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Dr. Lawrence Roberts

Light Reading
Interview
Light Reading
1/25/2001
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Light Reading: Let’s talk about your competitors. In terms of routers, they’re people like Avici, Cisco, Juniper, and Pluris. Would you include Foundry Networks Inc. on that list?

Larry Roberts: No. It’s Juniper, Avici, Cisco, IronBridge, and any others in that market. But the technology is nothing like any of those people.

Light Reading: How does this compare to optical switches from Sycamore Networks Inc., Ciena Corp., Corvis Corp., and Tellium Inc.. Does it compete with them, or is this a complementary technology?

Roberts: All of the optical products fit in a layer below ours, where they are used to manage the structure. Optical switches don’t do anything [to help] switch traffic. The lambda is too big an entity — it’s not granular enough. So you have to do packet switching. Optical is very cheap, but it’s not going to be a big part of the revenue picture. Optical ports will be 50 times cheaper than packet-switching ports. The real challenge is not how do you install optical end to end; it’s how do you use those optical channels? The challenge is: "How do I load those pipes?"

Light Reading: So to be clear, those companies will continue to build those products, and you will work over those products.

Roberts: [The optical layer] will just be underneath.

Light Reading: You’ve called your product an optical superswitch. What is optical about it?

Roberts: All the [external] interfaces are optical. Optical interfaces, with ASICs.

Light Reading: Are you doing the ASICs [application-specific integrated circuits] yourself?

Roberts: Well, we’re going with IBM.

Dallas Kachan [Caspian’s director of communications]: That hasn’t been formally announced yet.

Light Reading [laughing]: Until this afternoon. But you’re just talking about the manufacturing, not the design.

Roberts: The design is ours.

Light Reading: What about inside? We’ve heard negative feedback that this is PacketCom with an optical spin. Is that unfair? I mean, is there an optical crossconnect or an optical backplane in here?

Roberts: Yes, all of our interconnects between the external components are optical.

Light Reading: How do you set yourself apart from companies like Amber Networks Inc., which talks about carrier-class switch routers, or Village Networks Inc., which has an IP/optical product that also uses optical interconnects?

Roberts: The only people to compare us with are the petabit switches, because the other people are sitting in a different market. They’re too edge.

There’s another issue that’s subtler. One of our potential customers decided they’re just not going to buy any switches that aren’t 19 inches wide any more. They’ve made a formal decision to not buy 23-inch boxes, because they can’t fit them in their sites. Weight is another requirement. They don’t want to have to reinforce floors. These are the kinds of things that people should have been checking on before now.

Light Reading: It’s back to the fundamentals, isn’t it? How much does it weigh, how much does it cost, and will it burst into flames?

Roberts: [Carriers] are really looking to scale their networks over a reasonable period of time. Three years, for example. It really is a very serious problem for the service providers, because they can’t keep replacing [their equipment] all the time.

 
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mahadeva
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mahadeva,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:59:05 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
Is that a misprint??? Who in the industry is working on petabit switches? I thought there were only a few companies working in the 1 to 10 terabit range.
pablo
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pablo,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:59:04 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
" .. I thought there were only a few companies working in the 1 to 10 terabit range .."

Which, of course, is 0.01 petabits... :-) That is yesterday's news, zettabits is where it's at... :-)
bryan_gregory
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bryan_gregory,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:59:02 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
Mahadeva,

Check out Hyperchip's web site for PetaBit Switch information. I guess Terabit's will be old-hat in a couple of years :-)

WWW.HYPERCHIP.COM

Regards,
Bryan-
gea
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gea,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:58:56 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
I'd place any amount of money I know exactly what Caspian is doing, and remember you heard it from "gea" first. Note that Daniel Blumenthal from UCSB has taken a leave to join Caspian.

What Caspian is going to try to do with optics is bascially the same thing that Ipsilon did with an ATM switch (converting a switch into a router by identifying switchable flows). With the Caspian switch, any time a flow is big enough to merit siwtching in the optical domain (ie, MEMs), then the electronic matrix will tag the flow and dump it down into the optical matrix.

In that sense, it is easy to scale to petabits, because once you have a wavelength flow, you've got 10Gb/s. Enough wavelength flows, and you're switching Petabits.

chechaco
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chechaco,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:58:53 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
Do you remember what happened to Ipsilon? Dynamic identification of flows does not scale well. That's why people use CR-LDP/RSVP-TE to set up connections in IP environment.
redface
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redface,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:58:40 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
Hi Gea, Daniel Blumenthal joined Calient, not Caspian.

What you say about Calient is interesting, please feed us more. Are they doing any dynamic wavelength conversion?
netskeptic
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netskeptic,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:58:39 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
"Do you remember what happened to Ipsilon? Dynamic identification of flows does not scale well. That's why people use CR-LDP/RSVP-TE to set up connections in IP environment."

I would rather say that people have a hope that MPLS and RSVP would work one day. In many respects it vividly reminds me the hopes pinned on ATM in its early days.
bobilll
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bobilll,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:58:22 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
What do people think of this statement?

"Roberts: I have a similar problem with it. And I have another problem. Once you successfully do photonic switching, itGs so cheap, where will [photonic switch manufacturers] get the revenue? LetGs just count the ports and how many there are going to be and what the market size is going to be. ItGs actually in the hundreds of millions at the best. "

The photonic switching companies carry hefty valuations based in large measure on perceived potential for exceptional revenue growth. Is the perception incorrect?-- will the revenue dry up because the market is smaller than thought?

Big A
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Big A,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:57:42 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
I agree with Roberts: There is little value add with core transport. There will be little intelligence in these boxes. Making the optical device to switch might be better, but actually moving the photons won't be a huge market.
Genuine
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Genuine,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 8:56:50 PM
re: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
When I set out to read this interview, like other articles I am spending time with, what I was hoping for is what will make IP profitable? What keeps business owners up at night? The Internet? Does business find themselves lacking in bandwidth to accomplish their revenue goals with the internet? How much business is coming from the Internet anyway? What are the goals beside moving data and e-mail? Do they think they will be left out of the "New Economy" if they do not get a three demensional/fully interactive Web site? Isn't that what sales people are? What is the "New Economy"-Cisco thinks it is voice over IP. But then again, isn't that taking way the only considerable profitablility (economy) of a telecommunications/ISP? I guess the question boils down to, What markets are you creating with your products? Please do not tell me the "New Economy". Tell me your vision.
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