Cisco founder brings optics to the router guys

Cisco founder brings optics to the router guys

Len Bosack is at it again.

The man who co-founded Cisco Systems this week unveiled another product that he believes could transform the way companies do business, much the way Cisco routers did.

His 16-year-old company, XKL LLC, developed the DXM optical transport system, a 1-rack unit device supporting up to 100Gbps that enables enterprises with access to dark fiber to construct their own point-to-point metro-area optical link.

DXM is intended to alleviate the need for large enterprises with thousands of computers to resort to costly and limited options for interconnecting those systems optically through a campus environment or metropolitan area. Typically, these companies must purchase a lit service from a carrier, or light fiber with equipment from traditional telecom vendors or start-ups that can be expensive, difficult to operate or deploy, or have minimal management and protection capabilities.

DXM provides per channel path protection under 1 millisecond, XKL claims. It also can be monitored and reconfigured remotely through a familiar command line interface (CLI) -- a Cisco router-like CLI.

That means a company need not hire an optical engineer or nail themselves to any service contracts to deploy the product, XKL says.

"It's a Cisco CLI-like management interface, which is very different from the typical optical interface, which is TL1-based," says Eve Griliches, an analyst at IDC. "That essentially allows the millions of (Cisco Certified Network Engineers) to operate a box like this almost immediately."

It also dramatically drops the price of moving a bit of information. Bosack claims 1 million of those bits -- or 1Mbps -- costs 10 cents with DXM vs. US$400 per Mbps per month from a carrier's DS-3 service.

"It's not uncommon to see the cost per bit per second (go) down by a factor of 100, or even 500, or actually a factor of 1,000," Bosack says. "Conventional wisdom is, when you change the price or quantity of something by a factor of 10, it's not just the same thing anymore, it becomes a kind of different quality. And when you do it by a factor of 100 or more, it's an even more dramatic change."

To date, no enterprises are trialing the product but a couple of ISPs are. Wilshire Connection in downtown Los Angeles is running a mix of TDM, SONET and Ethernet traffic through the DXMs to increase the efficiency of leased fiber links and provide metro lit services.

Optic Fusion is a Washington State ISP that operates a circuit between Seattle and Tacoma. The link currently provides metro Fibre Channel storage services and Ethernet data services.

XKL's challenge with DXM, Griliches notes, is the inverse of what makes the product so potentially appealing to enterprises -- optical engineers at an ISP may not be familiar with a Cisco-like CLI and therefore may shun DXM.

"XKL is testing the gray area between routing and optical," she says.

A 100Gbps DXM systems costs about $125,000 and is available now.

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