Iris has an eye for scaling optics

The Iris Group, which consists of four start-up companies developing products for different optical network markets and applications, has unveiled an optical network architecture designed to let carriers scale their networks from customer premises to the WAN at 40G bit/sec to 160G bit/sec on existing fiber.

The so-called Optical Data Network Hierarchy (ODNH) incorporates five network elements corresponding to the levels of an optical data network: customer premises, metro access, metro core, packet core and long-haul transport. The five devices are monitored by a single management platform, Iris Group says.

ODNH scales using two Iris Group concepts called "Superchannels" and "WaveBands." Superchannels are built from optical channel concatenation, in which multiple wavelengths are combined into a single high-speed pipe of up to 160G bit/sec. This technique sends bits across multiple optical channels simultaneously, Iris Group says.

A Superchannel is mapped to one or more WaveBands for transport. WaveBands can be added or dropped, or routed optically in the core of a network, Iris Group says.

Optical channel concatenation is an alternative to huge cross-connects, some of which are designed to support tens of thousands of ports. Start-up Altamar Networks, for example, recently announced a system designed to support up to 2 million ports.

But a typical carrier network transmits large amounts of traffic to a limited number of destinations, Iris Group says. Many wavelengths run in parallel along just a few routes. So, it is more efficient to create fewer bigger pipes than to use many slower pipes, Iris Group claims.

Analysts say Iris Group is essentially reinventing the wheel. There's no immediate need for this scale - and if there were, capital expenditure issues would quell the demand.

"It's an interesting announcement, but I think the timing is a little bit troubling," says Sterling Perrin of IDC. "Last year, the world was enamoured with getting new bandwidth. There was never going to be enough bandwidth to meet demand. The market's really changed in the past six months. The products (currently) on the market appear able to meet the increases in demand."

The Iris Group was founded last year by the cofounders of Monterey Networks. It includes Metera Networks, an access/metro systems developer; Coree Networks, a core packet switching systems developer; Latus Lightworks, a long-haul optical backbone systems developer; and Iris Labs, a design laboratory for intellectual property and network management software ( Four optical start-ups with one common thread).

Latus makes a so-called Optical Data Transport Node, a transport device for the core of the network that also functions as an optical add/drop multiplexer. Coree makes an Optical Data Core Node, a core packet switch that interfaces to traditional STS-192c streams and 40G to 160G bit/sec Superchannels.

Superchannels from the core node are mapped onto WaveBands and routed across the long haul by the transport node, or carried by generic OC-192 transport systems, Iris Group says.

Metera makes three devices for the metro network and customer premises. The Optical Data Distribution Node performs aggregation across multiple-ring metropolitan-area networks. Traffic from optical access multiplexers is collected by the node, which manages the bandwidth before handing it off to the packet core.

The Optical Service Line Access Multiplexer (OSLAM) aggregates packet-switched and other traffic over individual Gigabit Ethernet and OC-n interfaces onto SONET or dense wave division multiplexing backbone ring or mesh networks.

Metera's Optical Service Line Terminator is a customer-premises platform that multiplexes "last mile" legacy, Ethernet and TDM facilities onto a single fiber for management by the OSLAM. This device is designed to eliminate the need for multiple parallel facilities to separately support copper and fiber, or voice, data and video applications, Iris Group says.

All of the gear is managed by a so-called Optical Data Network Management (ODNM) platform. In addition to providing element and network management, ODNM uses the distributed intelligence in the five ODNH devices to provision available bandwidth among all network paths, Iris Group says. ODNM supports SNMP, TL1 and CORBA interfaces.

The companies will conduct technology demonstrations at Supercomm in Atlanta June 5-7, with individual product introductions occurring later this year and throughout 2002.

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