The Emergence of Next-Gen Networks, Part 1

Enterprise IT departments are straining despite huge increases in network capacity in the past decade. There are growing concerns over bandwidth availability, interoperability and security, as online video, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), social networking and on-demand application services proliferate.

Network providers are trending toward an “everything over IP” strategy, as organizations in both the private and public sectors are working up blueprints and laying out pathways for rolling out a next-generation network infrastructure capable of meeting the soaring demands.

Wave and dense wave division multiplexing (WDM; DWDM) over fiber optic cable, MPLS (multi-protocol label switching), Metro Area Ethernet and Virtual Private LAN (local area networking) services (VPLS) are big parts of the wired world’s emerging network landscape.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.16 (WiMax), 802.20, 802.11n WiFi technologies and its 802.11i security standards aim to accomplish the same in the increasingly important mobile computing and wireless telecom space.

Reverse Digital Gap

With their high-density concentrations of people, businesses and public sector organizations, large metropolitan areas are among the first places where next-generation networks are beginning to spring up.

Hong Kong Broadband Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of City Telecom (H.K.), appears to be a forerunner of next-generation telecommunications services companies. In 2002, Cisco singled it out as the largest Metro Ethernet network provider in the world, and in October 2005, it became the first service provider to achieve Cisco Powered Network Metro Ethernet QoS (quality of service) Certified status.

HKBN has invested more than HK$2 billion (US$256 million) to build out a single Metro Ethernet optical fiber network that delivers broadband “multiplay” applications — Internet access, telephony, IPTV and private data services. It reaches 1.3 million households — about 65 percent of the Special Administrative Region’s population — and 750 commercial buildings.

The company intends to expand its Metro Ethernet network to reach 95 percent of Hong Kong households (some 2 million homes) and 1,800 buildings by 2012, City Telecom group cofounder and chairman Wai Kay “Ricky” Wong told TechNewsWorld.

“In Hong Kong, we have effectively created a Reverse Digital Gap, whereby the mass market on HKBN’s network coverage now enjoys superior value and choice over other customers,” Wong commented as he explained the company’s approach to Hong Kong’s telecom market.

“To cut through the fierce competition, HKBN required more than just a ‘me too’ telecommunications infrastructure. We needed an advanced, reliable, yet cost-effective network to ensure smooth and uninterrupted services at a mass market price point. We researched various different options, and it became clear that Cisco’s Metro Ethernet IP and Optical Network Solution was the one that best served all our needs.”

Huge and Flexible

HKBN has more than 640,000 subscribers, which makes it Hong Kong’s largest alternative end-to-end network provider, it claims. As of February 28, 2007, the end of the Group’s first-half fiscal year, it had 281,000 telephony, 220,000 broadband service, and 116,000 IPTV subscribers on its rolls.

It also lays claim to providing the fastest residential broadband access rates in the world. The company’s Metro Ethernet offers Hong Kong residents a range of bandwidth options, from 10 Mbps (megabits per second) to 1 Gbps (gigabit per second).

The ability to provide this kind of throughput has been crucial for HKBN to offer its customers triple-play — Internet access, telephony and IPTV — services, as well as tap into the mobile and corporate data services markets.

“The bandwidth entailed in this Ethernet optical fiber network is huge and flexible, enabling us to be the only operator in Hong Kong that can provide six types of bandwidth,” Wong said, “as well as allowing us to launch new bandwidth anytime with minimal investment, in accordance to market needs. In addition, the stability and performance brought by Ethernet optical fiber backbone is incomparable.”

Installation Infrastructure Modernization

The U.S. Army has to rank among the world’s largest organizations. It has many of the same telecommunications needs and faces many of the same challenges as the IBMs of the world. In recent years, it has relied on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology to meet them, as part of the Installation Infrastructure Modernization Program, or I3MP — a globe-spanning effort that entails building out an enterprise network infrastructure for its CONUS (continental U.S.), Pacific and European operations.

The Army expects this fall to release details and requests for proposals for a $4 billion IMOD (Installation Modernization) contract to update installation-level information infrastructure at major Army installations around the world.

“The future of the Army’s IT backbone is very similar to the commercial community,” Colonel Scot C. Miller, project manager for defense communications and Army switched systems, told TechNewsWorld. “We are putting in place a data network to enable ‘Everything Over IP’ with the ultimate goal of gaining all the value promised from a unified environment.”

Over Hill, Over Dale and at Home

“The Army’s I3MP program touches every Army installation worldwide and provides outside plant, as well as voice and data modernization,” Col. Miller continued. “To accomplish this, extensive use of commercial off-the-shelf technology is employed in I3MP implementations.

“Army installations are much like campus or metro infrastructures: They take into account the same basic requirements. Of course, security is top priority, as we need to ensure protection of our soldiers both at home and away, while performing the mission at hand,” he explained.

“Based on the current state of an existing installation’s data and voice backbone, the I3MP program will put in place the right form, fit and function technology to meet the mission,” Col. Miller maintained. This includes all forms of wireless technology, optical transport, and the latest protocols — for example, IPV6 (Internet Protocol version 6) and converged technologies such as VoIP.

Ultra Science

Ciena is at the forefront of multi-gigabit optical fiber and wide area Ethernet networking. In late 2005, it announced that the United States Department of Energy (DoE) was making use of its CoreStream Agility optical transport system and CoreDirector CI multiservice switching system in Ultra Science Net, which serves as a new benchmark for a national communications network tailored to the specific requirements of large-scale scientific applications.

Last week, Ciena introduced the FlexSelect 40G Shelf, which provides a universal solution to transition metro, regional, long-haul and ultra long-haul networks to 40 Gbps, while providing a migration path for 100 gigabit networking, according to the company.

Migrating to 40 and 100 Gbps

The demand for 40 gigabit broadband networking is, in the main, being driven by IP router manufacturers, James Zik, Ciena’s senior product marketing manager for optical transport products, told TechNewsWorld. “The 40G interfaces have been available since 2004, with demand now beginning to ramp up in 2007. Service providers are also driving 40G deployments to alleviate fiber exhaust issues on some routes.”

Forty gigabit networking offers network service providers the potential to quadruple their capacity through enhanced spectral efficiency, while at the same time simplifying their network architectures, according to Zik.

With demand growing and integration of components on the rise, 40 gigabit networks are coming online, prices are falling, and the path to 100 gigabit networking is being laid out.

“100G networking is being driven not only by IP router manufacturers — for efficient IP routing — but also data center operators and content providers, where bandwidth demands are approaching 100 percent growth per year,” Zik observed.

“We believe that 40G is a necessary migration path to 100G networking with the first 100G deployment in 2009, and demand ramping up three or four years later. Our expectations are that 40G will move to metro networks as demand for media/video services continues to accelerate,” Zik forecasted.

The Emergence of Next-Gen Networks, Part 2: Wireless

The Emergence of Next-Gen Networks, Part 3: WiMAX

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