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Optical transport system fits enterprise nets

Posted: 01 Oct 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:optical transport system? wave-division-multiplexing architecture? Internet Protocol mapping?

Emerging from a long, self-imposed exile, Cisco Systems Inc. cofounder Len Bosack has unveiled the optical-transport fruits of his company, XKL LLC. Called DXM, the transport system is intended for enterprise and metropolitan-access networks, combining a dense wave-division-multiplexing architecture with simplified Internet Protocol mapping.

It would not be accurate to call XKL a startup. Various forms of the company have been around since 1991, focusing primarily on I/O when it was known as XKL Systems Corp. XKL LLC has been reorganized since 2002, however, moving from an early focus on Layers 3 and 4 protocol development to optical transport for smaller-scale LAN and MAN systems.

Bosack paid attention to networking trends in both the public data and data center worlds, where server clustering and effective box-to-box I/O are more important than routing. In its early years, XKL was interested in handling I/O bottleneck problems for customers ranging from Digital Equipment Corp. to MCI.

Integration is key
Since the optical boom at the end of the last decade and the telecom crash that opened this one, Bosack said he has paid close attention to the type of customer that can benefit from XKL's transport work.

"We don't expect to sell a DXM to the likes of Verizon, and in the current state of the industry, we wouldn't want to," Bosack said.

The problem in appealing to an enterprise audience is that the 1U DXM transport unit shows advantages in ease of management and in very fast (submicrosecond) path protection, but does not blaze radical new grounds. Bosack said the most important factor in designing what will eventually be a family of optical transport devices was to make sure they would integrate well with existing IP networking routers and switches.

But Sterling Perrin, optical analyst at Heavy Reading, said that XKL must still show where its system can be differentiated from transport platforms from players such as Nortel Networks Inc. and Adva Optical Networking Inc.

"They may be satisfied with an initial small percentage market share from Fortune 500 or 1,000 customers," Perrin said. "But the expansion into a family of products should show more differentiation from what's out there than we have seen so far."

Transport flexibility
Robert Michaels, business development director at XKL, said that the ability to easily configure available ports into 10 3Gbps ports, 10 10Gbit ports, or six 3Gbit and four 10Gbit ports should provide a degree of transport flexibility not available in most single-box units. Hardware redundancy and per-channel submicrosecond path protection should also be unique, he predicted.

Among products on the drawing board is a band combiner, to provide expanded services over 40 discrete DWDM channels. The DXM architecture can work with point-to-point, linear add-drop and ring topologies.

Because of the system's size, it does not use separate line cards. Multirate XFP and SFP optical ports are integrated directly on the motherboard.

The system is transparent to L2 and L3 protocols. In an existing trial with a Los Angeles ISP, the DXM system is carrying Ethernet, Sonet and time-division-multiplexed traffic with the same path-protection speeds for all environments.

"This is designed to appeal to the network engineer who has been a little bit afraid of optical products in the enterprise," Bosack said. "From a management perspective, this looks like a network component, not a transport component."

- Loring Wirbel
EE Times

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