IEEE Communications Magazine • March 2001
•Lastly, it establishes a preliminary frame- work for the notion of an optical Internet.
The growth, performance, and survivabilityrequirements of the Internet are mandating IP-centric networks to be cost effective, survivable,and scalable, and to provide control capabilitiesthat facilitate network performance optimiza-tion. Some of these requirements are beingaddressed by the multiprotocol label switching(MPLS) traffic engineering capabilities underdevelopment by the Internet Engineering TaskForce (IETF) [1–4].The underlying optical transport network alsoneeds to be versatile, reconfigurable, and costeffective, and to support a variety of protectionand restoration capabilities due to the rapidlychanging requirements of the Internet. A result of these trends, therefore, is the evo-lution of optical transport networks from simplelinear and ring topologies to (partial) meshtopologies.Underscoring the importance of versatile net- working capabilities in the optical domain, anumber of standardization organizations haveinitiated work items to study the requirementsand architectures for reconfigurable optical net- works. For example, International Telecommuni-cation Union — TelecommunicationStandardization Sector (ITU-T) Recommenda-tion G.872  speaks of an optical transport net- work (OTN) as “a transport network boundedby optical channel access points.” The ITU-TG.872 OTN architecture is based on a layeredstructure, which includes:•An optical channel (OCh) layer network•An optical multiplex section layer network•An optical transmission section layer net- workThe OCh layer is the most relevant to thediscussions in this article. The OCh layer net- work supports end-to-end networking of opticalchannel trails between access points. The OChlayer network provides the following functions:routing, monitoring, grooming, and protectionand restoration of optical channels. In this situa-tion, programmable OXCs will be critical to therealization of the OCh layer functions, especiallyin mesh optical networks.Other standards organizations and interoper-ability forums actively pursuing projects relatedto dynamically reconfigurable optical networksinclude the American National Standards Insti-tute (ANSI) T1X1.5 committee, the OpticalInternetworking Forum (OIF), and the IETF.In all these cases, the successful realization of the vision of versatile optical networking depends very much on the synthesis of appropriate con-trol plane technologies with programmable andreconfigurable OXCs.
Consider a hybrid IP-centric optical internet- working environment consisting of both labelswitching routers (LSRs) and OXCs, where theOXCs are programmable and support wave-length conversion/translation. At a level of abstraction, an LSR and anOXC exhibit a number of isomorphic relations.Enumerating these relations exposes thereusable software artifacts from the MPLS traf-fic engineering control plane model. Architec-turally, both LSRs and OXCs emphasizeproblem decomposition by decoupling the con-trol plane from the data plane.The data plane of an LSR uses the labelswapping paradigm to transfer a labeled packetfrom an input port to an output port . Thedata plane of an OXC uses a switching matrix toconnect an OCh trail from an input port to anoutput port. An LSR performs label switching by firstestablishing a relation between an <input port,input label> tuple and an <output port, outputlabel> tuple. Likewise, an OXC provisions OChtrails by first establishing a relation between an<input port, input optical channel> tuple andan <output port, output optical channel> tuple.These relations are determined by the controlplane of the respective network elements, andare locally instantiated on the device through aswitch controller.The functions of the control plane (for bothLSRs and OXCs) include resource discovery,distributed routing control, and connection man-agement. In particular, the control plane of theLSR is used to discover, distribute, and maintainrelevant state information associated with theMPLS network, and to instantiate and maintainlabel switched paths (LSPs) under various MPLStraffic engineering rules and policies. An LSP isthe path through one or more LSRs followed bya specific forwarding equivalence class . Anexplicit LSP is one whose route is defined at itsorigination node.The control plane of the OXC, on the otherhand, is used to discover, distribute, and main-tain relevant state information associated withthe OTN, and to establish and maintain OChtrails under various optical traffic engineeringrules and policies. An OCh trail provides apoint-to-point optical connection between twoaccess points. At each intermediate OXC alongthe route of an OCh trail, the OXC switch fabricconnects the trail from an input port to an out-put port. A distinction between OXCs and LSRs isthat the former do not perform packet-levelprocessing in the data plane, while the latterare datagram devices which may perform cer-tain packet-level operations in the data plane. A significant conceptual difference is that withLSRs the forwarding information is carriedexplicitly as part of the labels appended to datapackets, while with OXCs the switching infor-mation is implied from the wavelength or opti-cal channel.In this article we use the generic term OXCto refer to all categories of programmable andreconfigurable crossconnects for OTNs, irrespec-tive of the technologies that underlie them.The OXC control plane design approachdescribed in this article is independent of theunderlying OXC switch technologies. It is alsoindependent of specific OXC implementation
The requirementsof the Internetare mandatingIP-centricnetworks to becost effective, survivable,and scalable, and to provide control capabilities thatfacilitate network performanceoptimization.