Atrica Tells a Tall 100-Gbit/s Tale
Yes, there's a catch: Companies that make high-speed lasers for optical networks are struggling to get 10-gig lasers to market, and none offers speeds higher than that. That means 100-Gbit/s in a single channel isn't possible, because such components don't yet exist.
In order to achieve 100-Gbit/s in its A-8800 switch, Atrica's had to glom together multiple 10-Gbit/s lasers. For the Supercomm demo, in early June, it plans to put ten 10-Gbit/s lasers in parallel in order to achieve the promised data rate.
Atrica just released its first products into general shipment last month (see Atrica Keeps It Simple ). Company officials say that regardless of the limitations on speed in individual channels, the product will present economic benefits by switching gigbabit Ethernet channels at the optical layer.
"We are not just putting Ethernet and optical networking side by side in one box," says David Yates, vice president of marketing. "We have fully integrated the two. We go straight from Ethernet to the optical switching fabric, without requiring an OEO [optical-electrical-optical] conversion."
And that, he says, will help carriers save one-half to two-thirds on networking costs. At present, he notes, carriers who wish to offer their customers high-speed Ethernet access must link together a chain of metro Sonet rings, DWDM gear, and then Ethernet switches. The result is that carriers need to maintain lots of equipment in distinct, interconnected networks at the metro core.
With the new A-8800, Yates says, carriers will have just one metro network, capable of supporting Sonet at all rates as well as Ethernet at gigabit speeds. What's more, the box will serve to aggregate leased lines at T1 or T3 (1.544 Mbit/s or 45 Mbit/s) onto higher-speed Ethernet and Sonet links.
Atrica's switch will feature a capacity of 1.2 Tbit/s and be capable of transmitting 100-Gbit/s Ethernet over three wavelengths, or 10-Gbit/s over 33 wavelengths, using wavelength-division multiplexing. The unit will support "subsecond protection" for networks with ring and mesh topologies. MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) will be used for provisioning, traffic engineering, and service-level agreement (SLA) monitoring.
Yates says this approach has been proven out by makers of 10-Gbit/s Ethernet gear, which have used four 2.5-Gbit/s lasers together in order to get the desired speed. "We'll use stronger lasers as soon as they become available."
According to spokespeople, several of Atrica's carrier backers, including France Telecom SA and Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), will be putting the A-8800 in their labs this year, followed by trials.
Atrica's plan has left analysts scratching their heads in a combination of awe and disbelief. "They're doing some very interesting things, and they've generated a lot of interest from carriers, if not revenues," says Dave Dunphy, senior analyst at Current Analysis. "But it's really early. It's a very groundbreaking claim, but we'll have to see if it works as promised in live demonstrations, that's all."
-- Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading