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OBS: The Pipes Are Calling

There may be a new twist in the emerging packet-optical transport landscape, in the form of optical burst switching. At the very least, this very nascent technology is becoming something to keep a close eye on.

Although still perceived by many operators as too immature and too risky, OBS is getting a big boost of confidence (and revenue) from the Irish government. In July, it announced that it will base its new Exemplar Smart Network on OBS products supplied by Irish OBS startup Intune Networks . Ireland's plan is to build a large, leading-edge metro packet-optical network that will serve to attract leading-edge companies to the country and also serve as a showcase for its technology leadership and entrepreneurial spirit. The press release says the network will start to roll out next year.

Certainly, it is not surprising that the Irish government picks an Irish company to lead its network innovation charge. Regardless of the political underpinnings, however, its actions will very likely lead OBS out of the obscurity of labs and research centers and into the mainstream spotlight. The results will benefit not only Intune, but also OBS technology on a larger scale. Currently, there is just one other commercially viable OBS supplier, California's Matisse Networks .

The agreement with Intune is not a funding investment, but a commercial network deal. Intune did not attach a dollar figure to the buildout, but the company stated that it will create 50 new jobs over the next 12 months, resulting from the Exemplar Smart Network build. Over the next three years, Intune projects that it will create 300 additional jobs, in part due to the Exemplar Smart Network and in part due to other business wins.

This level of support – government-generated or not – puts OBS on a new level in the eyes of network operators that have been interested in its potential for some time. We can also imagine that, after the Irish network is up and running, network operators will come from far and wide to take a look at the technology in action.

Currently, Heavy Reading sees three major architectures emerging for packet-optical transport: one based on converged packet-optical transport systems (P-OTS); one based on carrier Ethernet switch/routers (CESRs); and a distant third approach based on integrated optics on IP routers (known as IP over DWDM). However, 18 months from now, we can envision a fourth viable packet-optical transport architecture joining the fray – one based on OBS technology. For this reason, packet-optical transport suppliers need to take note of OBS today.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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