Startup Bolsters Edge of Optical Networks

WALLINGFORD, CONN. (04/13/2000) - Sirocco Systems is developing optical network gear to intelligently sort data from customer networks and efficiently feed it into carrier's high-speed optical core networks.

Carriers can manage and provision Sirocco equipment more easily and quickly than they can traditional SONET networks, meaning customers can get services turned on more quickly, the company says.

In addition, Sirocco equipment lets providers deliver services using a range of protocols and speeds. Service providers will no longer be limited to offering 45M-bps T-3s and 155M-bps OC-3 services with no speeds in between.

"We will see a lot of services based on this equipment that are not limited to standard speeds," says Rosemary Cochran, an analyst with Vertical Networks in Dedham, Mass. The customer's networks can be designed with less idle bandwidth to pay for because they won't have to make such large leaps when they increase WAN services, she says.

Sirocco is making two basic devices: Zephyr, an optical access device; and Typhoon, an optical edge switch that can aggregate traffic from Zephyrs to feed optical core switches. Typhoons can also be connected to other Typhoons to create regional carrier optical network.

Zephyrs come in two models, both of which have six slots for customer ports.

These include ATM, frame relay, 10M-bps, 100M-bps and Gigabit Ethernet data.

The Zephyr Z-12 supports OC-12 uplinks into the carrier network. The Z-48 supports an OC-48 uplink.

Typhoons also come in two models: The T-48, with trunk speeds up to OC-48; and the T-192, with trunk speeds up to OC-192. Each has 10 slots for customer and trunking interface cards. Typhoons are also capable of dense wave division multiplexing up to 32 different wavelengths of light.

Each Zephyr or Typhoon chassis can hold hardware modules that support different protocols. For example, an ATM module acts as a full ATM switch, removing the need for separate ATM switches to give intelligence to the optical gear. That makes it less expensive for carriers to build their networks. "That means they could pass savings on to customers if they choose to," Cochran says.

Other cards can switch frame relay traffic or IP traffic using Multi-protocol Label Switching.

Sirocco equipment can load a single wavelength of light with multiple traffic types to make efficient use of the optical bandwidth the light is capable of carrying. Those multiple traffic types on the lightwaves can be converted back into electrical signals by any Sirocco switch in a network. Once inspected, it can be switched onto a separate wavelength.

Cochran says this feature is important even though industry observers commonly say there is a glut of optical bandwidth. Nevertheless, it pays to use it efficiently because "users still pay pretty dearly for this bandwidth," he says.

The Sirocco switches also support four levels of protecting circuits against failure, which allows customers to choose the level of protection they need and to pay less for less protection.

The most secure option holds in reserve a redundant connection that is used only when the primary circuit fails. The second option allows the redundant bandwidth to be used for lower-priority traffic that will get bumped if the main circuit fails. The network could also reroute traffic around a failure using whatever bandwidth is available - but with no service-quality guarantee.

Or the network could simply let the circuit fail with no backup.

Sirocco gear will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

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