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

optobot 12/5/2012 | 3:58:29 PM
re: OBS: The Pipes Are Calling

OK, I see why OBS could be called packet-optical, but not necessarily why the others, P-OTS, CESR or IP over DWDM, since AFAIK with these technologies the optical carrier network will not even know whether its is carrying packetized traffic or not.

Not saying that there are clear net benefits one way or the other for making the optical transport layer packet aware, it will likely depend on the efficiencies of the specific implementations and the nature of the network applications, but of the listed four technology directions, the three mentioned alternatives to OBS have been around for at least a decade, and their optical layer has worked the same whether carrying circuit or packet traffic (well Eth is all packet, but even its optics can be used for carrying non-packet based electrical signals as well).

So is it a big deal that there now appears to be fledging 'packet-optical' technologies where the optical layer actually is designed for packet bursting in mind?

Are there new network applications service models enabled, or possibly made economical?

steegm 12/5/2012 | 3:57:50 PM
re: OBS: The Pipes Are Calling

The Irish Government has zero expertise in this area, has no money but needs urgently job announcements.

The fact that a non-tried, non-tested and proprietary technology is elevated to THE solution that will attract foreign investment, and the implicit claim that without it the necessary bandwidth was not available in the country it ridiculous.

The fact that no revenue or cost figures were mentioned and because this decision was made without any apparent discussion or consultation with other stake holders and involved parties it has to be asked if maybe the company is providing the infrastructure for no charge to raise their profile?

Despite the anouncement, there are speculations that a realisation of it is as likely as the probability that the current Minister for Communications will survive the next election.

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