FEBRUARY 28, 2008 -- With more and more optical network automation, one task has remained manual: fiber connections. In a comprehensive field trial, Verizon (search for Verizon) has demonstrated that automating fiber-optic crossconnects, or AFOX, makes it possible to remotely perform such tasks as switching traffic from working fibers to spare fibers, finding alternative fiber routes, connecting test equipment to network elements, and sending test signals through fiber at unmanned sites.
Verizon reports that by automating one of the last remaining manual network functions, improvements can be demonstrated in overall network performance and management, as evidenced in its trial.
"This trial highlights the advantages of automating fiber management -- from improving network performance to reaping the benefits of creating a comprehensive database of network connections," says Mark Wegleitner, Verizon senior vice president of corporate network and technology. "It also creates new opportunities in areas such as equipment deployment, network design, and customer service."
Automated fiber management is the use of technology to make fiber connections. While automated fiber-optic crossconnects improve fiber management, the technology also changes the way network elements are connected, resulting in additional advantages. For example, AFOX could provide new features such as load balancing and flexible connections and could facilitate optical power monitoring, fiber-cut detection, and traffic protection and restoration.
"Because all fiber connections are set up automatically with AFOX, the results are more efficient network operations and a reduced number of visits to remote network sites to make fiber connections," says Glenn Wellbrock, director of backbone network design for Verizon. "AFOX also establishes more complete and real-time databases that provide network operations staff a better view of network activity."
Introducing AFOX creates new capabilities such as the "maintenance-friendly network" whereby network traffic can be easily switched between network elements for short periods of time, such as during network construction.
Verizon's trial highlighted three different switch technologies: 3D microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), piezoelectric beam steering, and robotic fiber connections.
Each technology has its own specific advantages, says Verizon. The 3D MEMS are compact and support a fairly large number of connections. Piezoelectric beam steering is a relatively fast switch, while the robotic approach best mimics current manual patching.