Infonetics: OTN Switching Gains Market Traction- but will it replace SONET/ SDH?

The results of Infonetics Research OTN Deployment Strategies survey show that OTN switching will play a leading and significant role in the regional and long haul networks of most, but not all carriers. “Most notable is the fact that about three-quarters of the service providers interviewed plan to deploy OTN switching (see comment below).  This sample  represents 90% of all respondent capex, which means most optical dollars will be spent by carriers with OTN switching,”  according to Andrew Shmitt,  Infonetics Principal Analyst for Optical Networks.

Aparently there is no agreement on whether layer 2 switching features should be combined into OTN hardware, but Shmitt suggested, “A few carriers we thought were in the ‘strict OSI segregationist’ camp now show interest in embracing unified L0+L1+L2 solutions—a bit of a shock!”

Infonetics’ recent OTN Hardware Market Outlook report revealed that OTN switching and transport hardware composed 45% of global optical equipment spending in the first half of 2011. Infonetics expects this figure to grow to 70% of the total by 2015, or $10.6 billion, with OTN switching growing much more quickly than OTN transport.

Infonetics analysts interviewed 21 service providers from around the world for the survey; the operators collectively account for more than one-third of global telecom revenue and capex, according to the market research firm. The survey aimed to answer such questions as:
  • How much OTN switching will be used in metro and core nodes?
  • What size these switches need to be.
  • How they will be managed.
  • Size requirements of OTN switch fabrics.
  • Whether ODU-flex is an important feature.
  • The level of carrier interest in OTN and to what degree it is already deployed.
  • Current and projected use of metro OTN ports is increasing
  • Wavelength efficiency remains the key application for OTN, but service providers are rolling out more sophisticated management control planes as part of OTN switching deployments
  • ODU-flex is important to a small base of mostly Huawei customers
Image Courtesy of Infonetics
Image Courtesy of Infonetics

According to Infonetics, the top optical network equipment vendors in terms of global revenue are: Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena, and ZTE.  The research firm says Huawei leads in both the OTN transport and switching markets; Huawei is a WDM powerhouse with the added benefit of counting as customers China’s telecom carriers, who were the first to readily embrace all-OTN networks, including the largest installations of OTN switching.

Infonetics Research is an international market research and consulting firm serving the communications industry since 1990. A leader in defining and tracking emerging and established technologies in all world regions, Infonetics helps clients plan, strategize, and compete more effectively.

Will OTN Replace SONET/SDH?

OTN mappings for Ethernet and other data clients are far more efficient than earlier SONET/ SDH mappings. SONET/SDH and other clients can be carried transparently (with all overhead and timing) in the OTN.  Rings or point-to-point connections are realizable.
OTN containers can provide optimal size trunks for existing and future clients, given the Generic Mapping Procedure (that can map any smaller bit stream into any higher rate OTN container) and the new Optical Channel Data Unit (ODU) options, including ODU0 (~1 Gbps), ODUflex (1 Gbps-100 Gbps), and ODU4 (100 Gbps).

In addition to the electrical containers like the ODUs, the OTN also includes the DWDM layer, where the optical wavelengths may carry a mix of different OTN data rate signals. With efficient mappings, right-sized containers, and any number of wavelengths the OTN is the ideal technology for supporting efficient network connections.

As a result, OTN is a lot more flexible than SONET/SDH for carrying high data rate payloads.  That is why it’s being adopted now by so many carriers.  However, it does require a completely new network mangement, provisioning, and OSS/BSS which may take operators some time to get fully deployed.  In particular, the rapid provisioning was supposed to be done in the control plane by G.ASON/ GMPLS/ OIF UNI 2.0 standards,  but that hasn’t happened.  OTN provisioning remains in the management plane with network operator specific implementations.

So OTN is replacing SONET/SDH now, but the process will take many years to be complete.  Much like the process and potential of “all IP” networks replacing the PSTN and TDM based transport.

Weissberger’s Comment and Analysis: 

One must distinguish OTN transmission (orginally called “digital wrapper”) as per ITU-T G.709 from OTN switching (of one OTN port to another) or cross-connecting (individual ODUs within an OTN incoming and outgoing frame).  Only in the last year have we started to see OTN switching and cross connects.

Other OTN Equipment Companies:

Infinera is growing their installed base and OTN gear shipments, but hasn’t made it into the top tier yet.  The company made three superb presentations at the March 2012 IEEE ComSocSCV meeting.  Here’s the OTN Overview presentation:

SONET/SDH cross connect leader Tellabs entered this market in early 2011:

Fujitsu has been in this OTN switching market with a ROADM (Reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer):

Ericsson inherited an OTN product portfolio when it acquired Marconi a few years ago:

We wonder how these companies will do against the big four of Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena, and ZTE.

What do you think?

0 thoughts on “Infonetics: OTN Switching Gains Market Traction- but will it replace SONET/ SDH?

  1. Excellent article with keen insight into OTN switching, which is not the same as the photonic switching we heard so much about in the decade leading up to the dot com bust/telecom crash. But is a revival coming in all optical switching?

    According to Heavy Reading:
    “All-optical switching technologies – particularly micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) switching fabrics – are being sold in volumes today. However, they are deployed as the foundation of reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexer (ROADM) subsystems, not as large optical crossconnects. Often, these subsystems are integrated into wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) transport equipment, particularly in metro/regional WDM systems. They are small in size and low in port counts (and much lower in cost).

    An important difference moving forward is that the optical switching technologies and standards will not reside on a single network element (i.e., the optical crossconnect), but will reside in different network elements located in different parts of the network and operating at different layers of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) stack (i.e., Layers 0, 1, 2, and 3). This more distributed role for the optical switching function is a positive development for the industry. There are more vendors and more minds at work tackling the switching problem. It does, however, make the switching world more complex and bring interworking and interoperability to the forefront.”

    1. Thanks for your comment regarding “all optical networks & switching.” I remember it well during the fiber optic building spree and subsequent collapse.

      The OTN standards do not cover switching mechanisms or whether switching of payloads should be done using digital or optical techniques. That is totally up to the ROADM or Optical Cross Connect vendor and has no effect on interoperability between different equipment types (which all send and receive optical signals).

      Hope this clarifies how OTN switching might be realized.

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