Optical networking takes a step forward

CHICAGO'A consortium of tier 1 carriers is demonstrating intelligent optical internetworking on a worldwide scale for visitors to the SuperComm trade show this week.

'This is taking the intelligent optical control plane a big step closer to deployment,' said Jim Jones of networking equipment manufacturer Alcatel Corp. of Calabasas, Calif., and chief of the architecture and signaling group of the Optical Internetworking Forum.

It could mean greater efficiency for carriers and more reliability and functionality for customers, making services such as rapid provisioning and bandwidth on demand practical across multiple networks.

The World Interoperability Demonstration is the culmination of two months of intra-lab and inter-lab testing of equipment from 15 companies by seven carriers across three continents.

Carriers in China, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States in April began testing multivendor equipment for Ethernet-over-SONET-SDH services and dynamic optical networking services.

The testing moved in stages out of individual labs to create a fully meshed network over which connections can be set up on one carrier's network, carried through a second carrier's and terminated on a third. Test activity is displayed real time by OIF on the SuperComm show floor.

The technology being tested is based on OIF implementation agreements for existing standards.

The standards are mature, Jones said. 'What isn't mature is multivendor and multicarrier interoperability.'

Standards do not always reflect real-world conditions and do not by themselves ensure interoperability. Demonstrations provide feedback, helping to identify ambiguities and weaknesses.

'From these events we inevitably learn things,' Jones said.

The interoperable control plane technologies being demonstrated allow switches to signal for services across networks. Unlike the traditional centralized connection setup process, intelligence is being distributed to network devices to automate the setup process.

'We're not focusing on the switches, but rather on putting intelligence on top of them,' Jones said.

This could make network interconnections faster and more flexible, but major carriers have been hesitant to implement the technology because of questions about interoperability of equipment from different vendors.

'By necessity, carriers are very conservative,' Jones said. 'A few years ago the standards were very fluid and not mature.'

Carriers participating in the World Interoperability Demonstration are:

  • AT&T Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. of New York in the United States

  • KDDI R&D Laboratories Inc. and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. in Japan

  • China Telecom Corp.

  • Deutsche Telekom AG

  • Telecom Italia.

The carriers are testing equipment from 15 manufacturers and vendors:

  • Alcatel

  • ADVA AG Optical Networking of Munich

  • Avici Systems Inc. of Billerica, Mass.

  • Ciena Corp. of Linthicum, Md.

  • Cisco Systems Inc.

  • Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. of Richardson, Texas

  • Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J.

  • Mahi Networks Inc. of Petaluma, Calif.

  • Marconi Communications Corp. of Warrendale, Penn.

  • NEC Technologies Inc. of Itasca, Ill.

  • Nortel Networks Crop. of Brampton, Ontario

  • Siemens AG of Germany

  • Sycamore Networks Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass.

  • Tellabs Operations Inc. of Lisle, Ill.

  • Turin Networks Inc. of Petaluma, Calif.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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