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© Mercury Communications Ltd. - August 1992 SDH, the great survivor, 2007 2007 network writings My TechnologyInside blog
The introduction of any new technology is usually preceded by much hyperbole and rhetoric. In many cases, the revolution predicted never gets beyond this. In many more, it never achieves the wildly over optimistic growth forecasted by market specialists - home computing and the paperless office to name but two. It is fair to say, however, by whatever method you use to evaluate a new technology, that synchronous digital transmission does not fall into this category. The fundamental benefits to be gained from its deployment by PTOs seem to be so overwhelming that, bar a catastrophe, the bulk of today's plesiochronous transmission systems used for high speed backbone links will be pushed aside in the next few years. To quote Dataquest:, "It has been claimed by many industry experts that the impact of synchronous technology will equal that of the transition from analogue to digital technology or from copper to fibre optic based transmission." For the first time in telecommunications history there will be a world-wide, uniform and seamless transmission standard for service delivery. Synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) provides the capability to send data at multi-gigabit rates over today's single-mode fibre-optics links. This first issue of Technology Watch looks at synchronous digital transmission and evaluates its potential impact. Following issues of TW will look at customer oriented broad-band services that will ride on the back of SDH deployment by PTOs. These will include: • • • • Frame relay SMDS (Switched Multi-Megabit Data Service) ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) High speed LAN services such as FDDI
Figure 1 shows the relationship between these technologies and services.
Figure 1 - The Relationship Between Services Overview The use of synchronous digital transmission by PTOs in their backbone fibreoptic and radio network will put in place the enabling technology that will support many new broad-band data services demanded by the new breed of computer user. However, the deployment of synchronous digital transmission is not only concerned with the provision of high-speed gigabit networks. It has as much to do with simplifying access to links and with bringing the full benefits of software control in the form of flexibility and introduction of network management. In many respects, the benefits to the PTO will be the same as those brought to the electronics industry when hard wired logic was replaced by the microprocessor. As with that revolution, synchronous digital transmission will not take hold overnight, but deployment will be spread over a decade, with the technology first appearing on new backbone links. The first to feel the benefits will be the PTOs themselves, as demonstrated by the technology's early uptake by many operators including BT. Only later will customers directly benefit with the introduction of new services such as connectionless LAN-to-LAN transmission capability. According to one market research company it will take until the mid or late 1990s before 70% of revenue for network equipment manufacturers will be derived from synchronous systems. Remembering that this is a multi-billion $ market, this constitutes a radical change by any standard (Figure 2). Users who extensively use PCs and workstations with LANs, graphic layout, CAD and remote database applications are now looking to the telecommunication service suppliers to provide the means of interlinking these now powerful machines at data rates commensurable with those achieved by their own inhouse LANs. They also want to be able to transfer information to other metropolitan and international sites as easily and as quickly as they can to a
colleague sitting at the next desk.
Figure 2 - European Revenue Growth of Transmission Equipment Plesiochronous Transmission. Digital data and voice transmission is based on a 2.048Mbit/s bearer consisting of 30 time division multiplexed (TDM) voice channels, each running at 64Kbps (known as E1 and described by the CCITT G.703 specification). At the E1 level, timing is controlled to an accuracy of 1 in 1011 by synchronising to a master Caesium clock. Increasing traffic over the past decade has demanded that more and more of these basic E1 bearers be multiplexed together to provide increased capacity. During this time rates have increased through 8, 34, and 140Mbit/s. The highest capacity commonly encountered today for inter-city fibre optic links is 565Mbit/s, with each link carrying 7,680 base channels, and now even this is insufficient. Unlike E1 2.048Mbit/s bearers, higher rate bearers in the hierarchy are operated plesiochronously, with tolerances on an absolute bit-rate ranging from 30ppm (parts per million) at 8Mbit/s to 15ppm at 140Mbit/s. Multiplexing such bearers (known as tributaries in SDH speak) to a higher aggregate rate (e.g. 4 x 8Mbit/s to 1 x 34Mbit/s) requires the padding of each tributary by adding bits such that their combined rate together with the addition of control bits matches the final aggregate rate. Plesiochronous transmission is now often referred to as plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH).
Figure 3 - A typical Plesiochronous Drop & Insert Because of the large investment in earlier generations of plesiochronous transmission equipment, each step increase in capacity has necessitated maintaining compatibility with what was already installed by adding yet another layer of multiplexing. This has created the situation where each data link has a rigid physical and electrical multiplexing hierarchy at either end. Once multiplexed, there is no simple way an individual E1 bearer can be identified in a PDH hierarchy, let alone extracted, without fully demultiplexing down to the E1 level again as shown in Figure 3. The limitations of PDS multiplexing are: • A hierarchy of multiplexers at either end of the link can lead to reduced reliability and resilience, minimum flexibility, long reconfiguration turnaround times, large equipment volume, and high capital-equipment and maintenance costs. PDH links are generally limited to point-to-point configurations with full demultiplexing at each switching or cross connect node. Incompatibilities at the optical interfaces of two different suppliers can cause major system integration problems. To add or drop an individual channel or add a lower rate branch to a backbone link a complete hierarchy of MUXs is required as shown in figure 3. Because of these limitations of PDH, the introduction of an acceptable world-wide synchronous transmission standard called SDH is welcomed by all.
• • • •
Synchronous Transmission In the USA in the early 1980s, it was clear that a new standard was required to overcome the limitations presented by PDH networks, so the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) SONET (synchronous optical network) standard was born in 1984. By 1988, collaboration between ANSI and CCITT produced an
international standard, a superset of SONET, called synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH). US SONET standards are based on STS-1 (synchronous transport signal) equivalent to 51.84Mbit/s. When encoded and modulated onto a fibre optic carrier STS-1 is known as OC-1. This particular rate was chosen to accommodate a US T-3 plesiochronous payload to maintain backwards compatibility with PDH. Higher data rates are multiples of this up to STS-48, which is 2,488Gbit/s. SDH is based on an STM-1 (155.52Mbit/s) rate, which is identical to the SONET STS-3 rate. Some higher bearer rates coincide with SONET rates such as: STS12 and STM-4 = 622Mbit/s, and STS-48 and STM-16 = 2.488Gbit/s. Mercury is currently trialing STM-1 and STM-16 rate equipment. SDH supports the transmission of all PDH payloads, other than 8Mbit/s, and ATM, SMDS and MAN data. Most importantly, because each type of payload is transmitted in containers synchronous with the STM-1 frame, selected payloads may be inserted or extracted from the STM-1 or STM-N aggregate without the need to fully hierarchically de-multiplex as with PDH systems. Further, all SDH equipment is software controlled, even down to the individual chip, allowing centralised management of the network configuration, and largely obviates the need for plugs and sockets. A future SDH network could look like Figure 4.
Figure 4- An Example Future SDH Digital Network Benefits of SDH Transmission SDH transmission systems have many benefits over PDH:
• • • • •
Software Control allows extensive use of intelligent network management software for high flexibility, fast and easy re-configurability, and efficient network management. Survivability. With SDH, ring networks become practicable and their use enables automatic reconfiguration and traffic rerouting when a link is damaged. End-to-end monitoring will allow full management and maintenance of the whole network. Efficient drop and insert. SDH allows simple and efficient crossconnect without full hierarchical multiplexing or de-multiplexing. A single E1 2.048Mbit/s tail can be dropped or inserted with relative ease even on Gbit/s links. Standardisation enables the interconnection of equipment from different suppliers through support of common digital and optical standards and interfaces. Robustness and resilience of installed networks is increased. Equipment size and operating costs are reduced by removing the need for banks of multiplexers and de-multiplexers. Follow-on maintenance costs are also reduced. Backwards compatibly will enable SDH links to support PDH traffic. Future proof. SDH forms the basis, in partnership with ATM (asynchronous transfer mode), of broad-band transmission, otherwise known as B-ISDN or the precursor of this service in the form of Switched Multimegabit Data Service, (SMDS).
Conclusions The introduction of synchronous digital transmission in the form of SDH will eventually revolutionise all aspects of public data communication from individual leased lines through to trunk networks. Because of the state-of-the-art nature of SDH and SONET technology, there are extensive field trials taking place in 1992 throughout the world prior to introduction in the 1993 - 1995 time scale. There is still a lack of understanding of the ramifications of the introduction of SDH within telecommunications operations. In practice, the use of extensive software control will impact positively all parts of the business. It is not so much a question of whether the technology will be taken up, but when. Introduction of SDH will lead to the availability of many new broad-band data services providing users with increased flexibility. It is in this area where confusion reigns with potential technologies vying for supremacy. These will be discussed in future issues of Technology Watch. Importantly for PTOs, SDH will bring about more competition between equipment suppliers designing essentially to a common standard. One practical effect could be to force equipment prices down, brought about by the larger volumes engendered by access to world rather than local markets. At least one manufacturer is currently stating that they will be spending up to 80% of their SDH development budgets on management software rather than hardware. Such was the situation in the computer industry in the early 1980s. Not least, it will have a great impact on such issues as staffing levels and required personal
skills of personnel within PTOs. SDH deployment will take a great deal of investment and effort since it replaces the very infrastructure of the world's core communications networks. But it must not be forgotten that there are still many issues to be resolved. The benefits to be gained in terms of improving operator profitability, and helping them to compete in the new markets of the 1990s, are so high that deployment of SDH is just a question of time. Back to home
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Networks Part 6: SDH, the great survivor
March 2007 When I first wrote about Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) and SONET (SDH is the European version SONET) back in 1992, it was seen to be truly transformational for the network service provider industry. It marked a clear boundary from just continually enhancing an old asynchronous technology belatedly called Plesiochronous Digital Hierarchy (PDH) to a new approach that could better utilise and manage the ever increasing bandwidths then becoming available through the use of optical fibre. An up-to-date overview of SDH / SONET technology can be found in Wikipedia. SONET was initially developed in the USA and adapted to the rest of world a little later which called SDH. This was needed as the rest of the world used different data rates to those used in the USA - this later caused interesting inter-connect issues when connecting SONET to SDH networks. For the sake of this post, I will only use the term SDH from now on as, by installation base, SDH far outweighs SONET. Probably even more amazing was that when it was launched, following many years of standardisation efforts, it was widely predicted that along with ATM it would become a major transmission technology. It has achieved just that. Although ATM hit the end stop pretty quickly and the dominance of IP was unforeseen at that time, SDH and SONET went on to be deployed by almost all carriers that offered traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN ) voice services. The benefits that were used to justify rollout of synchronous networking at the time pretty much panned out in practice. • • • Clock rates tightly synchronised within a network through the use of atomic clocks Synchronisation enabled easier network inter-connect between carriers Considerably simplified and reduced costs of extracting low data
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Making SDH, DWDM packet friendly
March 2007 Back in 1993, I wrote about the advances taking pace in fiber optic technologies and optical amplifiers. At that time, technology development was principally concerned with improving transmission distances using optical amplifier technology and increasing data rates. These optical cables a single wavelength and hence provided provided a single data channel. Wide area traffic in the early 1990s was principally dominated by Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) telephony traffic as this was well before the explosion in data traffic caused by the Internet. When additional throughput was required, it was relatively simple to lay down additional fibres in a terrestrial environment. Indeed, this became standard procedure to the extent that many fibres were laid in a single pipe with only a few being used or lit as it was known. Unlit fibre strands were called dark fibre. For terrestrial networks when increasing traffic demanded additional bandwidth on a link, it was simple job to simply add additional ports the appropriate SDH equipment and light up an additional dark fibre.
Wave Division Multiplexing (Picture credit: photeon) In undersea cables adding additional fibres to support traffic growth was not so easy so the concept of Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM) came into common usage for point to point links (the laboratory development of WDM actually went back to the 1970s). The use of WDM enabled transoceanic carriers to upgrade the bandwidths of their undersea cables without the need to lay additional cables which would cost multiple billions of Dollars. As shown in the picture, a WDM based system uses multiple wavelengths thus multiplying the available bandwidth by the number wavelengths that could be supported. The number of wavelengths that could be used and the data rate on each wavelength were limited by the quality of the optical fibre that was being upgraded and the current state-of-the-art of the optical termination electronics. Multiplexers and de-multiplexers at either end of the cable aggregated and split the combined data into separate channels by converted to and from electrical signals. A number of WDM technologies or architectures were standardised over time. In the early days, Course Wavelength Division Multiplexing (CWDM) was relatively proprietary in nature and meant different things to different companies. CWDM combines up to 16 wavelengths onto a single fibre and uses an ITU standard 20nm spacing between the wavelengths of 1310nm to 1610nm. With CWDM technology, since the wavelengths are relatively far apart compared to DWDM, the are generally relatively cheap. One of the major issues at the time was that Erbium Doped Fibre Amplifiers (EDFAs) as described in optical amplifiers could not be utilised due to the wavelengths selected or the frequency stability required to be able de-multiplex the multiplexed signals In the late 1990s there was an explosion of development activity aimed at deriving benefit of the concept of Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) to be able to utilise EDFA amplifiers that operated in 1550nm window. EDFAs will amplify any number of wavelengths modulated at any data rate as long as they are within its amplification bandwidth. DWDM combines up to 64 wavelengths onto a single fibre and uses an ITU standard that specifies 100GHz or 200GHz spacing between the wavelengths, arranged in several bands around 1500-1600nm. With DWDM
technology, the wavelengths are close together than used in CWDM, resulting in the multiplexing equipment being more complex and expensive than CWDM. However, DWDM allowed a much higher density of wavelengths and enabled longer distances to be covered through the use of EDFAs. DWDM systems were developed that could deliver tens of Terabits of data over a single fibre using up to 40 or 80 simultaneous wavelengths e.g. Lucent 1998. I wouldn't claim to be an expert in the subject, but I would expect that in dense urban environments or over longer runs where access is available to the fibre runs, it is considerably cheaper to install additional runs of fibre than to install expensive DWDM systems. An exception to this would be a carrier installing cables across a continent. If dark fibre is available then it's an even simpler decision. Although considerable advances were taking place at optical transport with the advent of DWDM systems, existing SONET and SDH standards of the time were limited to working with a single wavelength per fibre and were also limited to working with single optical links in the physical layer. SDH could cope with astounding data rates on a single wavelengths, but could not be used with emerging DWDM optical equipment. Optical Transport Hierarchy This major deficiency in SDH / SONET led to further standards development initiatives to bring it "up to date". These are known as the Optical Transport Network (OTN) working in an Optical Transport Hierarchy (OTH) world. OTH is the same nomenclature as used for PDH and SDH networks. The ITU-T G.709 (released between 1999 - 2003) standard Interfaces for the OTN is a standardised set of methods for transporting wavelengths in a DWDM optical network that allows the use of completely optical switches known as Optical Cross Connects that does not require expensive optical-electrical-optical conversions. In effect G.709 provides a service abstraction layer between services such as standard SDH, IP, MPLS or Ethernet and the physical DWDM optical transport layer. This capability is also known as OTN/WDH in a similar way that the term IP/MPLS is used. Optical signals with bit rates of 2.5, 10, and 40 Gbits/s were standardised in G.709 (G.709 overview presentation) (G.709 tutorial). The functionality added to SDH in G.709 is: • • • Management of optical channels in the optical domain Forward error correction (FEC) to improve error performance and enable longer optical spans Provides standard methods for managing end to end optical wavelengths
Other SDH extensions to bring SDH up to date and make it 'packet friendly' Almost in parallel with the development of G.709 standards a number of other extensions were made to SDH to make it more packet friendly. Generic Framing Procedure (GFP): The ITU, ANSI, and IETF have specified standards for transporting various services such as IP, ATM and Ethernet over SONET/SDH networks. GFP is a protocol for encapsulating packets over SONET/SDH networks. Virtual Concatenation (VCAT): Packets in data traffic such as Packet over SONET (POS) are concatenated into larger SONET / SDH payloads to transport them more efficiently. Link Capacity Adjustment Scheme (LCAS): When customers' needs for capacity change, they want the change to occur without any disruption in the service. LCAS a VCAT control mechanism, provides this capability. These standards have helped SDH / SONET to adapt to an IP or Ethernet packet based world which was missing in the original protocol standards of the early 1990s. Next Generation SDH (NG-SDH) If a SONET or SDH network is deployed with all the extensions that make it packet friendly is deployed it is commonly called a Next Generation SDH (NG-SDH). The diagram below, shows the different ages of SDH concluding in the latest ITU standards work called T-MPLS ( I cover T-MPLS in: PBT - PBB-TE or will it be T-MPLS?
Transport Ages (Picture credit: TPACK) Multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP) Another term in widespread use with advanced optical networks is MSPP. SONET / SDH equipment use what are known as add / drop multiplexers (ADMs) to insert or extract data from an optical link. Technology improvements enabled ADMs to include cross-connect functionality to manage multiple fibre rings and DWDM in a single chassis. These new devices replaced multiple legacy ADMs and also allow connections directly from Ethernet LANs to a service provider's optical backbone. This capability was a real benefit to Metro networks sitting between enterprise LANs and long distance carriers. There are many variant acronyms in use as there are equipment vendors: • • • • Multiservice provisioning platform (MSPP): includes SDH multiplexing, sometimes with add-drop, plus Ethernet ports, sometimes packet multiplexing and switching, sometimes WDM. Multiservice switching platform (MSSP): an MSPP with a large capacity for TDM switching. Multiservice transport node (MSTN): an MSPP with feature-rich packet switching. Multiservice access node (MSAN): an MSPP designed for customer access, largely via copper pairs carrying Digital-Subscriber Line (DSL) services. Optical edge device (OED): an MSSP with no WDM functions.
This has been an interesting post in that it has brought together many of the technologies and protocols discussed in the previous posts, in particular SDH, Ethernet and MPLS and joined them to optical networks. It seem strange to say on one hand that the main justification of deploying converged Next Generation Networks (NGNs) based on IP is to simplify existing networks and hence reduce costs, but then consider the complexity and plethora of acronyms and standards associated with that! I think there is only one area that I have not touched upon and that is the IETF's initiative - Generalised MPLS (GMPLS) or ASON / ASTN, but that is for another day! Back to home
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