PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Agilent Technologies Inc. here has developed an optical switching technology that it called a "missing link" in next-generation network equipment, and said it could greatly speed the transition to all-optical networks.
The Photonic Switching Platform includes Agilent's first commercial photonic switches: a 32-x-32-port and a dual 16-x-32-port device. Agilent said its technology allows information -- voice, data, or video -- to be switched as optical signals without converting them from photons to electrons. When combined with technology for cost-effectively increasing bandwidth, such as Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (DWDM), the Agilent Photonic Switching Platform includes switch-control electronics and a simple application programming interface (API). To integrate the platform, Agilent customers only need to supply power and an industry-standard LAN interface.
Agilent will unveil the platform Tuesday at the Optical Fiber Communications Conference and Exhibit 2000 in Baltimore.
Network service providers are facing an urgent need to increase capacity in telecommunications networks, and a new generation of optical switches has become necessary so that wavelengths canbe better provisioned and managed as information signals across entire networks.
"As demand for communications explodes, the communications industry is being forced to make more rapid decisions about how networks are configured," said Tom White, senior vice president and general manager of Agilent's Communications Solutions Group. "While DWDM has proven to be a reliable and cost-effective platform for increasing point-to-point bandwidth, the ability to switch wavelengths has been missing until now. By applying its expertise to optical switching, Agilent is providing that missing piece."
With a flexible, modular architecture, the Agilent platform makes it easy to build optical cross connects, re-arrangeable optical add/drop multiplexers, and optical protection switching modules, White said. These elements are essential for building an all-optical network, which the communications industry needs to keep up with exploding bandwidth demand. In addition, the platform is bit-rate- and protocol-transparent, so it will not need costly upgrades as communications technologies continue to evolve, he added.
"This device will change the way engineers think about next-generation switching elements in the same way Bill Hewlett's first electronic calculator changed the way engineers thought about slide rules in the early 1970s," said John O'Rourke, general manager of Agilent's Optical Networking
Division. "Network equipment manufacturers must focus on the move to all-optical networks now or be surpassed by their competition."
The Agilent Photonic Switching Platform is designed to be simple. The new photonic switches are based on Agilent technology that uses a combination of reliable inkjet and planar lightwave circuit (PLC) technologies. They accomplish the task of re-directing light without the help of mirrors or any other moving parts.
The switch is composed of a vertical and horizontal array of permanently aligned waveguides. Light is transmitted across a horizontal path from the input to output port until a switch command is issued. When commanded, a bubble is created at the intersection of the appropriate waveguides and the light is reflected down a vertical path to the switched port. This bubble is formed using the same reliable technology now used in inkjet printers.
Several leading network equipment makers are already integrating the platform into carrier-class network elements, Agilent said. Commercial prototypes of the Agilent Photonic Switching Platform will be available by the end of the year.