Optical optimism breeds management offering

While first-generation optical switches are just now reaching the field in significant numbers and the first all-optical switches emerge from carrier trials, some have already envisioned the day when optical switches become common elements in service-provider networks. This vision includes the ability to make best-of-breed decisions or link dissimilar networks, which in either case will create a multivendor environment. Boca Photonics Inc. (Boca Raton, FL) has bet this scenario will be common in the relatively near future and has embarked on development of technology to manage optical switches from a variety of vendors.

According to Boca Photonics president and CEO Michael McLaughlin, the simplified network-management and -provisioning functions that system vendors are developing to manage their own product lines will be just as important-if not more so-for carriers operating a network composed of optical switches from more than one equipment house. The company's Service Control Solution suite of products aims to provide carriers with the ability to develop and analyze new services, plan and implement mesh networks, and deploy services quickly and economically.

Equipment in the suite includes the ServicePlex Controller, a control and signaling platform for the deployment of services across equipment from multiple vendors; the ServicePlex Manager, which provides element management for the controllers; and the ServicePlex Designer, which enables carriers to design, analyze, and optimize optical networks.

As each systems vendor develops its own method of providing restoration, protection, and service provisioning, McLaughlin believes that carriers will welcome a single platform that will enable systems from competing vendors to work in harmony. As long as an equipment vendor installs the ServicePlex Controller in its system, this streamlined management and provisioning approach can extend across a wide variety of switches, regardless of whether they use all-optical or electronic switch fabrics.

The key to success for Boca Photonics is getting equipment houses to buy into their proposition. McLaughlin says that his company, fresh from receiving $3 million in venture capital, is building a demonstration system that he expects will be ready this summer. He plans to offer to perform demonstrations either in the facilities of individual systems companies or in a carrier's interoperability lab. A beta version should be ready this fall, McLaughlin predicts, with field trials following in 2002.

In the meantime, the company plans to roll out the ServicePlex Designer in the third quarter of this year. The Designer product enables carriers to plan and optimize mesh and ring network architectures. This system aids service pricing by allowing carriers to determine the cost of implementing systems and model return-on-investment scenarios.

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