By John C Tanner
Bringing packets into the light
Telcos want to flatten their packet and optical network layers, but the right solution depends on how optical-centric or packet-centric your vendor is
he term “convergence” may be one of the most overused and overhyped words in telecoms, but there’s no better way to describe the current interest in flattening the IP and optical layers of the network. The idea of packet-optical convergence – which in broad terms means taking packet networks (namely Carrier Ethernet), Sonet/SDH and DWDM and flattening them down into one network that does everything those layers do separately – has been around for some time. However, in early 2009, US operator Verizon threw the gauntlet down to vendors when Stuart Elby, VP of network architecture at Verizon Net26 Jan/Feb 2010 Telecom Asia
work & Technology, said at an OFC conference that it intended to transform its global network into a packetoptical transport system (P-OTS) that would combine Layer 1 and Layer 2 functionality and into a much more efficient and cost-effective network with an integrated control plane. And Verizon wanted suppliers to come up with boxes that would help them achieve it. The basis for Verizon’s demand was an internal analysis that found IP transit traffic patterns and demand for flexible routes were so dynamic that IP traffic at the optical layer often didn’t have to touch the network routers. “That adage of ‘switch where you can, route where you must’ has never
gone away, and Verizon wanted its IP transit traffic that didn’t need routing to stay in the optical layer,” explains Anup Changaroth, product marketing director for Asia for Nortel Networks’ MEN business recently purchased by Ciena. “It’s a very costly affair to put routers in place and take your IP traffic up to that layer if you don’t need to.” Verizon concluded that to support those dynamic traffic patterns and bypass routers, “it made more sense to have the optical layer using MPLS-TP as the key switching mechanism. And they’ve been driving vendors to look at that,” says Changaroth, adding that carriers in Japan and elsewhere have done their own internal studies and reached
the same conclusions in the last six months. Infonetics, meanwhile, found in a survey last year that two-thirds of service providers plan to combine their data and transport operations sometime next year. And vendors are now jockeying for position to help them do just that.
We have the technology
The technological advances enabling the push to packet-optical convergence are already here: Ethernet-over-SDH, ROADM (for wavelength-switching), ASON (Automatically Switched Optical Network), GMPLS (which allows MPLS to run on the control plane) and OTN (Optical Transport Network) switching.
OTN is one of the key technologies mentioned in Verizon’s P-OTS strategy. Verizon intends to implement a “wavelength-centric OTN-compliant network” supporting multi-vendor interoperable OTN-compliant (G.709) interfaces. “OTN is key because it brings a lot of the good manageability stuff from Sonet/SDH to optical, so you can see the traffic, detect faults, all the operational management stuff and granularity from SDH,” Changaroth says. It also supports legacy TDM traffic, which is crucial to packet-optical convergence, he adds. “TDM may not be growing by leaps and bounds as much as IP traffic, but it still generates a huge amount of revenue for telcos, so
anyone who says they can just get rid of that TDM Sonet/SDH layer is kidding themselves.”
Bandwidth and cost efficiencies
Of all the benefits of flattening the IP and optical layers, there are two recurring themes: more efficient bandwidth usage and lower costs. “By bringing several layers of their network together, service providers can reduce the number of devices in the network, the space and power consumption,” says Luc Ceuppens, marketing VP of high-end systems for Juniper Networks. “That will help them not only get capex down but prepare for the future services they want to run over
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AVP and head of the product marketing department at ECI Telecom.” TA
www. Result: carriers can maximize capacity without spending more money on extra core routers. So there’s no one rule of thumb.net
. That said. “If you have a 40G WDM channel and you’re only using 10 Gbps of it because your Ethernet service only runs at 10G.” he says. ROADM. and packet-centric vendors will develop packet-oriented gear with some optics integrated into it”
these networks.e.” There will also be one other convergence issue that telcos will have to resolve. “So telcos do have to look at how this is going to affect those two divisions. adds Mikdashi – interdepartmental convergence. “It will be slow because of the amount of legacy equipment and architecture carrying live traffic. Juniper says the latter approach will ultimately save telcos more money in the long run. running as low as 2 Mbps. Mikdashi adds. software should support all the layers in a single management system to support end-to-end provisioning. “Some operators want a very intelligent Ethernet network with some basic WDM capabilities. There is a difference. “In this type of convergence. So operators will be more challenged to drive them to work more closely together.” he says. bandwidth efficiency gains are a matter of having the flexibility and sufficient granularity to fill lightwaves to capacity. “Organizationally SDH/optical and IP operate as separate business units. MPLS-based with OTN switching) would cost 65% less than a traditional optical network.” Ronen Mikdashi. and yield capex
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savings of “at least 30%. and a basic Ethernet layer. Ceuppens admits the cost model makes specific assumptions that won’t apply uniformly to different networks. while an optical-centric solution (i. “For many Tier 1 operators. etc. “As a service provider you don’t want to mess with your customer.” he says.” he says. in addition to savings in power. space and operational complexity”. hybrid router and MPLS/OTN switching) would save just under 50%. “You can fill it with 4 x 2.
Optical-centric or packetcentric
A minor war is already brewing over just how much money telcos can save depending on whose solution they choose – or rather.” Ceuppens agrees. and packetcentric vendors will develop packet-oriented gear with some optics integrated into it.” he says. says Mikdashi of ECI. so all your channels are fully utilized.5G or 10 x 1G or 100 x 100 Mbps and so on – any combination you like. and adds that despite the fact that operator interest in packet-optical convergence is high. since operator decisions on a packet-optical convergence strategy will be determined by the ar-
chitecture already in place.” he says. says Ceuppens of Juniper – and one that tends to be defined by the core expertise of the vendor. they can deploy a packet-optical network that’s more oriented on Ethernet and is stronger on Ethernet capabilities than optical. Some are already doing it. which provides higher granularity by enabling VLANs or pseudowires within a port to be logically or virtually mapped to the same wave.” Perhaps unsurprisingly. It also depends on what TDM and Ethernet services they have at the time. “You have players in the optical world and the packet world and they’ll each approach this new product in their own way. agrees that packet-optical convergence will help reduce capex and opex. the packet divisions and optics divisions are usually separate. how focused their convergence strategy is on bringing the packet layer to DWDM or the other way around.e. but adds that the savings don’t just come from the hardware. an emerging ITU standard due for completion next year. response time to customer needs for expansion. and other things that can also help to reduce costs. “If their network is dominated by Ethernet and IP services. “Optical-centric vendors will develop optical transport with some packet capabilities. which reduces time to market. Which is as well.telecomasia. you can multiplex several other lowbit subservices onto it. It’s only when it’s proven that the new network is cost-effective that they’ll make the effort to migrate customers over to it. but it will still be an issue for many. but others that already have a complicated optical layer want an intelligent optical network with mesh capabilities. but also the sub-port level using ODUflex technology.” Alcatel-Lucent – which fired the first shot in the packet-optical convergence wars with its converged backbone transformation (CBT) strategy launched in September – touted its ability to groom traffic not only at the wave level.” Changaroth of Nortel agrees. actual implementation is going to take time as telcos weigh their options on when and where to flatten the packet and optical layers with minimal disruption to existing services. Mikdashi says.technology
“Optical-centric vendors will develop optical transport with some packet capabilities. A cost analysis from Juniper reckons that that a packet-centric integration solution (i. Meanwhile. So very often they work with overlays – create that NGN and then migrate customers over to that.