I recently attended the Next Generation Optical Networking conference held in Nice, France.  With over 700 optical networking professionals in attendance, I participated on two panels and had the opportunity to chair a portion of the day.

One panel I moderated was called “Packet & OTN Switching Integration – What kind of switching is needed?”

The group of professionals that joined the panel discussion included:

  • Geoff Bennett, Director, Solutions & Technology, Infinera
  • Alan Corfield, Consultant, Transport Engineering, Virgin Media
  • Bartek Raszczyk, Senior Network Engineer, London Internet Exchange (LINX)
  • Kristian Andersson, IP Transport Consulting Engineer, Alcatel-Lucent
  • Zhao Shuai, Technical Director, ZTE

Each of the panelists shared his unique viewpoint and while we thought this topic would stir a large debate, we were pleasantly surprised when the panelists were in general agreement.

To summarize, we concluded that OTN switching and packet switching will both be around for a long time.  For obvious reasons, the future is with packet switching, but do not discount OTN switching because it serves a couple of important functions even in a packet world.

One of the reasons for OTN switching is that the client side and line side interfaces will always differ in speeds.  So, this means an OTN switch will be needed to maintain higher network utilization through active bandwidth management.  In general, the panel concluded the majority of OTN switches would be integrated within a DWDM system for this reason.

The second reason for OTN switches is to provide a high quality circuit that has predictable features, much like private line services today.  It could be said that OTN is a direct replacement for the type of services carriers often delivered with SONET and SDH equipment.  That is to say, OTN will allow carriers to continue delivering services that have high service level agreement (SLA) requirements.

When we discussed the type of equipment and whether an integrated solution was truly needed, the panelists were in general consensus that an integrated packet and OTN switch would be optimal.  As one panelist described, in his network, he wants to have a switch that can be an OTN switch today and a packet switch tomorrow.  In between those days, he wants to be able to slide the scale from OTN to packet.

The conference was a great opportunity to discuss the current challenges for the industry and discover and highlight the solutions for these challenges going forward.  I look forward to going back next year!

Dell’Oro Group recently held a lunchtime presentation and discussion on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and related technologies in San Jose.

At the luncheon, Shin Umeda, our vice president who spearheaded our Advanced Research Report on Network Functions Virtualization, led the discussion.  Shin was joined by Chris DePuy, our vice president covering the two key markets we track that are beginning to see the effects of NFV, namely Carrier IP Telephony (IMS) and Wireless Packet Core (Evolved Packet Core).

One of the highlight’s of Shin’s presentation was his insight into the potential implications of Network Functions Virtualization on Service Provider business challenges (see chart).

NFV Lunch Blog

Traditional Service Provider business models and processes are under pressure from operational, financial, and competitive perspectives.  According to Shin, NFV has the potential to address these growing business pressures in a new way.

The presentation addressed one of the biggest sources of pressure for Service Providers – exponential traffic growth.  The number of global connections is currently in the billions and is moving to the tens of billions.  Service Providers are constantly looking for ways to optimize networks to better match traffic volumes and patterns.

As network connections and traffic grow, the complexity of the underlying network infrastructure and the corresponding service delivery processes and mechanisms also increase.  This leaves Service Providers looking for new ways to manage financial resources – namely CAPEX and OPEX.

Shin described one of the key premises of NFV as a potential solution – the use of low-cost and standard IT, common off the shelf (COTS) hardware instead of expensive, specialized hardware, thereby reducing equipment costs.

OPEX improvements can also be achieved in many areas.  NFV offers the potential to reduce the costs to operate the physical network through lower power consumption, increased automation, and more efficient element management.

Service providers are looking to NFV as a way to develop and deliver new services.  As a service delivery platform, NFV has the potential to accelerate the introduction of new services and reduce development risks, and thereby improve revenue growth and competiveness.

However, Shin sees a long list of tasks and risks that must be addressed by Service Providers as part of the NFV transition.  It is a long term process that will take many years.

Thank you to everyone who attended this presentation and discussion.  For further information on this topic, see Shin’s Advanced Research Report on Network Functions Virtualization.