Infinera/Coriant: On Capping Installed Base

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We have mentioned that a number of operators with a sizeable installed base of either Infinera or Coriant are undeniably re-evaluating their network strategies. Of course, there would be even more of an imperative, if the service providers hit the wrong kind of lottery jackpot, and have gear from both vendors prevalent in their infrastructure. Our first reaction would be to advise them to strongly consider just filling out the remaining capacity of the existing equipment, and move on to another vendor for growth with new systems. However, the reality is that network planners at a high level still have to at least go through the motions of determining the strategic direction of the “new” Infinera because their jobs could be on the line. Yet, while intensive intelligence gathering, from a consulting firm, such as by fibeReality, chiefly concentrating on feedback from customers in the same predicament may help to get these buyers in the ballpark of the most likely future direction for Infinera, it is an unusual situation in that the vendor just does not have a reliable enough record of sticking to a fixed game plan. The situation is even worse now, as it has never had such an assortment of disparate solutions. Also, once more, the cash and talent drain at the company continues to makes us even more convinced that future generations of ICE products may be uncertain. There is somewhat good news for the traditional types of operators, which are using long-haul equipment from Infinera in that they appear to have more time before doing something drastic than those with a base of metro/regional gear from that company and/or Coriant.

With the DTN-X, and the ability to get up to 500G, many conventional types of providers should be set on capacity for a long while. They would also not tend to be nearly as interested in the lack of openness of the product, as much as a hyperscale operator. In addition, there is not truly much overlap between any Coriant boxes, which may have been used in a long-haul application, and the DTN-X. (In the longer term, the ease of adaptability of Infinera’s PICs in providing higher QAM levels, in moving to PCS, and in possible L-band expansion is definitely questionable.)

Furthermore, for more incumbent types of users, when it comes to SDN controller support, whether Transcend Symphony or Xceed becomes more predominant is not relevant. Once again, for these types of buyers, SDN tends to be utilized in greenfield, access situations.

The real mess is found in looking at all of the other products, which are in conflict. Both the CloudXpress and XT-3600 meshponder clash with the Groove G30 platform. Then, again, there is the XTM possibly going head-to-head with the 7100 Series. Even before the announcement of the acquisition of Coriant, there was a propensity of “throwing an assortment of solutions against the wall, and seeing which ones will stick.”

The biggest challenge for Infinera may be involving reconciling its roadmap with ROADMs. There is a total of four solutions: FlexILS, mTera, DTN 7100, and XTM.

Another matter to take into consideration is if the speculation has been true that there has been trouble with its latest ICE chip, further introduction of Acacia Communications’ solutions into the Infinera product line cannot be ruled out. It also remains to be seen whether pressure from the large hyperscale data center operators in favoring the openness of Groove, would result in Infinera making it a priority over its other DCI products.

With any other player, there might be room for optimism in that with proper execution going well over the next few years, its significantly larger size could result in the firm making some real waves in the marketplace. Yet, Infinera prefers to stick with a pipe-dream story of getting the PIC into all of the Coriant platforms. Perhaps the best advice is what we initially provided to Infinera when it came to Transmode – just leave Coriant alone, but such an occurrence is inconceivable, as its unreasonable fixation with its PICs will not likely go away.

At the same time, during Infinera’s lack of focus on markets and customers, and as people fight for their jobs there, its competitors will be that much more committed in taking market share away.

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[written by Mark Lutkowitz]