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8 Things to Know About Packet-Optical8 Things to Know About Packet-Optical

This week's Light Reading event discussed life with OTN, life after 100G and the life (or lack thereof) of IP over DWDM

Craig Matsumoto

May 20, 2011

4 Min Read
8 Things to Know About Packet-Optical

Light Reading's Packet Optical Transport Evolution conference is a jam-packed day, covering many aspects of the optical network and lots of as-yet-unsettled debates about what happens when you get packets in your optical (or vice versa).

Here's a glance at what we learned.

1. 400 Gbit/s or 1 Tbit/s: We don't know which is next
Panelists agreed that the industry needs to decide which speed node will be the focus after 100Gbit/s, but that didn't settle the debate about which speed it should be. Keynoter Shamim Akhtar, senior director of network architecture and technology at Comcast, spoke for a lot of carriers, saying it should be 1Tbit/s, but really, the industry is still thinking about it. (See Comcast Exec Wants 1-Terabit Optical Standard.)

Heavy Reading analyst Sterling Perrin did point out that the time to decide is now. Research on 100Gbit/s transmission started at about the same time AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) began deploying 40 Gbit/s, which suggests that research on the next speed grade should be starting now, as 100Gbit/s deployments start rolling. That's not a scientific analysis, but his point was that it's not too early to start the work. In fact, it's arguably a little late.

2. 100 Gbit/s ain't cheap
Take it from Paul Savill, senior vice president of transport and infrastructure services at Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT). {videoembed|208052}

As a counterpoint, Randy Eisenach, a product planner with Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. , presented some numbers indicating that 100 Gbit/s provides a lower cost per bit than 10 Gbit/s, even if the 100Gbit/s equipment is a whole lot more expensive. If carriers start to agree, it could help 100 Gbit/s take off quickly.

3. IP over DWDM is dead
Or, at least, it should change its name to MPLSoDWDM, according to Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) CTO Drew Perkins. His presentation attacked the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) packet-optical strategies, which involve inserting a large Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) switch into the network core. Cisco uses the CRS-3 router as that switch, but Perkins says that router is likely to be dedicated to the MPLS function, hence becoming an all-MPLS box in practice. (See Cisco's Core Router Goes Packet-Optical, Juniper Makes Its Packet-Optical Move and OFC/NFOEC 2011: Juniper OEMs an ADVA Box.)

"Dead" is taking it a bit far. On that same panel, Cisco's Greg Nahib -- who joined last year from Fujitsu -- said over-the-top players have been using IPoDWDM. Carriers use it more rarely, usually for video transport, he said. And other panelists seemed to agree that there's utility to having router-to-router connections in the core, traffic easily carried by IPoDWDM.

4. Packet-optical can't escape OTN.
Optical Transport Network (OTN) interfaces have gone from a nice option to a must-have, Perrin says.{videoembed|208116}

Next page:What About Data Centers?

5. Data centers need to reconnect.
In the past, data centers were connected on fiber optic rings, primarily for disaster recovery and restoration purposes, but these resources are now the heart of the carriers’ cloud strategy, and that is dramatically reshaping networking demands. As Level 3’s Savill pointed out, networks are not designed to deliver on-demand services with usage-based billing. Neither are OSS/BSS systems.

Network operators and their vendors have to rethink connections at the data center, making them more flexible and capable of delivering highly secure and low-latency services that the cloud will require, says Jon Baldry, technical marketing manager for Transmode Systems AB .

6. GMPLS needs a PR overhaul.
The optical control plane still isn't living up to its potential. It's debatable whether that's an issue of the technology or the carrier's trust in the technology. Here's the Reliance take. (Further reading: Packet-Optical Stays Out of Control.){videoembed|208057}

7. Gridless ROADMs are good.
The gridless ROADM -- one where a wavelength can be adjusted to take up more or less spectrum -- is one of those ideas that's nice on paper but might not be that practical. Panelists discussing ROADMs, though, seemed to agree that a flexible grid can be useful.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has championed the idea of a flexible grid for 400 Gbit/s and higher speeds. And Robert Keys, a chief architect at BTI Systems Inc. , pointed out that it can let carriers put off deciding whether to use a 50GHz or 100GHz grid; why not both? "It's much more mundane than carrying 1 Tbit/s of traffic, but it's equally valuable," he said.

8. The world needs more fiber.
That's the medical opinion of Hunter Newby, CEO of Allied Fiber, who intends to do something about it. {videoembed|208078}

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, and Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Craig Matsumoto

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Yes, THAT Craig Matsumoto – who used to be at Light Reading from 2002 until 2013 and then went away and did other stuff and now HE'S BACK! As Editor-in-Chief. Go Craig!!

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