Aligning optical and IP infrastructures

An Opinion

alcatel_logoThe article “Alcatel integrating network layers for efficiency” by Stephen Lawson of NetworkWorld discusses how the company Alcatel-Lucent plans to more closely align the optical infrastructure with the IP infrastructure.  The integration of these two main components of long-haul service-provider networks will increase speed and efficiency for the carriers.  Traditionally, the two domains have remained, for the most part, separate.  Internet and private IP traffic is generally transported over electronic packet routers.  At times, it is handed off to an optical infrastructure for transport over long distances.  There is very little interaction between the two elements, as they are typically managed by different teams.

Alcatel, a company with expertise in both technologies, plans to offer the ability to send traffic from multiple ports or VLANs into a single wavelength.  As a result, carriers can take full advantage of each wavelength, reducing the need to deploy additional wavelengths.  Furthermore, the company will allow IP routers to send traffic straight across the optical network, thus eliminating unnecessary IP routing along the way.  Finally, because Alcatel supplies both network layers, the two systems have knowledge of each other’s resources, and will be able to communicate fault management alarms.  The ultimate goal will be for the IP and optical network elements to reroute traffic if there is a failure in either layer.  These features are known as the Converged Backbone Transformation Solution and will roll out over time.

Alcatel’s Converged Backbone Transformation Solution will have a large impact on the carriers. Financially, the integration will save carriers at least 30% in capital expenditures if they build a network from the ground up utilizing Alcatel’s technology.  For carrier networks with existing infrastructure, cost savings will be more incremental in nature.  In addition, the technology will provide faster provisioning for enterprises that rely on the carriers to interconnect their offices.  This will increase business processes and customer service, and will ultimately have a positive impact on revenue.  Similarly, the technology will help boost the revenue of the carriers who are currently dealing with the problem of data traffic growing faster than the revenue they can collect for it.  Finally, the introduction of this technology will enable Alactel-Lucent to become an even more significant player in the networking world.  Companies such as Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks will have a new competitor in the field.  This competition will help stimulate a lagging economy, and ideally produce new ideas and growth in the networking community.