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Photons vs. electrons [all optical network]

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The article addressed a number of questions pertinent to the development of all optical networks (AON). Was one possible? And what optical technology developments were needed to get there? Today, most wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) optical networks deployed still have one main network element at intermediate nodes with some electronic components. One primary component is the optical crossconnect (OXC), or optical switch. It does an optical-electrical-optical (OEO) conversion at some point to route the lightpaths to their next hop or destination because routing and switching technology is still based on electronics. This OEO conversion is one of the controversies that experts in this area deal with these days. Some say an AON is not quite there yet due to some technical issue such as lack of wavelength conversion, lack of signal regeneration at intermediate nodes and complex network management. Others say eliminating the electronic components in these network elements will solve some overall performance concerns such as bit-rate dependency and limited speed scalability. Also, there are others who propose a "semi-optical" network, eliminating a big part of the electronics but not entirely replacing them

Published in:

Potentials, IEEE  (Volume:21 ,  Issue: 2 )

Date of Publication:

Apr/May 2002

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