Is All-Optical the Next LAN?

Tellabs' announcement of an R&D facility in Melbourne saw Richard Chirgwin speak to the company’s VP of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, about the reasons for the facility – and learned about the company’s hopes for desktop fibre along the way.

The idea of the all-optical LAN has been around for quite some time – at least since the 1990s – but copper endures, with always one-more-increment of Ethernet desktop speeds ready to be sweated out of the network.

With vendor Tellabs announcing the establishment of an R&D facility in Melbourne, Richard Chirgwin spoke to the company’s VP of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, about the reasons for the facility – and learned about the company’s hopes for desktop fibre along the way.

Expected to employ 25 staff in Australia by the end of next year, the Innovation Solutions Research Lab will focus on software, particularly to put more systems management functions in front of end users.

Candiloro said both the need for the facility and the means to put it into place arose out of the company’s successes in major accounts such as Telstra, where the company’s multiservice switches were installed as part of the network transformation instituted in the Sol Trujillo era.

That success, he said, put into place a centre of excellence that grew to offer tier two and tier three support, and the later acquisition of Wichorus, which pitched Tellabs into the mobile backhaul space with support up to LTE Enhanced Packet Core (EPC) capabilities.

“The next step was to start bringing in our Roadm optical technology – and we started getting strong inquiries from verticals outside telecommunications for our GPON solutions,” Candiloro said.

These markets include the health, education, government and manufacturing sectors. While enterprises such as hospitals already use fibre interconnects wherever they can, Candiloro said there’s growing interest in passive optical Ethernet LANs.

“It’s not only about the high bandwidth – there’s lower capex, they need less space, and you get greatly reduced power consumption.”
However, he said, as users look to make use of the extra bandwidth, they’re demanding greater flexibility. It’s no longer about merely throwing vast bandwidth at a network, but also about putting simple admin tools in front of end users.

“So customers want smarter middleware, better integration into their existing management tools, and they want online user and admin tools to turn up and down services, dynamically change the type of service, and add/delete bandwidth at the LAN and WAN level.”

The development facility in Melbourne will focus on developing these kinds of tools, he said.

“There’s a very strong trend towards online management, user dimensioning, and dynamic service activation.

“And in the enterprise it goes further – people want the ability to create VPNs and closed user groups on the fly. So they want a very simple HTML tool that allows you to create the user groups, reserve the bandwidth, and create the network, without the admin having to take time to set up the network and rework a patch panel.”

In early-adopter environments, he said, users realize that the unification of the fibre WAN with the fibre LAN makes it easier to create ad-hoc multi-site LANs.

“You might have an incident that means patients are being sent to multiple hospitals – they need to share information. So they could create the network with a user-level tool, reconfigure the WAN, and keep the network only as long as you need it.”

If unifying the optical LAN with the optical WAN is one reason to look at desktop optics, Candiloro says there’s a better reason already starting to emerge: electricity prices.

With power bills going through the roof, Candilor said, building owners might see an incentive to recable at the next “update-renovate-reinstall” moment so as to cut the electricity used by the LAN.

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