AT&T Targets Virtualized ROADMs

AT&T is helping to launch a new group called Open ROADM to develop specifications for creating software-controlled ROADMs that operate on open hardware. The goal, announced this week at the Optical Fiber Conference by Andre Fuetsch, SVP of Architecture and Design, is to break away from dependence on proprietary vendor solutions that aren't interoperable and can limit innovation.

As Fuetsch explained in an OFC keynote and in this blog, as part of its drive to virtualize its network functions, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) wants to make Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexers (ROADMs) able to automatically detect and adjust bandwidth. That would give ROADMs flexibility they don't have today to move traffic from one wavelength to another that is less congested using software control.

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There is already a website for the new group, www.openroadm.org, and its membership includes three major vendors of today's gear: Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY) and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) (via its Alcatel-Lucent acquisition). The group has met and published its first set of standards, available on the site.

"These software-controlled ROADMs can turn capacity up or down, route around trouble and come back online quickly when there's a failure," Fuetsch notes in his blog. "This isn't just talk. We've already built a nationwide, software-controlled optical network. We think it's the largest optical network of its kind in the world."

In addition, the Open ROADM group will establish openly available hardware specifications to break vendor lock-in that hamstrings network operators today. The lack of interoperability among today's proprietary ROADM options "slows us down and reduces our ability to deliver the best experience to customers," Fuetsch says. "In a major metro area like Chicago or Dallas, for example, we've generally had to rely on a single vendor's equipment to manage all optical traffic in that area. You can't mix and match according to capability or price."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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