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Optical packet switching: Boom or burst?

By David Nugent

By David Nugent

Optical burst switching (OBS) and optical packet switching (OPS) are no strangers to OFC/NFOEC. The past decade has witnessed a steady increase in publications on both fronts, fostered partially by monolithic integration and the resultant availability of high-density optical cross-connect fabrics.

More recently commercial interest in OBS has been spurred by the promise of superior energy efficiency compared to traditional WDM – at least in the network core. With power consumption in packet-switching routers dominated by IP header processing and forwarding functions, OBS promises to reduce energy costs by minimizing the control-channel overhead.

Yet the advent of ultrafast coherent transmission may introduce unexplored challenges for OBS since the stochastic nature of optical bursts destroys the wavefront continuity required by coherent receivers. Compromising between the frequency efficiency of coherent transmission with the energy efficiency of OPS will surely create some tough challenges for component designers and network architects alike.

This year OFC/NFOEC promises an excellent assortment of OBS and OPS papers spanning both the device and network communities. Device talks include burst-mode DPSK transmitters, index-based parallel burst schedulers, and all-optical RAM buffers.

Confronted by the coherence-related issues outlined above, I am particularly interested in the 160 Gb/s OBS demonstration by Calabretta (OMK3), the internal scrambling scheme for 10Gb/s burst-mode R3 receiver by Myouaku (NTuD3), and the 1-Tb/s PolMux-DQPSK optical packet switch and buffer presented by Shinada (OMW6).

Optical burst rings (OBRing) should provide a fertile ground for discussion as their simple topology and single service direction may provide a timely solution to the explosive growth of IPTV traffic in metropolitan area networks.

The conference should also provide an update on the prevailing challenges facing packet contention and optical loss in multi-service OBS networks, and techniques under development to mitigate against such phenomenon.

Returning to the efficiency conundrum outlined above, Rod Tucker (OTuG4) and Achim Autenrieth (OTuP3) have been invited to deliver thought-provoking talks on the energy efficiency of optical packet transport in access, metro and core networks. Professor Tucker heads the Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunication, affiliated with the University of Melbourne and inaugurated last year with support from Alcatel-Lucent.

OFC/NFOEC 2011 should yield a great crop of papers on the breakthroughs and challenges facing real-world OBS and OPS deployments. Optical packet switching: Boom or burst? I think it will be both.

Dr. David Nugent is Founder and CEO of Elucidare Limited, a boutique technology development and investment advisory business.

Posted: 15 February 2011 by David Nugent | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.