Telecom vendors announce 100-Gig metro networking

Nortel Networks Corp. of Toronto says it recently completed a 100 Gigabit-per-second trial in Europe over a distance of 1,224 kilometres using dense wavelength division multiplexing without using electrical regeneration equipment.

“That’s a fair distance to go at 100 G,” said Ron Kline, research director for optical networks at Ovum, a British market research firm. “I’m not sure if that’s the world record, but certainly 1,200 kilometres is nothing to sneeze at. The fact that it could work without a hitch is a testament to the technology.”

The trial, announced Monday, was conducted last month by Surfnet, a telecommunications network connecting universities and research organizations in The Netherlands, across a fibre link donated by the Internet Educational Equal Access Foundation and connecting Amsterdam to Hamburg, Germany.

Officials at Surfnet could not be reached for comment but Nortel said the trial used the Surfnet6 network, which is used for applications such as radio astronomy, physics and medical research.

Surfnet is not using 100 Gbps now, but will be able to if they need to, said Yash Kanabar, Nortel’s product marketing manager for metro Ethernet networking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“The primary users would be service providers,” Kanabar said. “Research and education generally have been adopting optical technology because of their high bandwidth requirement, and if you look at the private sector, you see demands for 400 (Gbps) in the data centre market, but that’s early days yet because early adoption would probably require aggregation of 10G, because IEEE standards are being adopted for the 100Gig E interface.”

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has yet to ratify the 802.3ba standard for 100 Gbps Ethernet, though one manufacturer has already announced it plans to ship interface cards for this speed.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Juniper Networks Inc. said on Monday it plans to ship later this year a card for its T1600 router. The manufacturer plans to demonstrate the product at the Interop Tokyo industry conference this week.

“We’ve seen requests for a single 100-Gig interface for the last couple of years,” said Alan Sardella, Juniper’s senior product marketing manager for high end systems.

“Something this big is used in the core to connect one metro network to another and so there’s going to be many applications running across the interface, often at the same time.”

He added the technology will be useful for operators offering video, cloud computing and software as a service.

“Cloud computing (is a) driver just because it takes up so much bandwidth and might use multiple data centres at the same time,” Sardella said.

Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics Research Inc. of Campbell, Calif., believes the product will be attractive within carriers’ points of presence.

“It could be within a building where you’re going from floor to floor, like a carrier hotel or in a big data centre.”

Sardella said the IEEE will probably not ratify the 802.3ba standard this year, but this should not prevent Juniper from shipping standardized interfaces this year.

“All the essential specifications have been agreed on,” Howard said, adding now that Juniper has announced a 100 Gigabit Ethernet card, he is sure other vendors will announce products.

“The technical details of the implementation will probably be finalized by the end of this year,” he said. “The card is and will continue to be fully 802.3ba compliant,” Sardella said. “What’s left to work out are some things in the area of the optical side.”

Nortel has conducted 100 Gbps Ethernet trials in labs, but does not have an external interface, Kanabar said. “We expect router manufacturers to be coming up with these interfaces,” he said, adding Juniper’s interface “would feed into our transport layer and work end to end.”

Nortel announced last September it intended to sell its metro Ethernet division, but company officials aren’t saying whether it will still be sold.

“We can’t speculate on that at all,” Nortel spokesman Ryan Hill said. “When we’ve got more to share, we will.”

Nortel has been operating under bankruptcy protection in Canada and the U.S. for five months, and has until July 30 to come up with a restructing plan.

Two weeks ago it announced its intent to sell its joint venture with South Korea’s LG Electronics.

Kline said Nortel’s 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps technology is a “prized possession” for the vendor, which dominated the Toronto Stock Exchange 300 index during the late 90s, but has lost money every year since 1998, except for 2006 when it earned $28 million.

“Nortel has some pretty good technology and the 100G especially,” Kline said. “The industry seems to be coalescing around Nortel’s solution, so that’s really good for them.”

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