Fiber

Cisco's co-founder wants to simplify fiber optic networks

Cisco co-founder Les Bosack's new company XKL introduced a new product line of fiber optic switches that could revolutionize how enterprise organizations use fiber optics in their networks.

After leaving Cisco 17 years ago, Cisco Systems co-founder Len Bosack started a new company. The man and his company have been quietly working away in semi-seclusion, partially because of a non-compete agreement that Mr. Bosack signed with his former company. That all changed about a year ago; his present company XKL introduced a new product line of fiber optic switches that could revolutionize how enterprise organizations use fiber optics in their networks.

XKL's new switch uses WDM

DXM is the name of XKL's fiber optic switch line and what makes the switches unique is how XKL merged familiar switch management techniques with wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology. The significance of WDM is its ability to increase overall bandwidth on fiber optic connections. The technology allows a single optical fiber to carry multiple signals by using a different wavelength (color) for each signal. The amazing part to me is the ability to take light, something that is almost intangible, and using WDM manipulate it in the following ways:

  • Modulate (unique and different wavelength) sources of light with digital information.
  • Multiplex all the individual light sources into a single collimated laser light beam.
  • Transmit the collimated light beam through a fiber optic cable.
  • Demultiplex the collimated light beam into the individual light sources at the receiving end.
  • Demodulate the individual sources of light in to useable digital information.

What makes DXM switches different?

I'd surmise that the subset of people having fiber optic (TL1 interface) networking skills is substantially smaller than the subset of people having wired/wireless (CL Interface) networking skills. Mr. Bosack confirms my suspicion, as he considers one of the important features of the DXM switches to be the Cisco-like command line interface. Many industry pundits are agreeing that this is a huge advantage and may allow businesses unwilling to consider fiber optic networks previously to rethink their decision. This is why I'm interested, as I'd consider myself one of the CL Interface types.

DXM advantages

Mr. Bosack and XKL see several advantages to DXM switch technology, especially where an organization has several campuses serviced by a MAN:

  • Ease of use is paramount as it allows the existing staff to install and maintain the fiber optic network.
  • Lower DXM equipment costs should position it well, when compared to standard fiber optic equipment.
  • Use available dark fiber that should be priced at a bargain.
  • Avoid carrier lengthy lead-times and high costs.

The first two points are obvious; it's the next two points that entail "out of the box" thinking and are unique to say the least -- especially since most in-ground fiber is owned by carriers. Maybe Mr. Bosack feels that avoiding "active" fiber optic services and not having to activate fiber optic networks with equipment from traditional telecom vendors is how savings are realized.

Final thoughts

I see several examples of where this technology will be very useful. Right away, multi-building campuses come to mind as well as corporations that have several campuses in a metro area. In fact there are several organizations using DXM switch technology right now. The University of Washington is using DXM switches to build fiber optic links at the Seattle campus as well as connecting remote sites in the region.

I see another real opportunity as well. Recently, I posted "WiMAX's slow rollout may be technical" where I mentioned the problems WiMAX carriers are having in getting adequate bandwidth to the towers. The DXM switch might be the perfect solution for setting up simple and cost-effective fiber optic connections to the WiMAX cell towers.

Finally, Mr. Bosack has a proven and very impressive record that should give his new concepts and company a certain amount of traction.

About

Information is my field...Writing is my passion...Coupling the two is my mission.

49 comments
ipangum
ipangum

would you provide me router configuration codes plus some tech notes on video conferencing

villagemanduo
villagemanduo

i think cisco remains the defacto image of networking and IP communications so far. If they got it in the lab successfully, then i will be a net-admin that will favour its deployment. Reason? the ingenious nature of ARP in Cisco's identification algorithm. i think it will surely sell. But they have to be careful about the way the overall success will affect the parties involved.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I had read about this tech quite a while ago,but it was never implemented for just that reason, I suspect. The switching tech had to play catch up. Is it reasonable to say that those who believe it is theoretically possible to get infinite bandwidth on one fiber have an argument in their favor. Deepsand where are you?

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

My old aprtment in New York was outfitted with fiber just before I left for SoCal. Verizon was the carrier. I had read about the service and tried to get a better understanding if it was worth it. Sadly, I didn't try it and left for better a better climate. Even though the parent article concentrates on Enterprise needs; home owners should have a product line(s) they can use to tap into this new networking niche. Has anyone used fiber for their home? How was the speed, service, and support? Common sense tells me that if your trying to reach sites, files, or whatever outside of the ISP's network may be slower. However; inside the network, what's the performance? Is it all just a bunch of marketing hype?

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

XKL???s new switch uses WDM You are talking in letters. good prose always spells out abbreviations before use; even when everyone (and I doubt everyone) knows that WDM is Wavelength Division Multiplexing (or is it Weird Dancing Muons)

tkensc1
tkensc1

If simplifying fiber optic switches is the main goal herer, then the CLI has to go. It would seem that a good graphic interface would allow for better setup and monitoring of multiplexed and de-multiplexed light waves broken down by color- thyat you could actually see, graphically displayed on your monitor.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

DXM style switching may just be the next disruptive technology. Is that being overly profound? Do you have or can you think of any applications that would benefit from this technology?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

In order to help, we would need some more specific information. What kind of routers are you using? What specifically about video conferencing are you looking for? I have linked a few sites that maybe of help if you are dealing with Cisco routers. http://www.swcp.com/~jgentry/topo/cisco.htm http://www.cisco.com/univercd/cc/td/doc/product/rtrmgmt/netsys/netsysrg/ciscortr.htm This last link is to an article by David Davies a fellow TechRepublic writer and a very knowledgeable resource for Cisco equipment. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/networking/?p=419

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Now you have me really interested. I would really appreciate it if you have the time to go into more detail about Cisco's identification algorithm. I wonder if Mr. Bosack carried that knowledge over to XKL?

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The technology of modulating light to carry digital information is very amazing intense stuff. You are actually on to something as the engineering is getting more and more sophisticated with respect to the number of viable channels per one collimated light beam. The rub is like everything else the tighter the bandwidth (real definition of bandwidth, which is frequency range) the less stable the chunk of the transmitted spectrum is. So the engineers try to get the best compromise.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

If you have fiber to the the door, that more than likely is privately owned and a segment of an active fiber optic cable. What Bosack is trying to accomplish with the DXM switch is to make use of dark fiber. Mainly so a company can setup point to point or point to multi-point links using a DXM switch at all ends of the fiber. In other words, DXM switches are positioned to be medium to high end backbone equipment. The beauty of this technology is the ability to use normal switch management interfaces that are familiar to Ethernet network engineers and that's huge. For example, imagine a multi-building campus that has fiber running between all of the buildings, but the organization is not using the fiber because of high equipment or rental costs and needing carrier expertise to configure the network. Now with DXM technology using the fiber is entirely possible and the only thing needed from the carrier is access to the fiber.

JCitizen
JCitizen

for home dwellers too. What with all the video streaming and P2P becoming ever more increasingly popular. Could also make it easier for companies like AT&T to bring cable like service through one telephone fiber channel. Maybe Michael can correct me on this assumption.

seanferd
seanferd

Or is it some sort of synonym for Strange? :)

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

Hello Ashley, I wonder if you missed it as WDM was fully written out. The acronym is even linked to a fairly definitive Wiki page. My only reason for mentioning this, is it seemed like you wanted more information about WDM. If not I apologize for being redundant.

paulob
paulob

Isn't this the same tech that the long distance (undersea) cables already used simply scaled down?

JoeBeckner
JoeBeckner

Maybe this is a disruptive technology for the local telco? You made the profound observation in the article that customers will be able to utilize dark fiber from the telecom carrier and eliminate the equipment they provide. I'm all for this. When the local telco brings fiber into your facility they install a seven foot rack full of equipment. The only thing the local telcos do well is provide Outside Plant wire (and fiber) in the street and provide dial tone. They do a really good job in these two areas.

mshavrov
mshavrov

Practical application for DWDM? Plenty... For example, you have the only one pair of fibers between two locations. You want to run multiple applications between. Sure, you can run VLANs and configure link as a trunk. But you still have only 1 GB between locations. And what if you want to run a SAN traffic on the same link? And what if you want to run multiple SAN flows (for example, if you have a remote DR center). What if you have separate companies in one location, and DR center in another location? What if you need more speed than a standard 1Gb and 10Gb is not an option (for example, because of fiber link quality or distance)? With DWDM (or CWDM) switching you can run multiple "colors" over the same physical fiber, each at 1Gb speed. You can run different applications, protocols, systems as if you have 4, 8 or 32 different fiber pairs between these two locations. Our only problem with Cisco's DWDM is that they stoping production of switches, which support DWDM GBICs and SFPs, and do not include this functionality (support) into a newer models. If DXM will support "any media" GBICs (or SFPs), then it will be a great competitor to Cisco. Currently there are only 2-3 companies, who makes managed DWDM/CWCM switches, and they all non-US companies, which brings the question about support... Good luck, Mike CCNP, CCDP, CCSP, CCVP, MCSE W2K, etc... CCIE Voice (in progress) ---- Headset Adapters for Cisco IP Phones http://www.headsetadapter.com http://www.ciscoheadsetadapter.com

JCitizen
JCitizen

sounds like quantum entanglement: http://www.physorg.com/news63037231.html This was just one of the articles we were discussing in the rapidly moving field of photo-optic physics. My argument was we were still no where near the limits of what light was capable of in fiber channel technology. I still say it is theoretically possible to pack more photons into a fiber channel, although deepsand had excellent physics arguments to the contrary. I had forgotten about the spectral shift experiments as I hadn't studied it in years. It is actually old news but just now becoming possible because of switching advances; another point in my arguments.

JCitizen
JCitizen

sorry I just couldn't help myself. Must gain my professional composure. *snicker* PHhhfftt! HAHAHAHAH! Oh well! So much for that idea! :^0

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

WDM has been around for awhile and its ability to multiplex a single optic fiber is what makes the technology special. What makes DXM technology special is that it puts WDM in the hands of us Ethernet switch/router people as the CL interface is Cisco-like and at an affordable price.

seanferd
seanferd

I thought that the telcos were holding this closely. Perhaps it is just AT&T. There are companies like Above Net that did or do market dark fiber as a main part of their business. Can anyone give me a better picture? I can't say that I know very much at all about this market.

JCitizen
JCitizen

the others input on this discussion as well. TYVM!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

There have been several discussions like this that I have really enjoyed and you were the catalyst.

JCitizen
JCitizen

thirds on the long life of scientific reason!

seanferd
seanferd

And long live the Scientific Method!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

JCitizen, You are the glue that keeps our interest in "off the beaten path" subjects alive, so I nominate you to be the chairman and chief scientist of TRSFC

JCitizen
JCitizen

I think you guys are pulling my leg! But I will bask in the fantasy of it anyway! Thanks for the links! (EDITED) WOW! I wished we had those kind of visuals when we did our Specter Gun ship project analysis, on the 105mm howitzer gun platform. All that would make doing the math worth it! Maybe you would believe how much a flying machine flops around midair! Scary!

seanferd
seanferd

Yes, I did download a copy of Emanim previously. I now need to pull it off my other machine and play around with it some more. Interesting to know that the jury is still out on the description of the EM wave type.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I like that, the TR Science Fan Club (TRSFC). I sure learn a great deal from you all. Since we are the TRSFC, we should be about details. With that in mind, I thought I might present some wave theory definitions. Sound waves are longitudinal waves (think Slinky) if the wave is traveling in air. If you are interested, this professor Dan Russell has a great website about acoustical wave phenomena: http://www.kettering.edu/~drussell/demos.html The page I like the most is the one with animated waveforms. I use the examples when I am giving talks: http://www.kettering.edu/~drussell/Demos/waves/wavemotion.html I can?t remember if I mentioned another neat application that I use to visualize waveform activity. It?s called Emanim. It?s free and after you get used to all options it?s a great tool. If I?ve already mentioned something about it, I apologize for being redundant. http://www.enzim.hu/~szia/emanim/emanim.htm As for EM I think the jury is still out on whether that?s considered a true longitudinal or transverse wave. I seem to think it?s another duality, as it can exhibit components of both waveforms. I?m also glad that you mentioned metamaterials again. I?m still following the research that is going on with metamaterial antennas and it?s getting very interesting. I think that was our first TRSFC posting in which I was involved. For other members of the TRSFC that may have missed it: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/wireless/?p=189

JCitizen
JCitizen

facinating! Hey seanferd and Michael, the least I can do is add to the discussion; I already feel I owe seanferd a debt for information he has provided; and Michael teaches me something new every week here at TechRepublic! It is the least I can do :) !

seanferd
seanferd

It's called "space". Or you can say the medium is an EM field, if you prefer. The major differentiation for wave models, to my limited understanding, is: EM waves are not "transverse" waves, but sound waves are. I have yet to successfully wrap my head around what this means, and any understanding I may have had in the past escapes me now. One more thing to check out! I do enjoy being a member of the TR Science Fan Club. Conversation with you fellows is very educational. Edit: I can't wait to see what happens when we are able to coat fiber with metamaterials that produce negative indices of refraction at optical wavelengths. For that matter, I'd like to see them used as waveguides for all-optical hardware in computers!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I know my biggest disappointment is that there are too many subjects, too little time, and not enough personal ability for me to comprehend all of the totally amazing things in this universe. That's why I really appreciate the two of you (Seanferd and JCitizen) as both of you help to expand my horizons.

JCitizen
JCitizen

are nothing more than an expression or observational point caused by multi-dimensional interaction. For example Newton couldn't see gravity but he could see gravity's pull on matter. We can't see multidimensional expression but we see the result; i.e. matter, waves, experimental results of magnetic "fields". __________________________________________________________________________________________ I once got into an argument with another engineering student who criticized me for comparing sound waves to other electromagnetic phenomena because sound has a medium to travel through. My contention is that there is a medium but we just can't measure it or perceive of it yet. Perhaps one day we will have a gravity wave detector; or perhaps something even more strange will come out of the new math! But, it is definitely wonderfull! I physics too!

seanferd
seanferd

The "weird" reference was a joke on my part, elicited by http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=261794&messageID=2485559 "(or is it Weird Dancing Muons)". The thing about angular momentum and spin is: Just from reading physics, with no explicit definitions, one may be confused by the use of the terms for either actual rotational forces, or for the name of a property with no macro-scale equivalent (such as the flavor properties of quarks, like Strange (not Weird), Up, Down, Top, Bottom, and Charm). Oddly, the term "quantum leap" is used entirely improperly in popular culture to mean something like "a giant leap forward", when it actually means something like "an extremely small, discrete, and predictable change in state". Stranger still, due to human use of language and math, we have particles with spins of one half, which doesn't sound very quantum at all, does it? Also, to further complicate, for me, the dual nature of light (which I mostly take as a metaphor, anyway) are fields. Fields of waves or particles? I tend to think of it like this: EM propagates as a wave, until it actually interacts with another particle, when it seems to exhibit particle-like characteristics. Photons have no rest mass. (Or was it discovered that this was not entirely true either?) It is all very weird.

JCitizen
JCitizen

(to me anyway) is Bose-Einstein Condensate; where matter as it approaches absolute zero, exhibits behaviour more akin to a wave. This points to the fact that all matter may have duality issues - just at different temperatures. Makes you wonder what conditions might cause light to become more akin to a solid. It already exhibits "pseudo mass" in our dimension.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I agree completely, that duality is one of the hardest things to comprehend. I'm still working on how radio waves can be particles at times and yet pass through solid objects.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I would think it all could be tied together; at least in the context of fiber transmission science. I haven't run across the "weird" explaination yet, but all physics pertaining to light is enough to blow my mind! The small pee brained part of it that is left anyway! I have run across the word in the news media. Just never enough time! Dang it all!

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

I had many physics classes at university and my definition ( still have the notes) of angular momentum is as follows: "The angular momentum of an object rotating about some reference point is the measure of the extent to which the object will continue to rotate about that point unless acted upon by an external torque. In particular, if a point mass rotates about an axis, then the angular momentum with respect to a point on the axis is related to the mass of the object, the velocity and the distance of the mass to the axis." Now JCitizen introduces a new twist to the definition. I had only heard the term "quantum leap", I think as the title of a television show. Now it's an important part of defining angular momentum when quantum mechanics are considered. "In quantum mechanics, angular momentum is quantized -- that is, it cannot vary continuously, but only in "quantum leaps" between certain allowed values."

seanferd
seanferd

Not yet heard of the 'other' "angular momentum" yet. Thanks! I wonder if they can us this in conjunction with the recently reported quantum flavor "weird". :)

JCitizen
JCitizen

there are so many advances going on in the quantum physics of light information that I can't keep up with it all! :p

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

They're still debating on whether light is a particle or wave and now they are figuring out how to carry data on a single photon. That's wild stuff.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I didn't know anyone had implemented the science to large scale commercial applications yet! I must say that I suspect the story about increasing DSL bandwidth on copper all falls into similar quantum physics, even though one has more to do with electrons and the other photons. All particle/subparticle physics is being tied together; using the new "theory of everything" I suspect, if nothing else.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

No problem Sean, If there is any other way I can help, please let me know.

seanferd
seanferd

Those are interesting links.

Michael Kassner
Michael Kassner

The dark fiber market is the results of over-optimistic municipalities and companies having excess fiber that they ran during the .com boom. The fiber is just waiting for someone to use and cities with extra are happy to rent/sell it to recoup some finances. In fact there are companies available that just locate and facilitate arrangements. The following link is an example of one well-known player. http://www.fiberlocator.com/ The actual setup is no simple by any means. Many things have to fall in place. The usual location, location, location axiom comes into play. If it does work, it can be a huge amount of bandwidth at a fairly low cost. Especially with reasonably priced end-point equipment. Hospitals, university, and corporations with multi-building campus are actively looking at this. The following CNET article is a few years old but depicts the example of Google doing this, but on a larger scale. The DXM switch would be perfect for their needs as it eliminates carrier involvement. http://www.news.com/Google-wants-dark-fiber/2100-1034_3-5537392.html