Technology review


Gartner Passive Optical LAN review

Analysis By: Peter Kjeldsen Publication Date: 4 August 2010


Passive optical LAN solutions use passive optical network (PON) technology that is  already commercially available and in use in communications service providers' (CSPs') fiber to the home deployments. The technology uses single-mode optical fibers, which ensure high performance and long range. The first commercial launch of this type of product was announced by Motorola in May 2009, and included details of a reseller agreement with Science Applications International Corp.

Position and Adoption Speed Justification

Passive optical LAN technology was only recently introduced to the market, but it has already matured in the CSP segment. This means that while the technology is placed at a relatively early stage on the Hype Cycle, its adoption could happen faster than would normally be expected. On the other hand, the solution will, in many cases, require extensive fiber layouts. Also, the upfront capital expenditure associated with this will, in some cases, be a challenge in the current economic climate.

Balancing these factors explains why we maintain last year's estimate — that the technology has two to five years to mainstream adoption. Continued efforts from the solutions providers, to market and develop this technology, have driven its position up toward the peak of the Hype Cycle; but getting to the peak and beyond will require that providers continue their investment.

The position on the Hype Cycle reflects that this technology targets enterprises with large data needs and/or high security concerns; also, that it is specifically targeted at greenfield deployments and projects where cable refurbishment is an integral part of the plan.

User Advice

  1. Enterprises should evaluate passive optical LAN as one option for their next LAN fixed infrastructure upgrade, especially for data intensive and/or high security installations. The attractiveness of the solution depends, critically, on the horizon over which it is evaluated. Consider breaking the business case into fiber and equipment parts —allowing a more distant horizon for the fiber part of the investment; fibers may be reused in subsequent equipment upgrades as the PON technology matures.
  2. Evaluate both the benefits and the challenges that a passive optical LAN solution would present in your network, in terms of network architecture and security, and allow for the fact that this is not a conventional solution and, as such, may require more change management than alternative approaches.
  3. Optical LAN technology also has a green angle; enterprises should consider the possible savings on energy bills and physical footprint when evaluating this solution.

Business Impact

The business impact of passive optical LAN technology is to lower the total cost of ownership in a business LAN environment — by means of passive optical technology developed for, and proven in, CSP networks.

Lower cost is accomplished by using passive optical components, instead of active switching elements, which reduces the operational expenditure of the solution.

The use of passive components instead of active switches can also save energy and physical footprint, and this should be an integral part of the evaluation of this technology.

Benefit Rating



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