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Next-Gen Sonet

Light Reading
5/10/2002
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A few years ago, it wasn't cool to say Sonet was sexy. Sonet was considered incredibly inefficient and inflexible – a stodgy, old-fashioned circuit technology that wouldn't survive in tomorrow's packet-based networks.

Now, everything's changed. The need for carriers to make a better return on investment has forced them to recognize that nearly all of their revenues come from services provided over circuits. At the same time, Sonet has undergone some radical improvements – notably ones that slash costs and eliminate many of its ineffiencies in handling packet-based traffic.

These developments have particular relevance to metro networks, where most of the action is right now, for a couple of reasons. First, this is where the rubber hits the road in terms of marshalling packet-based traffic and feeding it into the big fat optical pipes in carrier backbones. Second, cost considerations are very important in metro networks.

This report digs into these developments. It's part of a series of articles that freelance analyst Tim Hills has researched and written for Light Reading. The series is intended to put metro technologies into context, make them more understandable, and help folk see through the marketing hype pumped out by component and equipment suppliers.

The first report, Metro Multiservices Evolution, set the scene by explaining why metro networks are hot, the challenges facing carriers, and the technologies being proposed to solve these problems.

This report focuses on what's become known as Next-Generation Sonet. Its emphasis is on systems, while another report, covering Sonet chip developments, is scheduled for publication here in early June. (It will be previewed in a free, live Webinar on May 28. Click here to register.)

Subsequent reports in this series will delve into the details of "carrier-class" Ethernet, Resilient Packet Ring (RPR), and dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) developments.

This report starts by examining what the term Next-Generation Sonet really means and then reviews the technologies covered by the brand name. It then goes on to identify key trends in chip developments and outlines the ways next-gen Sonet is being built into metro equipment. Finally, it surveys a selection of products from key vendors in this space.

Here's a hyperlinked summary:

The Next-Gen Brand

  • Old Sonet's limitations
  • What New Sonet brings to the table
  • The (big) influence of Ethernet

Next-Generation Technologies

  • Packet-over-Sonet developments
  • Where digital wrappers fit in
  • Generic framing procedure versus X.86
  • Virtual concatenation pros and cons

Chips and Devices

  • Faster, faster
  • Smaller, smaller
  • Transceiver transformations

Using Next-Generation Sonet

  • How next-gen Sonet is being used in equipment
  • Delivering flexible bandwidths
  • Grooming multiprotocol traffic streams

System Developments

  • Selected equipment developments from key vendors
  • Monster build-your-own table
  • Heavy-duty dope on equipment specs

Some of this report digs quite deeply into technology issues. To get the most out of it, why not start by listening in to the archived Web-enabled preview, given by Scott Clavenna, Director of Research at Light Reading. Click here to do this.

Here's some background reading that might also help:

Introduction by Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

About the author: Tim Hills is a freelance technical writer. He may be reached at: timhills@compuserve.com.

Next Page: The Next-Gen Brand

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stuartb
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stuartb,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:21:23 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
Alidian and Atoga are NG-SONET boxes? On paper and in slideware I suppose. I'm not sure either one of them have the time or the money to pull that retro-fit off.

Nortel Optera 3500 with OC-192? It'll be awhile, and you'll have to rent a forklift.

Has Lucent even shipped the DMX yet?

-Stu
willywilson
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willywilson,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:21:06 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
God, the fashion parade goes on! Gigabit Ethernet and DWDM were going to kill SONET. Then we find out the dirty little secret that Gigabit Ethernet is usually GigE in Layers 2 and 3, but SONET in Layer 1, but no one wants to say so because then it won't be "new" and if it's not new then the VCs can't as easily be gulled into forking over big bucks.

Now we learn that SONET's not dead because the chips got cheaper. Ah, but no one can admit that because then the VCs won't give you a "new-new-thing" valuation. So, you call it "next-generation" SONET!

Ethernet in the First Mile, anyone?? (Don't you dare tell anyone that it's just commodity QAM over dirty copper, o.k.?)

Who needs the comics when real life is so hilarious?
wilecoyote
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wilecoyote,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:21:04 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
Before we all go bankrupt!

Let me ask you something willy, my boy:

Just because SONET components are getting cheaper and the carriers aren't going to replace their SONET gear for any of this "new stuff" any time soon, does that really make the case you're suggesting that's clearly pro-SONET? What are the merits of this? Cost or technology, or something else?

SONET is still cumbersome, it's still very hard to provision IP services over SONET, still requires lots of engineers, and therefore lots of cost, etc. Weird, exotic network configurations and next gen ADMs at a million dollars per are populating the networks which suggests a resurgence in SONET interest, but it's only for lack of capital and courage, not technology advantages.

The FACT is, if the service provider industry wasn't so screwed up from capital / debt standpoints, and wasn't run by CRIMINALS like Bernie Ebbers, you WOULD in fact see SONET taken completely out of carrier networks and replaced by new technologies like RPR which has been PROVEN to be as resilient as SONET at tiny fractions of the cost.

Don't be so gleeful in SONET's temporary staying power. It IS temporary. The system is part of the problem IN THE INDUSTRY: it's costly and doesn't support GROWTH markets like IP services, EFFICIENTLY.
skeptic
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skeptic,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:21:03 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
Just because SONET components are getting cheaper and the carriers aren't going to replace their SONET gear for any of this "new stuff" any time soon, does that really make the case you're suggesting that's clearly pro-SONET? What are the merits of this? Cost or technology, or something else?
-----------

The sad truth is that in most applications there
is no difference between using SONET and
GE technology. Its just a different framing
technology. All the complexity of sonet goes
away for the most typical application (a point
to point link between devices).

There is nothing about the word "ethernet" that
makes the technology cheaper or easier to use.
From the vendor point of view, there is almost
no difference anymore. Its just another L2
encapsulation.

Beyond all that, it would be good if people
actually looked at what GE and 10GE really are
in terms of technology. Its not 10/100baseT
speeded up.






willywilson
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willywilson,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:20:41 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
Don't be so gleeful in SONET's temporary staying power. It IS temporary. The system is part of the problem IN THE INDUSTRY: it's costly and doesn't support GROWTH markets like IP services, EFFICIENTLY.

==================

I don't have any stake in either Sonet or Ethernet. I stand aside from the religious wars. I only care about what works and what's real. I notice that every single Gigabit Ethernet carrier has gone bankrupt. All of them.

Those offering Ethernet transport are doing so voer Sonet. They are still in business. Other than that, GigE is a fantastic story. But there are a lot of stories in the naked (and bankrupt) city ...
willywilson
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willywilson,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:20:40 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
The sad truth is that in most applications there
is no difference between using SONET and
GE technology. Its just a different framing
technology. All the complexity of sonet goes
away for the most typical application (a point
to point link between devices).

================

The truth is always beautiful, even when it's disappointing.
Maximus
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50%
Maximus,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:20:40 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
There's a hell of a lot more to transport than framing - notably OAM&P for SONET is lightyears ahead of GigE. Bandwidth management, APS & provisioning is exactly why most GigE traffic uses SONET for WAN transport. GigE, 10GigE and SONET will co-exist for many years to come. The extinction event for SONET probably won't even begin until 40GigE is a production technology (2007?)
metro_ether_man
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metro_ether_man,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/4/2012 | 10:16:50 PM
re: Next-Gen Sonet
Possibly, but 15 years ago it was the solution.
It is about solving a problem, and certain implementations that are standards based do run in
transparent mode.
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