ODSI coalition tackles the issue of optical/electrical interoperability

A group of 50 networking vendors and service providers are establishing the Optical Domain Service Interconnect (ODSI) initiative, an open coalition to define a framework for interoperability between electrical and optical network service domains. The initiative is a collaborative effort to help service providers and their customers to deploy networks able to handle the growth of data traffic over the public network.

By Susan Fogarty, Online Editor
A group of 50 networking vendors and service providers are establishing the Optical Domain Service Interconnect (ODSI) initiative, an open coalition to define a framework for interoperability between electrical and optical network service domains. The initiative is a collaborative effort to help service providers and their customers to deploy networks and equipment that will be able to handle the explosive growth of data traffic over the public network. The group will select and apply extensions to recognized industry interfaces and protocols, conduct interoperable solutions testing, and promote technical recommendations to the industry standards organizations.

Focused on opening the interface to the next-generation optical network, ODSI plans to drive innovation in service creation and delivery of high-speed optical networks. "As vendors bring out products in the multiple domains of the new optical infrastructure--core and metro/access--ODSI will cut through industry politics and provide an open framework that permits a range of services to be enabled in a multi-vendor environment," predicts John Jaeger, vice president of marketing at member company Alidian Networks Inc. (Mountain View, CA).

"The coalition was started through discussions with service providers," explains Scott Larson, director of marketing and strategic programs at Sycamore Networks (Chelmsford, MA), the company facilitating the coalition's development. Through talks with service providers and some of the other networking vendors in the service and optical layer, a theme began to emerge. "We began to see a consensus that there is a key issue here in terms of how a service-layer device will signal an optical core that's no longer a collection of dumb pipes, but more of a flexible, nimble entity," says Larson. "That hadn't really been defined before."

Sycamore Networks is hosting the first ODSI meeting on January 18 in Boston. The coalition will be reviewing perspectives from different participants and looking at baseline proposals. Recognizing the immediate need for interoperability standards in network planning cycles, the coalition plans to begin work right away and complete a proposed solution by the end of the year. "We're putting a very short fuse on this," Larson says. "At the end of the year, we'll be looking to have a proposed solution and back that up with interoperability testing that we'll be handing off to official standards groups."

Larson contends that although the task facing the coalition seems daunting, the group should make rapid progress. "A lot of the technology is there; it's really just about proposing extensions to existing protocols, rather than creating new ones." The single-mindedness of the coalition's goal will help to keep work on track, as well. "We'll be keeping the group focused with a single working-group type of approach. It's kind of a startup's approach to standards, if you will. You want to get a product out there, and you have all these great things you want to do with it, but at the end of the day it's just one that you're going to release."

The ODSI coalition consists of networking vendors and service providers including: Chromatis Networks, Ciena, Convergent Networks, Enron Communications Inc., Kestrel Solutions, Quantum Bridge Communications, Redback Networks, Siara Systems, Inc., Siemens, Sycamore Networks, Tellium Inc., UUNET/MCI WorldCom, and Williams Communications.

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