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Third Front Opens on Standards War

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
1/13/2000

NEW YORK—The announcement of the Optical Domain Service Interconnect (ODSI) coalition on January 12 marked the opening of a new front in the battle to define standards for the future of telecom.

So far, the war has been waged between datacom vendors headed by Cisco Systems Inc.(http://www.cisco.com) and traditional telecom suppliers like Lucent Technologies Inc. (http://www.lucent.com). But now 50 startups headed by Sycamore Networks Inc. (http://www.sycamorenet.com) have jumped into the fray, forming a third force, ODSI.

ODSI plans to establish a signaling standard for setting up and tearing down strings of wavelengths across backbones on demand—a development that would eliminate provisioning delays and slash carrier costs. “It would give us fully dynamic access to the optical network for the first time,” says Martin Steinmann, vice president of marketing for Syndesis Ltd. (http://www.syndesis.com), a vendor of multiservice provisioning software for service providers.

A signaling standard would also open equipment suppliers to much tougher competition. “ODSI challenges the single-vendor approach to networking optical gear,” says Jonathan Reeves, president and CEO of Sirocco Systems Inc. (http://www.siroccosystems.com), an optical switch startup.

That pretty much explains why big vendors with proprietary product portfolios have yet to back the proposal. Right now, they’re playing for time. “We want to see what ODSI is and whether it’s different,” says Don Smith, vice president and general manager of the Optera Solutions division of Nortel Networks Inc. (http://www.nortelnetworks.com).

ODSI hopes that carriers will force vendors to play ball. “Service providers are going to start saying, ‘Hey, show me how you implement the ODSI spec.’ At that point, the larger players will have no choice but to get involved,” says Sean T. Welch, vice-president of marketing and sales at Tenor Networks Inc. (http://www.tenornetworks.com).

ODSI reckons that it can create a draft standard by next fall, by adapting MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) which is already used in router networks to do much the same thing. The protocol enables edge equipment to set up virtual tunnels over backbones to enable delay-sensitive traffic to bypass potential congestion.

“ODSI will allow bandwidth and capacity to be requested from the IP service layer on demand, kind of like an optical dial tone,” says Jeff Kiel, vice president for product marketing at Sycamore. The vendor plans to equip the management application for its switches with the new protocol.

—Mary Jander, special to Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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