MIT researchers believe the answer to expand the speed of the web will take a radical optical networking approach called flow switching. Unlike traditional optical transmission where signals are translated to digital signals when they hit a router and are given dedicated bandwidth to prevent traffic overflows, flow switching allows traffic to flow over each dedicated path dynamically.
While carving out dedicated bandwidth is essential to ensure high priority business and premium services (IPTV) get through, the downside is that these "private roads" could either remain empty for long periods of time or become jammed with too much traffic. Flow switching advocates claim the technique overcomes those issues by using algorithms that dynamically allocate wavelengths in an on-demand fashion.
Of course, the advent of flow switching, while promising, won't likely be put live carrier networks anytime soon. The reason is simple: carriers aren't going to simply rip out their existing routing equipment just because a new innovation appears on the scene. That's not to say that service providers aren't being innovative or they won't trial flow technology in their R&D labs as a potential piece of their future network roadmap. In the near-term, service providers will continue to leverage new innovations in 100 Gbps (100 Gigabit Ethernet and coherent optics as advertised by Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena and Opnext) for their optical transmission and Ethernet-based network needs.
- Gigaom post talks about this innovation
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