Matisse announces efficient optical ring technology

Matisse Networks is introducing an optical switch that is stingy in its use of lasers but can support fully meshed fiber-optic rings on which traffic is provisioned as if the whole network were based on Layer 2 Ethernet switches alone.

The switch, called EtherBurst Optical Switch, can transmit as many as 32 wavelengths of light from each node using a single laser that transmits each wavelength as needed. Each node receives only one wavelength of light and lets all other wavelengths pass by.

This means that a ring with 32 nodes requires 32 lasers or optical transponders - one at each node - to connect to all the other nodes on their own wavelengths. With traditional dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) gear, supporting a separate wavelength for each node would require 496 transponders and presetting point-to-point optical circuits to connect each node to all the others on a ring.

Transponders are one of the most costly elements of any optical deployment and with DWDM, they lie idle when there is no traffic on their optical circuits.

"This technology makes very large deployments economically feasible," says Michael Kennedy, managing partner of Network Strategy Partners. He likened an EtherBurst ring to a campus gigabit Ethernet backbone sharing bandwidth for all the access switches on the network. In the case of EtherBurst, the backbone is 10Gbps, he says.

The EtherBurst is more efficient than DWDM in that it doesn't require setting up staticoptical channels between nodes that must be provisioned at great expense, he adds.

Traffic from the Ethernet side of an EtherBurst Optical Switch is plugged into Matisse's SX-1000 Ethernet Service Node, the network-facing component of the switch. An SX-1000 supports either 48 1Gbps ports or four 10Gbps ports.

The Ethernet Service node reads the traffic and figures out on which optical node the destination address lies, and switches the traffic to that node. It does this by signaling the optical part of the EtherBurst Optical Switch, called PX-1000 Photonic Node, to generate optical pulses at the correct frequency to transmit the traffic to the node connected to the destination address.

The transponder, called Tango, can adjust to any frequency within the ITU-defined C-band of optical spectrum in nanoseconds, send a burst, then return to a different frequency within nanoseconds, Matisse says. A Matisse processor called MeshWave schedules this tuning and transmitting as well as ensures QoS and guarding against traffic collisions, the company says.

Both Tango and MeshWave are patented.

Setting up a ring is accomplished by loading routing information on the SX-1000 Ethernet Service Nodes; provisioning the optical ring is automated. Each EtherBurst Optical Switch discovers the others and they automatically assign a wavelength to each node.

EtherBurst gear is available now for evaluation and testing, and will be generally available in the fourth quarter. The SX-1000 starts at US$86,000; the PX-1000 Photonic Node starts at US$58,000.

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