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).

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.

Next page: What About Data Centers?

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:04:46 PM
re: 8 Things to Know About Packet-Optical

Drew Perkins was trying to be incendiary (which is great! we need more of that at these conferences). His "MPLSoDWDM" phrase points to the fact that the technology does get used -- just not in a big way.

We'd written abou tthat point last summer: http://www.lightreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=195730

That's from a carrier point of view, though. Nehib seemed to be saying that OTT players have found more use for IPoDWDM, which would be an interesting developoment to watch.

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