Comcast, Cisco and Nortel seek interoperability

The goal: making sure equipment is interoperable to meet the needs of video-on-demand and high-definition video.

Comcast is partnering with Cisco Systems and Nortel Networks on an initiative to ensure the interoperability of equipment used to build its next-generation broadband and cable television network.

The new Open Transport Initiative was created to improve the interoperability between the transmission of video and data signals traveling over the optical and Internet Protocol network layers. Optical technology provides the physical transmission of data by using lasers that emit light down an optical fiber. Over that optical transmission, the IP layer translates the data throughout the network.

Typically, these two network layers work independently and the devices that switch the light paths in the optical network don?t communicate with the devices that switch and route the IP packets.

Comcast, the largest cable operator in the country, is pushing its vendors to work together as cable operators nationwide beef up transport networks to carry more high-definition video. In a separate announcement Monday, Cisco said Comcast will be deploying its big CRS-1 IP core router, the biggest gun in Cisco's arsenal. That router transports huge amounts of traffic through the network.

"What's driving these upgrades is video-on-demand and high-definition video," said Suraj Shetty, Cisco's marketing director for routing. "The kinds of networks that are needed to meet these requirements (are) different the past. And Comcast is at the forefront of this network evolution."

As Comcast's network gets more complex, the company wants equipment vendors to work together closely to ensure the optical gear operates with the IP equipment.

"This collaboration is a natural and much-needed step in the evolution of network technology and the interoperability of multi-vendor networks," Comcast Chief Technology Officer Dave Fellows said in a statement.

The first step for the Open Transport Initiative is to identify and define common interfaces to integrate Nortel's optical gear with Cisco's IP routers, so Comcast has more flexibility in using its bandwidth.

The companies said they plan to work within standards groups to propose the new interfaces to be open standards so other equipment vendors can build and test equipment to ensure interoperability.

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