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Whats a Petabit Network

SFiber optic cableeems like it was a couple of months ago, we were excited about fiber optic cable that twisted light to carry data at 1.6 Tbps per strand. Now Petabit networks are the new benchmark. U.K. and Japanese researchers mashed-up software-defined networking (SDN) and multicore fiber to produce the first Petabit pipe according to Kevin Fitchard at GigaOM. A Petabit is one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000 or 1015) bytes binary digits or one thousand Terabits.

Whats a Petabit NetworkThe researchers mashed-up multicore fibers and SDN to makes very high-speed networks programmable. GigaOM speculates this will allow carriers to adjust the network capacity and latency to meet the needs of traffic traveling over their networks. First the fiber, GigaOM explains that unlike todays single strands of glass, or cores, that carry a single beam of light down the fiber, multicore fiber is exactly what its name implies: multiple cores each carrying a single core’s worth of capacity over the same link. Professor Dimitra Simeonidou at the University of Bristol, called current single-core fiber a capacity bottleneck.

The multcore group, led by NICT and NTT in Japan which built a 450 km (280 mile) section of fiber optics using 12 cores in two rings capable of transmitting 409 Tbps in either direction. That’s 818 Tbps in total, within spitting distance of seemingly mythical Petabit speeds according to GigaOM. The MCF research relies on Space Division Multiplexed (SDM) provided by the multicore fibres.

ResearcherIn order to control the massive bandwidth a team from the High Performance Networks Group at the University of Bristol created an OpenFlow software-based control element to manage those enormous capacities. The Brits implemented an interface that dynamically configures the network nodes so that it can more effectively deal with application specific traffic requirements such as bandwidth and Quality of Transport.

According to the researchers, this was the first time SDN was used on a multicore network. The University of Bristol presser announcing the new technology says this technology will overcome critical capacity barriers, which threaten the evolution of the Internet.


OK so that really – really – really fast. We also know from a 2011 New Scientist article that the total capacity of one of the world’s busiest routes, between New York and Washington DC, is only a few Terabits per second. With bandwidth-hungry applications like cloud computing, social media, and video-streaming continuously growing it forces network planners at firms like AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and the NSA to find new ways to grow their capacity.

Data CenterComcast (CMCSA) just finished a 1 Tbps network field trail on a production network between Ashburn, VA and Charlotte, NC. Most likely the first place Pbps networking will be used is in the mega-data centers of the likes of Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB) or Microsoft (MSFT).


Twisted Light to Speed Up Internet

Twisted Light to Speed Up InternetAll the data the reaches every Internet connected home, business and mobile device get there via thousands of miles of laser-filled glass, copper or plastic wires. Firms large and small are constantly developing new ways to pack as much data as possible into these cables (rb- I’ve covered many of these developments here, here, and here).

Multi mode fiber at GigaOM wrote about a major leap in how much data Comcast (CMCSA)AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) can send down the Internet tubes. Researchers at Boston University and the University of Southern California were able to send 1.6 terabits per second of data (rb- equal to transmitting eight Blu-Ray DVDs every second) 1 kilometer in the lab. They have developed data beams that travel in a spiral instead of a straight line without getting jumbled together.

They keep the beams in order by generating optical vortices (a.k.a orbital angular momentum, or OAM beams) with what ScienceNews called a spatial light modulator. Most researchers thought that OAM beams were unstable in fiber. That was until Siddharth Ramachandran, an electrical engineer and leader of the Boston University team, designed an optical fiber that can propagate the twisted light. The BU team created a OAM fiber with four modes (varying index of refraction an optical fiber typically has two modes), and showed that for each mode, they could send data through a one-kilometer fiber in different colors, resulting in a transmission capacity of 1.6 terabits per second.

PrismThe DARPA funded search for ways to squeeze ever more information into the fiber-optic cables that carry it could not come at a better time as mobile devices fuel rapidly growing demands on the Internet. BU’s Ramachandran told Futurity.org, “Our discovery …  has profound implications for a variety of scientific and technological fields that have exploited the unique properties of OAM-carrying light, including the use of such beams for enhancing data capacity in fibers.”  The result is more data in the same length of cable. Science (subscription required) published the new research in its June 28 edition.

The spiral beams can be combined with existing bandwidth boosting techniques, such as sending many beams through a cable at once according to the author. The spiral beams are sent along different paths and made to be different colors, which differentiates them and lowers the computing necessary to process them once they reach their destination.

Mad scientistThe researchers say they can send up to 10 concurrent beams through their custom fiber. They hope to squeeze more data into each of those beams using methods already exploited by the telecom industry. “We showed a new degree of freedom in which we could transmit information,” says Professor Ramachandran.


As this technology sits now, it has limited use. The 1.1 Km distance will limit it to the data center, once Cisco (CSCO), Intel (INTC) and HP (HPQ) figure out how to deal with the data.

Torbital angular momentumhen there is the issue of re-wiring the backbone with new cables to accept the OAM beams, at&t alone has 77,000 route miles (PDF) of fiber optic cable in the U.S. The BU professor told GigaOM that the team manufactured its fiber at a commercial facility using standard methods, so if it were mass-produced, the fiber should not cost much more than those now in use.

The current speed record, set in 2011, is 100 Tbps, 1.6 Tbps seems kind of wimpy in comparison. which is much faster than this cable.


UN Internet Takeover

Stop the UNNetwork neutrality, the idea that an ISP can’t discriminate against the traffic traveling over its network, is an enshrined legal right in some areas and a hotly contested regulatory fight in others. post over at TechDirt  that says the International Telecommunications Union is trying to dictate terms that will affect how traffic flows on the Internet.

United NationsEarlier this month some of the proposed rules submitted by the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) surfaced on a blog.  The article says ETNO wants to gut network neutralityGlyn Moody at TechDirt has read those documents and clips the relevant segments to argue that these proposals would effectively make network neutrality illegal. As he writes at TechDirt:

“That may sound innocuous enough, but “supporting innovation to provide a value-added service” is a coded way of saying that the telcos should be allowed to abandon net neutrality, something confirmed in one of the accompanying proposals… “

The author says the key sentence in this proposal is “Nothing shall preclude commercial agreements with differentiated quality of service delivery to develop.”

Net neutralityGigaOm says that here in the US Comcast (CMCSA) has created a value-added service with its decision to exempt Xfinity traffic delivered via the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox from its 250 GBPS/month broadband cap. The U.S. version of network neutrality regulations allows Comcast to exempt that traffic because it doesn’t travel over the public Internet, and because the FCC didn’t want to deal with the concept of value-added services on an ISP’s network when it made its network neutrality regulations.

GigaOm calls on the UN and the ITU to open up its process. Maybe then UN member countries will think twice about the types of rules they want to enshrine. Or maybe they’ll keep listening to the people who run the networks instead of the people who use them and depend on them for their businesses.

Flip the Switch on IPv6

World IPv6 launchWorld IPv6 day (Which I reported on here) took place in June 2011. Google (GOOG), Facebook, Yahoo (YHOO) and Akamai (AKAM) were among the participants in last year’s dress rehearsal. apparently everything went well last June.

Internet SocietyNathan Ingraham at The Verge recently noted that IPv6 is now ready for prime-time. The Internet Society announced that the IPv6 switch will be permanently flipped on June 6th, 2012.

The article says a number of major ISPs, networking hardware manufacturers, and web companies pledged support from day one. For starters, four of the biggest web properties will all enable IPv6 permanently:

Cisco SystemsFrom a hardware perspective, Cisco (CSCO) and D-Link (DLINK) both committed to enabling IPv6 across their range of home products by June.

GigaOM reports that Akamai (AKAM) and Limelight (LLWN) will also recruit other websites to join the initiative, by implementing IPv6 throughout their content delivery networks.

Internet Service ProviderSeveral leading ISP’s will enable IPv6 to enough of their customer base that at least one percent of their residential subscribers who visit IPv6 enabled websites;


The internet is quickly running out of IP addresses, the last addresses in Internet Protocol version 4 were officially distributed early in 2011 Which I wrote about here.

Super-Fi OK’d by IEEE

White spaceI usually don’t have a problem getting a wireless signal where in my Bach Seat. However there are some areas where I coordinate technical service that don’t get wired or wireless Internet. In these rural areas, where AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), Sprint Nextel (S) and Comcast (CMCSA) and their fellow travelers fear to tread because they can’t make a buck in these areas, some help maybe on the way.

IEEEIn 2009, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) started development of IEEE standard 802.22, which addressed the need for broadband wireless access in rural areas, those where it is not economical to deploy a wired infrastructure. In July 2011, the IEEE announced that it has published the standard titled: “IEEE 802.22-2011 Standard for Wireless Regional Area Networks in TV Whitespaces” (PDF).

The IEEE press release states: “This new standard for Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRANs) takes advantage of the favorable transmission characteristics of the VHF and UHF TV bands to provide broadband wireless access over a large area up to 100 km (60 miles) from the transmitter. Each WRAN will deliver up to 22 Mbps per channel without interfering with reception of existing TV broadcast stations, using the so-called white spaces between the occupied TV channels.”Digital televisionThat part of the spectrum, known as white spaces, sits between broadcast TV channels and will become available when broadcast TV stations switch from analog to digital in 2009.The White Space Coalition led by Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), Dell (DELL) and other tech titans strongly support the use of the white spaces in the U.S., going up against strong opposition lead by Michigan’s own John Dingell and big media like the NFL, MLB, NASCAR, NBA, NHL, NCAA, PGA Tour and ESPN who say unlicensed devices in the TV bands would interfere with their signals.IEEE 802.22 reportedly will not interfere with TV broadcasts, because it incorporates advanced cognitive radio capabilities including:


I met Mr. Dingell about a dozen years ago, at a school to encourage the politician to support schools when the USF started the eRate program for schools. I recall Mr. Dingell telling me he could not support eRate because he did not trust the FCC to get it right. At least he is consistent.

I believe there is a very good chance this technology will never be a commercial success. The wireless carriers will squash this technology like they have squashed municipal wi-fi and community fiber networks. The improved speeds and coverage areas are a threat to their limited 4G coverage and they would lose out on their monthly pound of flesh capped rate limited data plan.

It will be up to use in the public sector to implement this technology for our clients.

What do you think?

Will Super-Fi ever see the light of day?

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