Nortel's Pagani talks optical Ethernet

After attempting to enlighten the industry 18 months ago on the different flavors of optical Ethernet - an emerging technology and market on which beleaguered Nortel Networks Corp. is depending for recovery - the company has some "new lingo" to share. So forget about how Nortel's been defining optical Ethernet up to now, and read along as Marco Pagani, president of Nortel's Optical Ethernet group, tries to set Jim Duffy straight on his company's new rap.

Q: Nortel has had several different definitions for optical Ethernet: Ethernet over fiber, over SONET, over dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) and Resilient Packet Ring (RPR). How do you now define optical Ethernet?You don't define it as infrastructure options. Optical Ethernet is an opportunity to facilitate convergence across a number of traditional telecom domains. We define it the following way: The always-available global and universal telecom utility. It's really a foundation for next-generation services and applications.

Q: What sorts of services and applications?We can offer the same capabilities that a TDM private-line infrastructure can offer today with much more significant impact to the [bottom line] for the carrier. There's an opportunity here to create a commodity bandwidth-on-demand service by utilizing technology that gives you the ability to start at 10M bit/sec, go up to 1G bit/sec and then offer the increments in 1M bit/sec chunks without having to dispatch craftspeople, do truck rolls, change out equipment, etc.

Optical Ethernet is an opportunity for convergence and collapsing of multiple data networking protocols into one standard mechanism for allowing service providers to offer this any-to-any switched capability. I'll call that Ethernet VPN.

ATM/frame relay networks are going to evolve to optical Ethernet. IP VPNs have the potential to migrate to optical Ethernet VPNs.

Q: Where does RPR fit in?

RPR Alliance people claim some significant cost advantages of that technology over optical Ethernet in terms of the number of optical ports required . . .

RPR is not a contradiction to optical Ethernet. RPR is optical Ethernet. RPR is an absolutely fundamental element of Nortel's optical Ethernet story. RPR, again, is the ability to facilitate bandwidth efficiency, which translates to effective utilization of interface ports. In a switched Ethernet domain, RPR is integral in Nortel's optical Ethernet implementation. It's relevant in the Layer 2 any-to-any service space.

There are multiple ways to deliver an Ethernet capability. Depending on the service provider infrastructure that can be leveraged, depending on the reliability and the resiliency that the service provider requests and the enterprise requires, there are options to transport Ethernet over multiple domains. Forget about infrastructure options; let's now talk about the services that we're trying to enable and why that service-centricity is more relevant than talking about infrastructure options.

Q: So the real issue is the services and not the infrastructure?Yep, that's it.

Q: Where is most of the demand for optical Ethernet?There's demand across the three traditional categories: Ethernet over DWDM, Ethernet over SONET and Ethernet over fiber. So let me say it in the new lingo. There are people that continue to deploy storage private-line solutions. Anytime you see a storage-area network or business continuity kind of a deployment, that's a storage private line. There has been demand, and there continues to be demand there.

Ethernet-over-SONET or SDH . . . Bell Canada and WorldCom are on an aggressive path to offer national service. That is switched Ethernet over an RPR-enabled infrastructure for efficient utilization of bandwidth. There are Ethernet-over-fiber deployments that have started so people that are looking at a switched Ethernet capability. A lot of them are not public yet, but Sprint has a unique service opportunity in Las Vegas with a company called Stations Casino. They're using a switched Ethernet implementation, and in some cases it leverages an RPR infrastructure; in some cases strictly over optical, over fiber.

In Asia, wireless operators have moved away from leased-line implementations to backhaul traffic from base stations into the core of their network. And they're using all flavors of Nortel's optical Ethernet [products] to facilitate that. So whether it's Ethernet-over-fiber, over SONET or over DWDM, those are options for wireless operators to cost-effectively transport and backhaul information from base stations into the core of their network.

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