The days when optical networking simply meant continental connections and massive bandwidth pipes are over.
It is a well documented fact that the global optical networks that have already been built offer so much capacity that the market for straightforward carrier-class switches and routers is in a slump. This has led to poor financial results and redundancies among suppliers in addition to the problems at the carriers.
Both suppliers and carriers are therefore looking to serve markets that offer not only efficient traffic transport systems for data but also good housekeeping and Quality of Service so that the user base to be served more efficiently and profitably.
This means serving niche data markets by using intelligent switches and routers at both the edge and the core, especially as the metropolitan area of the Internet data market, is now the most active for both the suppliers and the carriers.
Richard Benwell, EMEA marketing director at Riverstone Networks, opines, "We are already starting to see the effect of over-capacity in the backbone fibre networksellipse New technological advances in optical networking will start to send bandwidth prices tumbling, and carriers will have to look beyond selling commodity optical bandwidth in order to grow sales and profits.
"Successful providers will do this by selling differentiated, value-added business services, and this transition will require carriers and service providers to build an infrastructure that allows them to handle and profit from business traffic," says Benwell.
"Service providers must be able to slice bandwidth into customer-selected increments and then dynamically allocate that bandwidth on customer request. They must be able to monitor bandwidth usage to ensure that customers are getting what they have paid for, and then be able to reliably account and bill for these allocations in real-time."
What Benwell is confirming is that bandwidth control and accounting -not bandwidth availability - is key to the new business Internet that the switching and routing business must support.
Suppliers must therefore offer solutions which deliver a "service-creation" platform and technology that can both handle the extra optical bandwidth and provide rich service enablers like multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) to give the service providers a competitive edge.
Benwell adds, "Network speeds of 10 Gigabit Ethernet and beyond are just around the corner. While big new pipes with commodity optical bandwidth are exciting, it is the ability to deliver new services that will change the way business is conducted." Antony Savvas
MPLS with ATM and Frame Relay QoS
Lucent Technologies has launched a QoS (quality of service) solution for carriers that don't want to dump legacy protocols such as ATM and Frame Relay.
Carriers relying on optical backbone transport protocols like SONET in the USA and SDH in Europe are now being encouraged to adopt the MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) QoS technology, which allows carriers to more easily deliver on service level agreements for high-value niche data services to customers.
However, many carriers are reluctant to dump the QoS features inherent in ATM and Frame Relay in favour of MPLS completely running the show. Lucent has therefore launched a Core MPLS Switch, in the form of the TMX 880, which allows carriers to easily keep their legacy ATM and Frame Relay network segments without having to worry about QoS interoperability with other parts of the network.
Sarbpreet Singh, vice president of product and program management in Lucent's InterNetworking Systems division, says: "The big carriers like British Telecom are looking for this type of solution to be able to adopt MPLS without having to completely overhaul parts of their network."
Riverstone Networks' latest router is the RS 8000 series. The RS 8000 and RS 8600 offer a range of copper and optical interfaces in a compact NEBS-compliant platform. They can provide metro-optimised MPLS Layer 2 or 3 tunnelling, dynamic bandwidth provisioning, and connection-orientated data collection architecture.
The RS 8000 provides a 16Gbit/s non-blocking switch fabric, 15 million packets per second routing throughput, and supports up to 4,096 VLANs. The RS 8600 provides a 32Gbit/s non-blocking switch fabric, 30m packets per second routing throughput and support for up to 4,096 VLANs.
The list price for a fully loaded RS 8000 with Gigabit Ethernet and OC-12c/STM-4 Packet over SONET line cards is about USD75,000.
Multi-service switch to link to long-haul
Deutsche Telekom is first to take Lucent's LambdaUnite Multi-Service Switch (MSS), designed as a bridge between data-intense metro networks and high-speed optical core networks connecting cities, campuses and companies to long-haul networks.
Deutsche Telekom will use it in deploying broadband services in its global network. Supporting both SONET and SDH interfaces, the LambdaUnite enables carriers to up-grade to throughput levels of 40Gbit/s to deliver value-added services like Gigabit Ethernet connections.
The switch works with the Lucent Service Intelligent Architecture operating system, which delivers automated provisioning and fast restoration capabilities.
Multi-service edge router for network
Siemens group subsidiary Unisphere Networks has developed the MRX Multi-Service Edge Router for carrier requirements at the network edge.
Powered by Unisphere's Edge Optimised Architecture, which features a family of custom-built ASICs, the MRX enables carriers to integrate IP routing, native ATM switching, MPLS, and IP services in a single platform.
Capacity scales from 40Gbit/s to 320Gbit/s, and a wide range of optical interfaces can be accommodated on a single line module including OC-3c/STM1, OC-12c/STM4, cOC12/cSTM4, OC48c/STM16 and cOC48/cSTM16, as well as Gigabit Ethernet.
The MRX is designed to be a cost-effective choice for incumbent service providers that require both ATM and IP functionality.
Dual-control planes of IP/MPLS and ATM
Alcatel's highly scalable 7670 Routing Switch Platform is designed to accommodate both new and old build architectures, providing a single interface for ATM, IP, and MPLS traffic types.
The 7670 has one of the fastest throughputs on the carrier market, providing anything from 50Gbit/s to 450Gbit/s at the core over dual-control planes of IP/MPLS and ATM. It can also be scaled from 2.4Gbit/s at the multi-service edge.
The latest version of the 7670 provides interfaces for Gigabit Ethernet and IP over SONET.
Alcatel claims it is a good solution for a mix-and-match approach when it comes to lowering capital expenditure while expanding reach.
10Gbit/s full-duplex options
Cisco has introduced a range of 10Gbit/s full-duplex options for its 12000 Series of Internet routers.
The new 12400 Internet router enables deployment of high-bandwidth 10Gbit/s connections throughout networks, from small to large points of presence in backbone or edge applications.
To reduce network complexity and control expenditures, all of the 12400 Internet routers use the same line cards, software, and management systems.
The four 10Gbit/s products range from the 12404 Internet Router, which has four slots and a 80Gbit/s switching capacity, to the 12416, which has 16 slots and a 320Gbit/s switching capacity.
The company says that the 12404 is ideal for small to medium POPs and enterprises which need to offer services from space-constrained locations that require carrier-class scalability. The 12404 offers a power-efficient eight-per-rack configuration and supports the full range of Cisco 12000 Series line cards up to OC-192c/STM-64c.
When deployed with the Cisco 12000 Series Ten-Port Gigabit Ethernet Line Card, the Cisco 12404 aggregates Gigabit Ethernet into full-duplex 10 Gbit/s slots in a compact way to control operational costs.
Packaged MPLS solutions
Foundry Networks is expanding its metropolitan offering for carriers by providing packaged MPLS solutions for multi-tenant units (MTUs) and areas such as provider edge (PE), provider core (PC), and Internet edge (IE).
The solutions are built around Foundry's NetIron family of metro routers, and the MTU and PE systems are designed to offer customer services such as MPLS VPNs.
Interfaces such as OC-3c ATM, OC-3c SONET and OC-12c SONET are supported. Foundry claims that the support for MPLS VPNs will help drive this market by offering carriers a customer-ready solution.
Optical metro backbone router supports 10GbitE
Riverstone's RS 38000 Optical Metro Backbone Router offers support for the 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard, SONET, DWDM, MPLS, as well as the Resilient Packet Ring (RPR) standard.
The RS 38000 has a 170Gbit/s non-blocking switch fabric and can support up to 16.7m VLAN combinations. It supports up to OC-192 capacity, while its support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet was one reason for metro service provider Intellispace to choose the RS 38000.
The router provides a 90m packets per second routing throughput, supports up to 20,000 security/access control filters, up to 1.6m Layer 2 MAC addresses, and up to 8m Layer 4 application flows.
A fully loaded RS 38000 system with Gigabit Ethernet and OC-48c/ STM-16 packet over SONET line cards costs around $250,000.
Core solution for carriers
The OPTera Connect HDX optical switch from Nortel Networks is a core solution intended for carriers.
Powered by Nortel's OPTera Smart operating system (OS), the switch allows carriers to increase the capacity of networks as needed. The OPTera Connect HDX allows interconnection of hundreds of routers, ATM and SONET/SDH switches, as well as transparent wavelength services, through line rates from 155Mbit/s to 40Gbit/s and above.
The OPTera Smart OS, together with the Connect HDX switch, enables full auto-discovery, network awareness, and dynamic connections from the metropolitan edge to the centre of the core.
The OPTera Smart OS architecture is based on the global Automatically Switched Transport Network (G.ASTN) standard. The HDX switch has a capability of 384 OC-192 (73,728 STS-1 signals) per shelf.