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Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise

New market segments don't emerge in a neat and orderly fashion as we'd like but rather in fits and starts and with a lot of confusion along the way. Such is the case with packet-optical transport today. Moderating a recent Light Reading Webinar on The Role of Ethernet in the Rise of Packet-Optical Transport Systems reminded me of this fact.

The first point of confusion is: What actually counts as packet-optical transport? At Heavy Reading, we're seeing three architectures emerge under this umbrella. One includes the converged optical devices that combine Sonet/SDH, WDM transport, and Ethernet switching and aggregation, which we call packet-optical transport systems (P-OTSs). A second architecture consists of carrier Ethernet switch/routers (CESRs) with connection-oriented Ethernet (COE), which can be combined with a separate WDM layer. A third is integrated transponders on Layer 3 routers, typically referred to as IP over DWDM (IPoDWDM).

Further confusion comes from the COE debate and the role of these technologies on both P-OTS platforms and CESR platforms. Operators may have different opinions on the various flavors of COE, depending on the packet-optical platform being used. For example, we have seen Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) shun PBB-TE (the standardized name of PBT) for Ethernet services applications, while selecting PBB-TE as their choice for converged P-OTS. Others, including BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), may end up doing something similar.

A third point of confusion surrounds T-MPLS and MPLS-TP, the COE technologies that are synonymous -- but not the same. To review, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's T-MPLS standard came under fire by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) because the IETF, justifiably, didn't like being excluded from an MPLS standard. The contention was seemingly resolved with an agreement between the two to work together to standardize MPLS-transport profile (MPLS-TP), announced in April 2008. The press release identified MPLS-TP as the new T-MPLS, implying that MPLS-TP is the evolution of T-MPLS. But T-MPLS is an ITU standard and MPLS-TP is not. T-MPLS is here now, and MPLS-TP is not. Vendors appear to be hedging with T-MPLS until MPLS-TP is complete. As a result, vendors' messages to the market are ambiguous, and operators continue to be confused by the whole development.

The confusion and uncertainty doesn't diminish the underlying value of packet-optical transport, but it will undoubtedly cause delays as operators sort through the mess. Vendors will be best served by setting aside minor differences where possible, and lending clarity to this emerging market.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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OldPOTS 12/5/2012 | 3:32:22 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise Does Packet Over Sonet (POS) count?

It is by far the most efficient as measured by Tier 1s.
Sterling Perrin 12/5/2012 | 3:32:21 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise POS is more in the "legacy" camp at this point. This is what Tier 1s liked so much about the MSPPs, but operators are seeing that 3-5 years out, MSPPs are going to be inadequate. I think POS is efficient when the amount of packet is relatively low, but the issue operators are facing is the networks will be predominantly packet. SONET is not efficient when the network is predominantly packet. This is why there is so much interest right now in things like OTN and connection-oriented-Ethernet. Tier 1 operators need to figure out how to build a reliable, resilient network that is NOT based on SONET.

Sterling
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:20 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise Anyone care to compare INFN, CIEN and SCMR in terms of this packet-optical concept? It seems to me that CIEN and SCMR are trying to use software and tunable lasers to develop "programmable optics" systems. It sounds like they are trying to turn optical networks into L2 equivalents.

Then, you have INFN, that can do more packet processing due to their O-E-O conversion. Can they leap ahead by emulating L3, or just do grooming?
JaguarsPaw 12/5/2012 | 3:32:20 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise Anyone familiar with Orckit's metro CM-100 packet ADM? Looks like they are getting some attention lately in this area (Hanaro, DT's Media Broadcast GmbH, KDDI).
bollocks187 12/5/2012 | 3:32:20 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise The confusion arises cause there is too much technology proposals being pushed by the wrong people.

MPLS c'mon get real - nothing but an overpriced solution for a simple problem.
Sterling Perrin 12/5/2012 | 3:32:15 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise Material,
I see Ciena moving down the packet-optical path on two fronts - adding packet functions to the CN 4200 and then with World Wide Packets.In my view, they are aggressively going after this market.

Infinera is a very interesting company, but I have not seen them doing a lot in packet-optical transport so far - mainly, I think, because they are targeting LH and (recently) ULH, and packet optical is more of a metro/regional trend.

Sycamore, I've seen very, very little from in years. I'm skeptical that they've made the investments in packet-optical to address this market. I could be wrong there, but they don't come up in my discussions with operators or vendors.

Sterling
K28.5 12/5/2012 | 3:32:14 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise The confusion stems from the fact that all these technologies are converging.

The traditional carrier equipment, i.e., SONET/SDH ADM evolved to MSPP to provide packet-based services, and now that Ethernet is the majority of traffic, evolve again to P-OTS, to provide better efficiency and scalability for Ethernet services. Since this is coming from the traditional transport vendors (or departments) it also integrated DWDM capabilities.

Ethernet switches, originally used as enterprise equipment has evolved to Carrier Ethernet switches to target the service provider market, that need more efficient platforms for the growing packet-based traffic.

Both converge into carrier-grade packet-based platforms serving the same application, and the differences are only due to the path the technology took. There is nothing to stop CESR from integrating DWDM capabilities, and itGÇÖs interesting that this is not seen so far.

K
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:32:10 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise Does that mean that L2 Ethernet switches are going optical rather than electrical? How long does that take to penetrate the enterprise? What does that do to CSCO?
K28.5 12/5/2012 | 3:32:08 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise The same trend that lead MSPP to integrate DWDM capabilities may apply to Carrier Ethernet switches (I don't think it will apply to enterprise switches any time soon), although we don't see it at this stage. One of the main forces that drove the integration of TDM, packet processing and DWDM is the Verizon's POTP project. We still need to see other carriers going the same path to make it a market.

As to Cisco, I believe they stick to their IPoDWDM approach in the carrier market.

K
K28.5 12/5/2012 | 3:32:06 PM
re: Packet-Optical Transport Confusion Is on the Rise Anyone can explain the difference between these two architectures? Since CESR also includes pure L3 platforms (e.g., ALU 7750 SR), the distinction seems vague.

Adding to the confusion is that Cisco 7600 is considered CESR, however Cisco recently added a Transponder card to the 7600 (see http://www.lightreading.com/do..., thus extending its IPoDWDM approach to the 7600. So, do we start to see DWDM capabilities integrated into CESR platforms (in the same way it was done in P-OTS)?

K
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