Matisse Networks masters ­optical burst switching

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Startup Matisse Networks ( claims to have commercialized an optical burst switching technology that entirely eliminates the need for optical circuits, resulting in disruptive economics for the carriers that implement it. Named for 20th-century French painter Henri Matisse, known to historians as “The Master of Color,” Matisse Networks is hoping to earn the same reputation for its innovative use of light.

The company’s EtherBurst Optical Switch platform is designed to overcome the limitations imposed by an Ethernet-over-DWDM architecture in which optical circuits must be preplanned and preprovisioned to support packet-based services. Emerging applications like IPTV will result in more volatile traffic flows, for which “circuit-based networks won’t fly anymore,” contends Timon Sloane, Matisse Networks’ vice president of marketing. “They don’t give you the flexibility to accommodate changing traffic patterns.”

The EtherBurst Optical Switch technology, by contrast, breaks the optical circuit mold, says Sloane. “It uses optics in a fundamentally different way as a technology to deploy very flexible, highly distributed bandwidth-not as a feature in a product designed to configure a single point-to-point path across an optical transport layer.”Th 231172

Matisse Networks� SX-1000 includes the company�s patented MeshWave packet processor and the Tango 10-Gbit/sec optical burst transponder, which can tune in nanoseconds to any wavelength in the ITU C-band grid.

Matisse Networks’ system comprises the PX-1000 Photonic Node and the SX-1000 Ethernet Service Node. The PX-1000 is an all-optical system of splitters, combiners, optical amplifiers, and optical power meters that monitor, manage, and maintain the health of the optical layer. The SX-1000 Ethernet Service Node, which plugs into the PX-1000, “is really where we translate from the packet world to the optical burst world,” says Sloane.

The SX-1000 Ethernet Service Node supports up to 48 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) interfaces or four 10-GbE interfaces, plus one or two optical burst switching interface modules, known as TAPs, which contain the company’s patented Tango 10-Gbit/sec transponder and the MeshWave packet processor.

The Tango transponder can be tuned to any wavelength in the ITU C-band. “Any conventional system uses a single transponder to go to a single destination,” Sloane explains. “We’re using transponders in a fundamentally different way, where any transponder can talk to every single destination on a burst-by-burst basis.”

Put another way, the standard 300-pin Tango transponder can be configured and reconfigured in nanoseconds to burst data on different wavelengths, which “yields very disruptive economics,” contends Mark Showalter, director of product marketing at Matisse Networks. He notes that the typical optical circuit requires two transponders, each of which costs between $50,000 and $60,000. “The majority of the cost of deploying any of these optical networks is bound and locked in those transponders,” he says. “For every point-to-point path, if there is no traffic over that path, the transponders are wasted. They sit there, idle, stranding bandwidth.”

However, because every node can use the same wavelength to send data to a given destination, the nodes must coordinate to ensure there is no collision in the network and only one switch is using that wavelength at any point in time. Enter the company’s patented MeshWave packet processor, which includes burst scheduling, the aforementioned collision avoidance scheme, and a quality-of-service (QoS) mechanism to ensure that high-priority traffic is delivered first, while lower-priority traffic is queued for later delivery.

Are carriers ready to deploy something so radically different? Michael Kennedy, managing partner of Network Strategy Partners LLC (, believes they will be-eventually. “We’ve been doing a lot of modeling of capacity requirements for introducing triple play,” he says, “and once you get up into the kind of networks Verizon is talking about-where essentially everyone is going to be using IP video-you will need a new kind of switching.”

That said, Kennedy also notes that carriers are very conservative when it comes to deploying new technology, particularly one intended for large core networks that serve millions of customers. While he says the technology is both “revolutionary and earth-shattering,” he also believes it will take more than one small startup to convince the big carriers to move on this. “I would expect an extended period of tire kicking,” he adds.

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