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Verizon builds 18-city optical mesh

Ciena’s CoreDirector will undergird Verizon’s US mesh

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Verizon Business will deploy a combination of optical mesh networking gear and reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADMs) across the US this year that the carrier expects will radically change its network provisioning processes by allowing far more automation and efficiency.

Having already deployed mesh networks between continents, Verizon will roll out a mesh-based architecture in 18 US markets this year, pairing it with ROADM deployment in at least as many places. The move yields greater efficiency because it routes traffic based on where capacity is available rather than reserving a redundant parallel path for every link. But it also allows for more of the provisioning work to be done by the network itself.

“Between the ROADMs and the mesh, I think we’re finally going to get to this nirvana of being able to remotely configure and provision the network,” said Fred Briggs, executive vice president of operations and technology for Verizon Business. “Instead of provisioning all the pieces [as you would] today, you literally put in the end points, put in the parameters you want—low latency, whatever it may be—and the network self-provisions end-to-end. We’ll test that by the end of this year. It will be commercial in 2009.”

This year’s 18-market push is only the beginning of a long evolution toward mesh networks and away from the Sonet rings Verizon has in place today, Briggs said. “Much of the new capacity we put in place will go into the mesh. Over time, we may convert some of the rings. But think of it more as growing into the new capability.”

Verizon also wants automated testing included in the provisioning process (to test links before they’re provisioned) and hopes to use control plane technology to drive that automated provisioning ever closer to the end customer over time.

Verizon will use ultralong-haul equipment from three different vendors to build out its US mesh as well as Ciena’s CoreDirector optical switch, which the carrier previously used to build its transatlantic mesh. The CoreDirector will act as the mesh’s common thread, the centralized intelligence required to communicate to all nodes.

Not all of the country’s major carrier’s are ready for mesh networks. Speaking at the OFC NFOEC trade show last month, Qwest Communications’ Chief Technology Officer Pieter Poll read a laundry list of hurdles to overcome on the way to mesh networks. Qwest’s network lacks the geographic diversity to take advantage of mesh networking, he said, and would need to swap more fiber with other carriers to achieve that diversity. He also argued that traffic can’t simply be re-routed from one cross-country path to another because each path has its own characteristics—fiber type and span, equipment suppliers, and so on.

With a network the size of Verizon’s, however, geographic diversity isn’t an issue, Briggs said, adding that no fiber-swapping would be necessary to fulfill Verizon’s plans. As for the differences inherent in various network paths, he said, “Latency will change, depending on the route. But in a mesh environment, you can control that routing and give customers predictable latency--tell them exactly what [the latency] is on the primary, secondary and third routes.”

Outside the US, Verizon Business also has plenty on its plate this year. In addition to extending its ultralong-haul network to major cities in Europe, it’s building a two-city IP network in Mexico and a five-city network in India that should be completed by this year’s third quarter. It’s also deploying what it calls the first terabit-speed cable to China, which it hopes to be ready in late July to serve the communications needs of this year’s Olympic games.

“It should be an interesting year,” Briggs said.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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