Ciena Passes 100,000 in 800-Gb/s Sales

City With Network

By: Mary Jander

Demand from content and service providers is fueling a fast-growing market for 800-Gb/s optical transmission technology, as customers cope with increased data volumes, cloud computing, AI, and mandates for greater sustainability.

Case in point: Optical networking provider Ciena (NYSE: CIEN) recently announced it has reached a milestone in sales of its WaveLogic 5 Extreme 800-Gb/s modems. Specifically, Ciena’s shipped 100,000 WaveLogic 5 Extreme modems to 250 customers in 68 countries. By way of comparison, Ciena had shipped 25,000 WaveLogic 5 Extreme modems to 140 operators in January 2022. So over the past two years, demand for the high-speed coherent optical solution has tripled.

The WaveLogic 5 Extreme is the 800-Gb/s backbone version of Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 optical connectivity series announced in February 2019. Another version of the solution, the WaveLogic 5 Nano, is a pluggable coherent optical module designed to fit smaller physical spaces supporting 100 Gb/s to 400 Gb/s connectivity. The announcement this month pertained only to the WaveLogic 5 Extreme.

A Coherent Approach

Ciena’s success with WaveLogic 5 Extreme indicates strong demand for 800-Gb/s connectivity among hyperscalers and service providers looking to expand their optical backbone networks, despite indications that some telcos are pulling back on spending in other areas, such as 5G. The proliferation of data and greater requirements for datacenter interconnection have customers aggressively building for bandwidth. Generative AI will also be a factor.

Ciena attributes the success of the WaveLogic 5 Extreme in part to its small size and its deployment of coherent optics, or technology that manipulates the physical properties of light in order to fit more data over a fiber optic link.

Regarding size, a single modem can fit in the palm of a hand, the vendor says, and 100,000 modems stacked together would measure one-third of a kilometer or .22 of a mile. As to coherent optics, Ciena states on its site:

“[Coherent optics] takes the typical ones and zeroes in a digital signal—the blinking on and off of the light in the fiber—and uses sophisticated technology to modulate the amplitude and phase of that light and send the signal across each of two polarizations. This, in turn, imparts considerably more information onto the light speeding through a fiber optic cable.”

Using coherent optics enables Ciena to make optical transmission more sustainable, the vendor says. By reducing footprint and power requirements, WaveLogic products save tens of thousands in CO2 emissions annually, while requiring substantially less watts/gigabyte to operate.

A New Series in the Works

The WaveLogic 5 Extreme works within Ciena’s optical routing platforms, including its Converged Packet-Optical and Packet Networking series as well as on the new WaveRouter metro platform, which Ciena made generally available in April 2023.

The WaveLogic 5 Extreme's place in the sun could be overshadowed next year. Ciena announced last February the WaveLogic 6, which the vendor says will support up to 1.6 Tb/s with 800-Gb/s pluggable optics and reduce space and power per bit by 50% compared to the WaveLogic 5. The WaveLogic 6 will be supported across Ciena’s optical, routing, and switching platforms, and the vendor said it will be available for use in third-party platforms as well. WaveLogic 6 is expected to be available in the first half of 2024.

Influential Customers

WaveLogic 5 Extreme boasts a broad range of customers that includes some of the world’s biggest telecom, datacenter, and submarine connectivity providers – Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, Southern Cross, Vodafone, and Sparkle, to name just a few.

Ciena has, of course, competition in this area from rivals such as Infinera (Nasdaq: INFN) and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO). And chips are in the works that could lead to even greater competition: Marvell (Nasdaq: MRVL) recently announced a digital signal processing component for use in pluggable optical modules for 800-Gb/s networking. But so far, Ciena’s early entrance in the market has given it a leg up in the 800-Gb/s race.

Futuriom Take: The success of Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 Extreme modem signals a push from hyperscalers, content providers, and telcos for greater bandwidth, despite a slowdown in purchases of other kinds of networking gear. It could also herald future success of its faster WaveLogic 6 due next year.