Nortel boosts multi-service power with new switch

Service providers that want to offer multiple services over a single infrastructure instead of maintaining parallel networks will get more horsepower for the job from Nortel Networks Corp. in the second quarter when it rolls out its largest multi-service switch yet.

Nortel on Tuesday announced the Passport 20000 Multi-service Platform; its first multi-service switch designed specifically for the core of a large service-provider network, according to Todd Morris, a vice-president in Nortel’s Passport group. The platform, in trials now, will offer 160G bps (bits per second) of switching capacity and a variety of 10G-bps interfaces, the biggest yet in the company’s long-running Passport line.

The Passport 20000 will let carriers link a wide variety of services, including: traditional voice, wireless, IP (Internet Protocol) data, IP VPNs (virtual private networks), ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) and Frame Relay, into a single backbone network. Carriers can use the switch to migrate directly to an IP core or continue using ATM in the backbone, Morris said. With either technology, MPLS (Multi-protocol Label Switching) can be used to provide the quality of service customers expect all the way across the network, he said.

Service providers can integrate several different 10G-bps interface modules into the Passport 20000, including an OC-192 (10G bps) Packet over SONet (Synchronous Optical Network) port, a 10-Gigabit Ethernet connection and four ATM OC-48 links.

For carriers using DWDM (dense wave-division multiplexing) in the core of the network, the Passport can dynamically set up and tear down individual wavelengths as that capacity is required, Morris said. A separate transport device on the edge of the optical infrastructure will then convert the electronic signals to light waves for transmission.

The new switch will give Nortel’s large number of service provider customers a way to migrate smoothly and economically to a new infrastructure, said Brent Wilson, an industry analyst at Current Analysis Inc., in Sterling, Va. In addition to offering a variety of interfaces and support for different kinds of services, the Passport 20000 will let current users of the smaller Passport 15000 reuse components from that platform, he said.

Support for ATM and other interfaces are critical because incumbent service providers are unlikely to make the migration to a fully IP-based network for years, Wilson said. In the meantime, MPLS will be the common denominator for many.

“Most people would expect MPLS at some point down the road to become much larger of an installation,” Wilson said.

The Passport 20000 will carry a typical starting price between US$150,000 and $175,000, according to a Nortel spokeswoman.

Nortel, in Brampton, Ont., can be reached at