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Vendors Demo Signaling Synergy

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/19/2000

The first evidence that equipment from different vendors can interwork successfully when setting up and tearing down connections over optical backbones was unveiled today by the Optical Domain Service Interconnect (ODSI) coalition, an industry forum led by Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR).

The ODSI says that five vendors -- Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA: Paris: CGEP:PA), Équipe Communications Corp., Redback Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RBAK), Sycamore, and Tenor Networks Inc. -- successfully completed interoperability trials earlier this month (see ODSI Completes Interop Test).

The trials were conducted by Valiant Networks, an independent consultancy, using protocol analyzers from Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A).

Valiant built a lab-scale optical network using core switches from Alcatel and Sycamore and edge equipment from Alcatel, Équipe, Redback, and Tenor. Then it tested the compatibility of each vendor’s implementation of the ODSI’s UNI (user network interface) signaling protocol in two ways. First, it set up and tore down connections across the network and demonstrated that they could be monitored while they were up. Second, it ran IP traffic over the connections to prove the connections could actually carry data.

Details of the trials are on:
http://www.odsi-coalition.com/odsi_docs/ODSI_test_report_web2.doc

The trials were witnessed by experts from nine service providers, including CSELT (part of Telecom Italia), Enron Broadband Services Inc., Global TeleSystems Inc. (GTS) (NYSE/Frankfurt: GTS), and Norway’s Telenor.

After some minor glitches on the first day of the trials, pretty much everything worked as expected, according to Stewart Day, product manager of Agilent’s optical switching and routing test solutions group.

So, what does it all mean?

Quite a bit, actually. For a kickoff, it demonstrates strong interest in multivendor optical networks among carriers, according to Amy Copley, a senior product manager at Sycamore. “The carriers were very interested in third-party signaling,” she adds.

The success of the trials also breathes new life into Sycamore’s efforts at establishing the ODSI signaling spec as the basis for standards -- efforts that appeared to be faltering earlier this year (see Sycamore Stuck on Signaling Standard).

In particular, the tests have underscored three significant advantages of the ODSI protocol over competing proposals -- it’s simple, it's here, and it works.

The simplicity of ODSI's signaling protocol helped ensure the smooth running of the interoperability trials, according to Agilent's Day.

The simplicity of the protocol also makes it easy to implement, according to Barry Ferris, assistant vice president of strategic technologies in Alcatel’s carrier internetworking division, who attended the trials. Ferris says that Alcatel only had to write a tiny amount of code to enable its existing signaling systems to comply with the ODSI spec and interwork with other vendors’ gear.

The trivial amount of work necessary to implement the ODSI spec also suggests that vendors haven’t got much to lose from backing the ODSI as well as competing proposals for signaling standards -- notably ones from the Optical Internetworking Forum.

In fact, the OIF is now working on ways of ensuring that its proposed signaling protocol can interwork with other protocols, which could include ODSI’s, according to Copley. In other words, the OIF’s rejection of the ODSI’s signaling spec this summer -- see Sycamore in Standards Setback -- may turn out to have been a tempest in a teacup.

-- Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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