AlcaLu ups ante on IP/optical convergence

John C. Tanner
18 Sep 2009
Daily News

Alcatel-Lucent aims to blend IP and optical traffic closer together than ever with a “converged backbone transformation” (CBT) solution aimed squarely at IP-over-DWDM solutions from rival vendors.

But while the starting point for CBT is IPoDWDM, it’s “much more than that”, said Alberto Valsecchi, Alcatel-Lucent’s optics marketing vice president.

“We are talking about data-plane, control plane and management plane integration between the IP and optical layers,” he said.

Valsecchi touted Alcatel-Lucent’s optical and router expertise as an advantage over vendors focused mainly on one or the other – and partnerships don’t count, he said in an apparent reference to the new partnership between Nokia Siemens and Juniper to develop IP-over-DWDM solutions.

“There are some things that can’t be done through partnerships and we believe and core/optical convergence is one of them,” he said. “It’s much harder to offer this solution through partnerships in terms of aligning road maps, interoperability testing. With multiple vendors, it gets tricky.”

CBT addresses one of the chief downsides of IPoDWDM: inefficiency. IPoDWDM maps one router port to each optical wave, which means the wave becomes underutilized during off-peak hours.

AlcaLu intends to provide traffic grooming options from the wave level (i.e. IPoDWDM) to the sub-port level using ODUflex technology – an emerging ITU standard, due for completion next year, which provides higher granularity by enabling VLANs or pseudowires within a port to be logically or virtually mapped to the same wave.

Result: carriers can maximize capacity without spending more money on extra core routers, and yield capex savings of “at least 30%, in addition to savings in power, space and operational complexity.”

The other key CBT component is “intelligent control plane integration between the optical and IP layers” creating unified end-to-end visibility in the NOCs. That level of integration would allow carriers to better route IP traffic over optical to avoid excessive router hopping.

All of this adds up to a potential attention-getter for carriers, according to a recent Infonetics Research survey, which found two-thirds of service providers plan to combine their data and transport operations sometime next year.

In fact, AlcaLu already has its first CBT customer – US carrier Qwest, which tapped AlcaLu earlier this month to upgrade its national optical backbone to 100 Gbps.

That said, not all of the CBT features will be commercially available all at once. AlcaLu will roll it out in phases, with service routers now supporting IPoDWDM capabilities, while ODUflex multi-port capability and integrated management will be added over the next year or two.

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