Switch combinations gain momentum

Technology

By STEPHEN HARDY

Network planners and equipment providers have spent much of the last year debating the merits of all-optical switches versus equipment that requires optical-electronic-optical (OEO) conversion. A growing number of companies intend to integrate both technologies into the same box.

Ciena Corp. (Linthicum, MD) represents one of the most recent vendors to join this movement. The company will offer an all-optical capability as an extension to its existing OEO CoreDirector product. Ciena is not ready to discuss a delivery timetable or such technological details as the switching technology it will use, according to spokesman Denny Bilter. In fact, Bilter said at press time that he believes the technology choice was still a matter of internal debate, although he predicts that Ciena would work with an outside supplier for the component technology once that choice was made.

Despite the lack of details in the announcement, Bilter says the message was necessary to clarify Ciena's plans for the switch and counteract attempts by its competitors to classify the CoreDirector as an edge device.

Several companies besides Ciena have discussed the integration of OEO and all-optical technology into the same system, as well. Tellium Inc. (Oceanport, NJ) has been among the most open of these vendors (see September 2000, page 173).

By combining both OEO and all-optical switching in the same platform, vendors hope to match technologies to applications without resorting to separate equipment. Thus, traffic that requires intelligence for management, control, and monitoring would run through the OEO fabric. Traffic that requires manipulation only at the wavelength level could be directed through the all-optical fabric.

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