Convergence solves networking woes

By converging IP and optical transport technologies, operators tackle the challenges presented by bandwidth-hungry apps, says Alcatel-Lucent.

Read time 3min 00sec

Network operators that use converged Internet protocol (IP) and optical transport technologies get better resource utilisation, streamlined operations and dynamic service capabilities.

So says Arnold Jansen, director of product marketing for IP optical convergence at Alcatel-Lucent, commenting on the findings of a study by Bell Labs, the industrial research arm of Alcatel-Lucent.

The International Telecommunication Union defines an optical transport network as a set of optical network elements connected by optical fibre links, able to provide functionality of transport, multiplexing, switching, management, supervision and survivability of optical channels carrying signals.

The optical transport network is designed to address shifts in network types by delivering a transparent framework to efficiently carry diverse traffic kinds. It also combines the benefits of synchronous optical networking with the bandwidth-expanding capabilities of dense wave division multiplexing in order to build more network functionality into optical networks.

"Convergence leverages the inherent synergies between IP routing and optical transport, resulting in better resource utilisation and lower cost," says Jansen. "It also establishes a unified and integrated multi-layer network, which is simpler to operate and easier to automate."

According to the study, by converging IP and optical transport technologies, operators can significantly ease the burden being placed on their infrastructure by demands for capacity caused by the explosion of bandwidth-hungry applications.

The research looked to determine if and how converged IP/optical control integration could reduce network resource requirements without compromising service availability. This was done by comparing the relative cost of integrating and co-ordinating resiliency methods in both the IP routing and optical transport network. Resilience is the network's ability to resume normal operations if a failure occurs and is an essential component of an operator's highly reliable network.

The results show that by converging routing and optical transport technologies, operators can meet the same requirements for service availability, while using up to 40% less network resources, such as 100G router ports and optical transponders.

Jansen says the convergence of IP and optical transport technologies is happening already, albeit at different levels and to different degrees.

"IP and optical integration at the data plane is already happening in the access and aggregation network; for example, with network integrated devices and packet-optical transport systems, but is progressing relatively slow due to hardware platform upgrade considerations.

"Convergence at the control plane is in very early stages and is something we expect will focus the IP edge and IP core network, but should be able to progress much faster because this will typically be a software-only upgrade."

The research also found an integrated resiliency strategy saves costs while still guaranteeing network and service availability.

Introducing protection for the optical layer based on generalised multiprotocol label switching (GMLS) allows service providers to meet the same availability levels achieved by routing protection methods based on multiprotocol label switching, with total savings up to 40% on router ports and optical transponders over a five-year period, the study discovered.

The combination of IP and optical transport layer protection with a GMLS user network interface allows service providers to accelerate these savings by freeing up a third of deployed network capacity and provide headroom for two years of traffic growth, says Bell Labs.

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