purchasing criteria, including pricing, technology innovation, product reliability, service and support and investment in research and development. The top three vendor selection criteria for optical equipment purchasing decisions in 2018 were, as follows:

  1. Product reliability
  2. Pricing
  3. Total cost of ownership

Ciena was the leader in 2018 for service provider perception of vendor leadership in product reliability, technology innovation, management software, and investment in research and development. Huawei topped the list for service provider perception of vendor leadership in pricing, total cost of ownership, solution breadth, and financial stability. Nokia was perceived as the leader in service and support for optical networks.

Optical Equipment Vendor Leadership Service Provider Survey – 2018

This survey explores how service providers evaluate and select optical transmission and switching equipment suppliers. It covers vendors installed and under evaluation and service provider opinions of vendors, including on key vendor selection criteria.


Cignal AI on OFC 2019–

400ZR Steals the Show:

No single topic at OFC will command as much attention as 400ZR, which is based on fourth-generation coherent technology and an OIF standard for coherent short reach DCI applications. Product development is well underway with over a dozen component and equipment companies spending in excess of $300M in this effort. The market for short reach coherent extends well beyond the DCI needs of Microsoft and Google. Derivatives (known as ZR+ or ZR plus) are emerging which are designed to meet the broader needs of network operators everywhere. ZR is the first coherent technology that will be both standardized and pluggable, and the emergence of ZR products will shake up the optical equipment landscape. One major impact is that 10G WDM will become obsolete in its only remaining stronghold- the edge of the optical network. The greater question is what role standalone optical hardware will play in the network as the performance and interoperability of coherent pluggables improve. Expect a cascade of activity at OFC from component and equipment companies as they uncover their ZR plans and demonstrate the latest optical engines, and some bombshell announcements and partnerships from the leaders in this space – Inphi, Acacia, Ciena, Cisco, Huawei, Nokia, and NTT Electronics.

While fourth-generation 400G products have been announced at OFC already for the last two years, 2019 is the year that these products start deploying for revenue. Starting in early 2019, third generation solutions from Acacia (via multiple hardware vendors), Nokia, Huawei, Fujitsu, and Infinera will join Ciena in live network deployments. Now that 400G is deployed, there will be multiple roadmap announcements at OFC seeking to leapfrog 400G and propose the next generation of coherent optical speeds. 600G is a given, but there will be 800G and perhaps 1Tbps announcements as well. Components suppliers and equipment manufacturers will show roadmaps to higher speed sixthgeneration coherent optical components in preparation for a 2020 introduction.

We expect Infinera to disclose more detail on its ICE6 R&D efforts and would not be surprised to hear Ciena talk about a successor to the Wavelogic AI now that competitive products are arriving in the market.

Disaggregation Continues, with Many Definitions: 

The disaggregation trend will continue to gain strength at OFC, but the definition will continue to change. Whereas the original concept was complete separation of switching transponders, ROADMs, and perhaps even components into separately manageable elements, now new solutions are starting to look more like traditional optical equipment. Compact modular systems, which are the most visible components of a disaggregation strategy, have moved from monolithic transponder or open line systems to more complex devices that can include switching and multiple functions in the same shelf. Some systems now even have modularity via cards (although they are called “sleds” rather than “cards”), making them look more like traditional systems in everything but physical dimensions. Several large operators are skeptical about disaggregation, while several others agree with the concept but consider current solutions too difficult to manage. Regardless, the industry-wide shift to disaggregation will accelerate as implementation becomes easier and better attuned to the needs of a wider variety of customers. General availability and customer announcements for 2019 are expected from several vendors, including ADVA, Cisco, Coriant, Fujitsu, and Nokia. In addition to the compact modular announcements,

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