Ericsson talks packet optical transport options

APRIL 29, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- Like many companies in the optical communications space, Ericsson is expanding its product line to help customers’ evolve their networks to better leverage optical technology to transport packet-based traffic. A recent interview with Lightwave indicates an important part of the company’s strategy involves cost-optimization through distributed switching and making optional some features competitors offer as standard.

APRIL 29, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- Like many companies in the optical communications space, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) is expanding its product line to help customers’ evolve their networks to better leverage optical technology to transport packet-based traffic. A recent interview with Lightwave indicates an important part of the company’s strategy involves cost-optimization through distributed switching and making optional some features competitors offer as standard.

Matthew Smith, head of optical product marketing at Ericsson, told Lightwave last week that a recent company reorganization has created a single group to drive packet and optical strategy. The assets the group has at its disposal include those acquired from Marconi (particularly optical transport) and the edge routing capabilities from another asset purchase, Redback. Smith said customer direction drove the realignment -- for example, users of Ericsson’s OMS 1600 multiservice provisioning platforms (MSPPs) who now need more packet-processing horsepower.

Ericsson’s response, therefore, includes an initial focus on metro edge and aggregation applications. The company’s first packet optical transport offering is the OMS 1410, which offers 80G of packet switching (in increments of 20G) and 15G of native TDM switching capacity in a 2U package. This past February, Ericsson announced a larger, more capable platform, the OMS 1460. That system, which Ericsson says will be commercially available within a year of the February announcement, will offer 60 Gbits of native TDM and 320 Gbits of native packet switching. The OMS 1410 and 1460 will share cards, Smith said.

They’ll also share Ericsson’s vision of what a packet optical transport platform ought to have and what features should be optional. Smith described the vision within the context of the components of the phrase “packet optical transport”:

  • Packet: Significant, scalable Ethernet switch capacity with MPLS capabilities is a must.
  • Optical: The platform should have an integrated WDM capability. However, “one of the things we say with some of the WDM functionality -- for example, multi-degree ROADM or OTN switching as well -- is that it should be there as an option,” Smith explained. “Some of the current architectures in this market have been slightly overburdened in that they’ve included that kind of functionality Day One. We like to see it as kind of pluggable option that people use as and when needed.”
  • Transport: Whatever capabilities such platforms have, they must integrate seamlessly with the existing legacy network. Therefore, dedicated TDM switching is essential, particularly low-order VC1/VC2 granularity. Smith said offering TDM and packet switching in a distributed fashion enables Ericsson customers to better scale the platform to changing requirements, both in terms of adding packet and lambda switching and removing TDM capacity as the network’s traffic mix continues to evolve. This approach also lowers power consumption; the OMS 1410 runs on 120 to 160 W in what Smith described as “normal configuration” and about 350 W in a “worst case” configuration.


Ericsson also has visions of playing closer to the core, and Smith indicated another platform announcement is on the horizon. He declined to discuss specific capabilities of the upcoming product. “We are a firm believer in OTN as a standard, though, and we see different applications in the core for a multi-terabit node, for example,” he offered.

That said, MPLS also will play a large role. “We’re a big believer in end-to-end MPLS sort of changing the shape of packet and optical networks, and this has been enabled by the arrival of MPLS-TP,” Smith said.

End-to-end network management will also be a crucial element to the company’s overall offering, Smith added -- not just among the optical network elements but between Ericsson’s router and transport portfolios.

The fact that the company has what Smith called “a huge installed base of SDH” means most of its initial opportunities for packet optical transport platform (POTP) sales will likely come from outside of the United States, at least when it comes to helping current customers migrate toward a more packet-friendly network. “In the US we focus our pitch on the packet features of our POTP, and its ability to emulate SONET traffic,” Smith wrote in an email earlier this week. “The second thing we focus on for the US market is WDM, both as embedded functionality within the POTP, but also as a product line in its own right.”

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