XKL WDM platforms ease fear of photons

AUGUST 6, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- The DXM Optical Transport System platforms are designed to allow data network managers who know little or nothing about optical network design to add WDM capabilities to their WANs.

AUGUST 6, 2007 By Stephen Hardy -- XKL LLC (search for XKL), founded by Cisco co-founder Len Bosack, has taken the wraps off its first product line. The DXM Optical Transport System platforms are designed to allow data network managers who know little or nothing about optical network design to add WDM capabilities to their WANs.

"The problem for a lot of enterprise customers is these guys are perfectly good at running their corporate campus networks and their corporate WAN, but they're terrified of anything optical," said Bosack in an interview last month. "And heaven forefend that they should have to manage something that uses TL1�that's not something that they regard as a positive development."

This perception of optical communications would appear to pose a challenge for any company hoping to sell WDM equipment. However, Bosack believes that the attributes of XKL's new DXM line will win over network managers who don't know much about optical communications�and like it that way.

The DXM Optical Transport System platforms are designed to make optical equipment look, feel, and act as much as possible like the data networking hardware with which XKL's target customers are familiar. "We designed this system so you can go into an enterprise or an ISP�anyone who types at a standard CLI (command line interface)�and drop it in front of them and they'll figure it out," XKL Sales and Marketing Coordinator Michael O'Brien explained during the same interview.

The product line consists of a series of 1RU boxes that provide Layer 1 WDM connectivity and path protection, the latter at speeds of less than a millisecond. They are designed to provide value, ease of use, and reliability. In the value category, the small package requires less rack space, cooling, and power than the optical systems large vendors typically offer. As for reliability, the platforms combine the rapid path restoration capability with redundant cooling and power mechanisms.

However, XKL has placed its primary focus on ease of use. "It's system engineered to be a system component in their data network. We don't want them to have to learn optical physics," Bosack explained. The platforms don't contain line cards and they use standard SFP and XFP transceivers. Users can program each box to accommodate a variety of channel counts and line rates via a standard CLI. The systems also can be managed with SNMP, rather than a proprietary network management system and graphical user interface.

The DXM line comprises transport terminals that operate on sub-bands of the C-Band and "band combiners" that enable terminals to be stacked to accommodate denser channel counts on a single fiber. The terminals range from boxes with multirate 3-Gbit/sec interfaces to more capable devices that combine 3- and 10-Gbit/sec multirate interfaces. The band combiners support dual path, single path, and add/drop transmission, depending upon the configuration.

The platforms will accommodate ring, mesh, and point-to-point topologies, with an internal crossbar switch aiding both network architectural and protection flexibility. Along this line, the proprietary dual-path protection mechanism for ring networks illustrates the company's drive for simplicity, Bosack said.

"You take the data from the front client port, replicate it, and you shoot it down two different lasers around the ring�.You get to the receive end, the software makes a decision based on received power levels which way the switch goes, and then it goes out to the client there," he said. "It's as dumb as grass."

The DXM systems are in general availability, with two small deployments already announced, one an ISP in Los Angeles and the other a data services company in Washington State. Bosack hinted that the announcement of a European deployment may arrive soon.

Note: An expanded version of this article will appear in the August issue of Lightwave.

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