Infinera, Juniper Throw GMPLS Party
The two vendors have teamed up with Internet2 to show off a GMPLS user-to-network interface (UNI) at SC07, the supercomputing conference being held in Reno, Nev. this week.
The demonstration focuses on bandwidth on demand, one of the GMPLS benefits that's been promised since the waning days of the telecom bubble. The idea is to have routers automatically connect to optical transport devices and request bandwidth, which the optical network would then assign dynamically. Done right, the process would avoid weeks-long manual work to provision bandwidth.
Bandwidth on demand would benefit research and education networks like the one run by Internet2, which need to be able to quickly provision large shared resources.
"This gives us the ability to create virtual networks. We may need more than just a single circuit, and the ability to do that and create these networks on the fly will allow us to serve universities and researchers," says Rick Summerhill, Internet2's chief technology officer.
A GMPLS demo, by itself, isn't yesterday's news or even last year's news. GMPLS interoperability demos were making headlines as early as 2002, and word of the standard was the buzz even before then. (See GMPLS Demo: Missing the Point? and GMPLS Showcased in Demo.)
But that at the time, "operators weren't too keen on moving to automated networks," Heavy Reading analyst Sterling Perrin says. "It was way ahead of its time in terms of the kind of power they were willing to give to machines, so it didn't catch on in any way."
That hasn't necessarily changed; Perrin says uptake of GMPLS-based bandwidth on demand is probably still a long way off. But carriers could later become more comfortable with the idea of giving control to machines for more automated provisioning.
"Networks are moving to an automated restoration phase. Once they are comfortable with automated restoration, they could also consider bandwidth on demand," Perrin says.
Still, Perrin found a couple of interesting angles in the SC07 demo.
For one, the GMPLS signaling is being handled from the transport side. "The fact that Infinera is doing it means that it's a DWDM device, as opposed to on a Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), or Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) optical crossconnect or optical switch," Perrin says.
That's possible because unlike other optical transport platforms, Infinera's converts optical signals to electrical form at every node. (See Infinera Declares WDM War.) "In theory," Perrin says, "this could replace the need for some of the optical switches in the network."
Perrin says Infinera isn't the only optical vendor considering GMPLS signaling for its optical transport boxes. "We could start to see a trend where transport devices start to do some of this functionality that used to be on optical switches and crossconnects," he says.
Perrin notes that Ciena, for instance, is looking to move some of CoreDirector's signaling functionality onto its CN 4200 optical transport device.
— Ryan Lawler, Reporter, Light Reading