Optical/IP Networks

Astral Point Gets In A Mesh

Astral Point also says its approach maintains a key advantage of Sonet networks, reliability. Like Sonet rings, the ON 5000 mesh can provide alternative paths in less than 50 milliseconds when links fail. But Astral Point says its "Self Healing Mesh" saves money and offers more flexibility than Sonet, in which multiple rings must be configured to provide full redundancy: "In rings, 50 percent of the fiber sits idle, waiting for a break," says Mitchell. "With a mesh, you can save 30 percent on fiber outlay by making better use of what you have."

But Scott Clavenna questions whether customers will buy off on the concept of a metro mesh. "There's a certain contradiction here," he says. "Astral's setting up its mesh approach as a key differentiator for CLECs and RBOCs. But CLECs don't have mesh networks, and RBOCs, who do have them, are the least likely to buy this gear." RBOCs, he says, may resist the ON 5000 on the basis of its other key feature--integration of functionality. The idea of combining Sonet, ATM, and IP capabilities in one platform goes against the RBOC philosophy of separating transport functions from service management and provisioning--a result of longtime efforts to stay ahead of legal mandates.

Another potential drawback lies in Astral Point's "Sonet lite" approach, in which IP is layered on top of DWDM and standard Sonet framing, but full Sonet TDM is not used. This approach limits the ON 5000's interoperability with other vendors' gear. But it's a point Astral Point begs to debate: "You won't find carriers mixing different vendors' ADMs on one ring," says Mitchell. "They know that subtle product differences make a multivendor approach difficult, regardless of standards." The ON 5000 supports mapping and aggregation of leased lines at DS-0 and DS-1 rates (T1 and T3), as well as at subrate N x DS-0 rates. Astral Point says it can map DS-0s into DS-1s for customers seeking to consolidate links. It also handles OC3c, OC12c and OC48c links. The platform supports ATM services at DS-1 and DS-3 rates and over OC-3c through OC-48c connections. It comes with Gigabit Ethernet support for point-to-point and multipoint bridging setups. Pricing is $30,000 to $250,000 per node, depending on the interfaces selected.

-Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading, http://www.lightreading.com
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