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Approaches to optical Internet packet switching

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2 Author(s)
Hunter, D.K. ; Strathclyde Univ., Glasgow, UK ; Andonovic, Ivan

Wavelength-division multiplexing is currently being deployed in telecommunications networks in order to satisfy the increased demand for capacity brought about by the explosion in Internet use. The most widely accepted network evolution prediction is via an extension of these initial predominantly point-to-point deployments, with limited system functionalities, into highly interconnected networks supporting circuit-switched paths. While current applications of WDM focus on relatively static usage of individual wavelength channels, optical switching technologies enable fast dynamic allocation of WDM channels. The challenge involves combining the advantages of these relatively coarse-grained WDM techniques with emerging optical switching capabilities to yield a high-throughput optical platform directly underpinning next-generation networks. One alternative longer-term strategy for network evolution employs optical packet switching, providing greater flexibility, functionality, and granularity. This article reviews progress on the definition of optical packet switching and routing networks capable of providing end-to-end optical paths and/or connectionless transport. To date the approaches proposed predominantly use fixed-duration optical packets with lower-bit-rate headers to facilitate processing at the network-node interfaces. Thus, the major advances toward the goal of developing an extensive optical packet-switched layer employing fixed-length packets are summarized, but initial concepts on the support of variable-length IP-like optical packets are also introduced. Particular strategies implementing the crucial optical buffering function at the switching nodes are described, motivated by the network functionalities required within the optical packet layer

Published in:

Communications Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:38 ,  Issue: 9 )