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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!