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Data without borders: exploring the optical WAN at OFC/NFOEC 2013

By Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D., Distinguished Engineer, IBM System Networking Strategic Alliances, Member, IBM Academy of Technology IBM Corporation | Posted: 18 December 2012

Years ago, the distinction between telecommunications and data communications was pretty clear.  Telecommunications referred to moving information (usually voice traffic) over long distances (hundreds or thousands of km), while everything else that stayed within a single data center was called data communication.  Long distance voice traffic ran over ATM and SONET protocols, while many data centers contained a mixture of local area networks (Ethernet), storage area networks (Fibre Channel), clustering fabrics (InfiniBand), and other lesser used or proprietary protocols.  Today, of course, the line between these two fields is blurry at best, and many people would argue that there really isn’t a meaningful distinction between them any longer.  With the advent of new applications such as cloud computing and a renewed interest in long-standing applications such as disaster backup and business continuity, all types of traffic need to run well at extended distances.  In this blog, we’ll consider the brave new world of distance-independent networking and protocol agnostic channel extenders using wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), a couple of topics that are sure to be widely discussed and debated in the many workshops and panels for OFC/NFOEC 2013

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