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BTE Bits: A Packet-Optical Review

Dan O'Shea
7/1/2014
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A few random observations as I scan my notes, remember conversations (or try to) and just generally try to make sense of Light Reading's recent Big Telecom Event:

  • Two companies situated right next to one another in the Packet Optical Zone on the demo floor -- Ekinops SA and ECI Telecom Ltd. -- had something in common. Both are based in other parts of the world -- Ekinops in France, ECI in Israel -- but are gearing up organizationally and strategically, beefing up their sales approaches and products, to pursue more business opportunities in North America, particularly the US. (See Ekinops Entices 100G Metro Market.)

    Many other vendors from outside the US have tried and failed to accomplish the same over the years, but a new round of reasons has cropped up -- packet-optical convergence, 100G metro optical, trial opportunities for technologies beyond 100G -- to entice a new group of vendors. ECI, for its part, already has made some progress, announcing just prior to BTE that it had landed Michigan carrier Comlink as a customer.

  • Between Ekinops, ECI and MRV Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: MRVC), we may have a job-hunters market for optical sector sales talent. All three spoke of sales staffs that are growing, or have been recently enlarged or made over. For their sake, the packet-optical and 100G metro optical market buzz had better be for real. (See Euronews: ECI Telecom Restructures.)

  • MPLS-TP was a hot topic a couple years ago, and seemed to fade, but it's not nearly dead, according to many vendors at BTE. There was some question when Ciena recently launched a packet-optical metro platform with Ethernet and MPLS-TP switching how viable the technology was. But several folks I spoke with at BTE said they have it in their products, and claimed deployments around the world, indicating carriers are interested in the predictable transport performance and management capabilities it brings to packet networks. (See Ciena Stirs Up the Metro Market and ITU Pushes Toward MPLS-TP Answer.)

  • Packet-optical convergence, without a doubt, was one of the hottest topics of discussion at BTE. Numerous vendors and at least a couple of carriers offered variations on the same basic statement: "It's really happening now."

    The BTE panel, "P-OTS 2.0: Reaping the Benefits," moderated by Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin, was a popular destination for those wanting to discuss the packet-optical evolution. The discussion, however, quickly turned from P-OTS 2.0 to P-OTS 3.0, a shiny new version of the acronym offered up by Zeev Draer, vice president of strategic marketing at MRV. P-OTS 3.0, according to Draer, will be characterized by packet-oriented transport; integrated packet and circuit switching; IP, MPLS, Carrier Ethernet and OTN framing; 100G MSA-based interfaces; SyncE timing and synchronization; multi-layer OAM; ROADM and hybrid SDN support.

  • In another panel moderated by Perrin, "Software-Defined Networking for Optical Networks," panelists debated the viability of OpenFlow for transport networks. There was some concern, voiced by a couple of panelists and audience members, about the possibility that SDN actually could add more network complexity, rather than reduce it, and increase security challenges, with the addition of potentially numerous software interfaces.

    Panelist Glenn Wellbrock, director of optical transport network architecture and design at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), cooled some of those fears, but also made clear the broader challenge: "With SDN, we can automate a lot of antiquated, manual processes and tools, so it's an improvement. But we need to be able to do that with our existing back office, without changing back office elements every time we add a new vendor. If we have to do that, this whole transition will fail."

This is just a taste of what I heard and saw at BTE. More to come in a future blog post.

— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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