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Optical/IP

Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It?

Yesterday, Tellium Inc. (Nasdaq: TELM) claimed to be the first optical switch company to offer optical virtual private network (VPN) functionality (see Tellium Debuts Optical VPN).

Interesting -- but what exactly does it mean? Tellium says the new product, called the StarNet Optical-VPN, will let carriers partition their optical networks into virtual pipes, offering customers the look and feel of their own private optical networks. The technology will ship with Tellium's StarNet Optical Services, a management software package that comes with Tellium's Aurora Optical switches.

Some analysts say the advantage of an optical VPN is that it could allow carriers to save money in delivering optical circuits.

"It's an interesting concept," says Scott Clavenna, president of PointEast Research LLC and director of research at Light Reading. "VPNs are a way to improve the utilization of the network. They're much cheaper than individual leased circuits, since you are able to take advantage of the shared resources."

In general, VPNs are a hot topic. Carriers left and right are announcing IP VPN services based on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), IPSec, and other technologies (see Service Providers Jump on VPNs). The promise of a VPN is that it will make carrier networks more efficient by allowing multiple users to use common network resources, in addition to enabling carriers to offer new revenue-generating services. With the introduction of Tellium’s StarNet O-VPN, the concept seems to be sliding down the Open System Interconnection model (OSI).

At a concept level, optical VPNs and IP VPNs share similarities, but they do have some essential differences. For one, they work at different layers of the networking stack. Optical technology works at the physical layer, while Internet Protocol (IP) is a network-layer technology. This means that IP VPNs carve up the actual data packets in the pipes, which requires encryption and tunneling, but optical VPNs simply carve up wavelengths in a circuit. In this way, optical VPNs are much more like a Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), TDM (time-division multiplex), or Frame Relay service.

Currently, optical grooming switches already slice and dice wavelengths, multiplexing and demultiplexing them into smaller and larger pipes. But what has been lacking is the ability to allocate different OC48 (2.5 Gbit/s) wavelengths to different customers with a guaranteed performance rate. Also lacking in most optical switches is the ability for a service provider’s customer to self-provision a service.

Now Tellium’s software allows a service provider to carve up a single OC192 (10 Gbit/s) pipe and allocate one OC48 wavelength to one customer and another OC48 wavelength to a different customer. Each of the OC48 wavelengths in the OC192 pipe are treated as separate networks and securely partitioned from the other wavelengths for the duration of the transmission.

The benefit of Tellium’s optical VPN functionality is that it allows service providers to generate new revenue by offering service-level agreements and managed services. It also allows carriers to save on operational costs by allowing end users to self-provision their networks.

Tellium claims to be the first vendor to announce a product dedicated to optical VPNs, but it isn’t the first to talk about the concept. Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN), Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU), and Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) have all touched on the idea before. While Ciena says it currently doesn’t support the ability to allocate different wavelengths within the same pipe to different customers, it says that the application is on its roadmap for the future and, like Tellium's, will only require a software upgrade to its management suite.

As optical transport becomes a commodity, it’s important for carriers to take advantage of the intelligence built into their optical transport systems. And the optical switches providing this transport connectivity need to be able to facilitate these new value-added services. The intelligence in the switches that makes optical VPNs useful will soon become table-stakes for all optical switch makers, says Chris Nicoll, vice president at Current Analysis.

“Vendors in this market are looking for ways to add value to their existing products without requiring service providers to make big changes to their networks,” he says. “Carriers are starting to put more emphasis on a system's built-in intelligence rather than its speed and density."

While Tellium may have touched on an important concept with this new product announcement, it still must contend with the fact that its switch only offers wavelength grooming down to the OC48 level. While this may be adequate for carriers wholesaling capacity to other carriers, it may be overkill for service providers selling to individual corporate users.

“I don’t know what their customers are asking for, but if you look at our customer base, you have to assume they won’t all want OC48 pipes,” says Glenn Jasper, a spokesperson for Ciena, which has a product that grooms to the STS1 (51.8 Mbit/s) level. “They want something that grooms to a lower level.”

Tellium will demonstrate the StarNet Optical-VPN at Supercomm 2002, June 4-6, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com For more information on Supercomm 2002, please visit: Supercomm Special
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PaulChau 11/28/2018 | 10:29:12 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? People are going to be excited with whatever comes on the market now by ways of an improvement in the internet connections online. Of course something that's labelled as a private optical network is going to be highly sought after when the whole initiative kicks off. Even if people don't necessarily need this particular connection, a lot of eyes are going to be on it just to see if it can deliver what it promises!
Phanatron 12/4/2012 | 10:19:44 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? Everytime I hear the term Optical VPN I can't help but think of a sales team in a room convincing some engineer that this is really a good idea.
One of the benifits of fiber is security. An optical network is inherently secure to itself. If I order an OC-48 am I not still getting 2.5g of data? You can't oversubscribe my OC-48, regardless of its on a VPN or not. Nobody else is sharing my bandwidth!
I believe that Sycamore has a product that enables a customer to have control of there network down to STS-1 level (SYLVX CNM). Is this really a VPN?
Litewave 12/4/2012 | 10:19:43 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? Author: iprsvp

Optical VPNs has nothing to do with grooming. They are all about selling wavelength services.


Optical services (wavelength or otherwise) are circuit based and by its very nature Private.

I think the other poster was asking whats the use of appending Virtual to something that is already inherently Private! This is not a packet based shared network we're talking about. Sounds to me like Tellium's just jumping on the VPN bandwagon <period>

Technically selling one virtual network per customer.

Tellium's going to have customers laughing behind their backs with this one.

IMHO, the only place for "O-VPN" is in the customer's ability to manage their own optical services. Not in a Service Provider's ability to virtual privatize the optical backbone.

Just the fact that CIENA doesn't have it doesn't make O-VPNs a bad idea. Stop looking everything from ciena's eyes.

Spoken like a true Telliumite ;-)</period>
wdog 12/4/2012 | 10:19:43 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? There isn't anything this that isn't already possible with grooming switches and DWDM today. First Tellium created "core grooming" to attempt to cover the fact that their switch can't really groom and now this. Waste of money on bad marketing. The money would be a lot better spent on developing a real grooming switch.
iprsvp 12/4/2012 | 10:19:43 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? Optical VPNs has nothing to do with grooming. They are all about selling wavelength services.
At the same time it has to do with the actual traffic in the network. Technically selling one virtual network per customer. Just the fact that CIENA doesn't have it doesn't make O-VPNs a bad idea. Stop looking everything from ciena's eyes.
gea 12/4/2012 | 10:19:43 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? I think you Lightreading guys may be a little confused here. For instance,...

"Now TelliumGÇÖs software allows a service provider to carve up a single OC192 (10 Gbit/s) pipe and allocate one OC48 wavelength to one customer and another OC48 wavelength to a different customer. Each of the OC48 wavelengths in the OC192 pipe are treated as separate networks and securely partitioned from the other wavelengths for the duration of the transmission."

Now nothing can take an OC-192 (which is a single wavelength at 10 Gb/s), and split it into 4 OC-48 "wavelengths". What the Tellium box MIGHT be doing (but I strongly doubt it), is allowing different customers to access separate STS-48s inside the OC-192. But I strongly doubt that...this would require the management overhead in each of the STS-48s to remain intact, a feature that would require very special hardware. In addition, that's not what O-VPNs have been about in the literature.

In all liklihood, the O-VPN capability is a software-based one exclusively. This software allows different users to 1) see and access all wavelengths in a network of Tellium boxes, without seeing and accessing the wavelengths of other users. ore importantly, it 2) will allow different users to actually reconfigure their portion of the total optical network. In other words, they can provision and cross connect at the wavelength level as they see fit, creating a "network within a network" of fairly arbitrary topology.

That's the essence of O-VPNs, and I would doubt that this extends to the TDM level (ie, a single STS-48 inside an OC-192). If it does, then it would have to be verified that the users network management information is preserved as that STS-48 traverses the network.

mordecai 12/4/2012 | 10:19:42 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? all right--

can someone please define for me, what the following mean--

'optical': as in I work in Nortel's optical division

'optical bandwidth': as in I just leased some optical bandwidth, as in someone told me next year optical bandwidth would be free

'optical service': as in my next gen carrier offers optical services

Please? Pretty Please?



yit 12/4/2012 | 10:19:42 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? Perhaps they should call it O-RPN (*real* private network)?
twistedcopper 12/4/2012 | 10:19:33 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? my company is upgrading it's connection from a T1 this week to an oc-48 and we're doing the same for all of our other remote offices. why would any company go for a lower speed when they can get an oc-48??? god bless tellium for bringing bandwidth to the world!!!! sts-1 grooming is for wimps!!!!!!
-twisted
skeptic 12/4/2012 | 10:19:33 PM
re: Tellium's Optical VPN: What Is It? Everytime I hear the term Optical VPN I can't help but think of a sales team in a room convincing some engineer that this is really a good idea.
-----------------

I think its simplier than that. The sales team
is basically trying to attach their product
to the hot buzzword of the moment (VPNs). Even
though their product has nothing to do with
VPNs and doesn't deliver anything all that useful.

You could call it a "PN", but there is nothing
virtual about what they are doing. And at a
minimum OC-48 granualarty, I dont see many
people who are going to be all that excited by
this.
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