DriveNets Boosts Acacia Optical Integration


By: Mary Jander

DriveNets, maker of a cloud-based networking system for service providers, today announced the integration of its Network Cloud stack with 400-Gb/s Ethernet-compatible optical networking modules from Cisco subsidiary Acacia Communications.

The move reflects a growing trend toward pairing optical networking components with routing, a tack that accelerates the performance of datacenter and metro interconnections in hyperscaler and service provider networks.

DriveNets also emphasizes the advantages of freeing up customers from being committed to specific router vendors’ solutions, since it implements its disaggregated software router in white box hardware.

“Today’s announcement is further proof of the growth of disaggregated networking solutions and demonstrates that more operators are looking for open solutions that will allow them to mix elements from multiple vendors and avoid being locked to a specific end-to-end vendor solution,” said Nir Gasko, Vice President, Global Strategic Alliances for DriveNets, in a press release.

DriveNets Makes Good on Optical Plans

Today’s announcement follows DriveNets’ initial introduction of coherent optical modules into its white-box routers back in September 2022. At that time, the vendor said it supported ZR/ZR+ coherent optical transceivers from Acacia as well as modules from Coherent, Fujitsu Optical Components, and NEC. Acacia also said it planned to support modules from Ciena and Infinera, among other players, in the future. (So far, Acacia appears to be the flagship offering, but more on that momentarily.)

ZR/ZR+ optical modules conform to agreed-on industry specs for pluggable optical modules that deploy coherent optics, a technology that manipulates light to achieve greater data capacities over fiber. Acacia specializes in this area, and Acacia’s ZR/ZR+ modules have been deployed in Cisco’s routing gear for over two years.

With this announcement, DriveNets claims to go beyond just a simple integration as announced in 2022. Specifically, Acacia’s 400ZR/ZR+ modules are completely configurable, tunable, and manageable by DriveNets Network Cloud. This includes full monitoring, management, and troubleshooting of Acacia’s Bright ZR+ transceivers, announced in December 2022, which target metro and regional IP-over-optical networks.

The ability to be controlled by DriveNets Network Cloud is significant, since the stack deploys DriveNets’ Network Orchestrator software based on microservices, which apply white-box clusters to a broad range of network infrastructure, including mobile access, core networking, public cloud datacenters, and edge applications. Adding optical bandwidth to the mix could supercharge these applications.

Some Potential Roadblocks

Today’s announcement should substantially add to DriveNets’ attraction for service providers and hyperscalers, who are intent on scaling out routed networks as quickly, cheaply, and efficiently as possible. Still, DriveNets may be challenged to fulfill its ambition to extend its Network Cloud integration to vendors such as Ciena, which this year unveiled the WaveRouter, its own routing platform equipped with coherent optical pluggable modules.

There is also potential competition from DriveNets archrival Arrcus, which in September 2022 announced its own intentions to support pluggable coherent optics.

Nevertheless, the market for optical and routing convergence appears to be broad enough to accommodate multiple competing solutions. Ciena’s routing and switching segment grew 25% last quarter, adding to significant topline growth. And it seems that service providers are still spending on optical networking gear despite pulling back in other areas.

Futuriom Take: DriveNets deep integration of Acacia ZR/ZR+ coherent optical modules with its software-based Network Cloud is a prescient move that should attract hyperscalers and service providers looking to disaggregated networking to save operational and capital costs.