The key components for the network of the future

SWITCHlan combines the three key components needed to conquer the greatest challenges of the coming years: high performance, a very stable fibre-optic network and an outstanding team with sustainable expertise.

Text: Fabian Mauchle, published on 01.10.2019

SWITCH built the current generation of SWITCHlan from 2014 to 2016 as part of the ALPSTEIN project. Since then, we have been continuously developing the network to meet ever-growing demands.

High performance

With today’s basic optical infrastructure, SWITCHlan is theoretically capable of transmitting 88 connections at 100 gigabits per second each on every individual fibre-optic line. That would be an incredible 8.8 terabits per second. To put this into perspective: today, SWITCHlan transfers around 20 petabytes of data per month. 8.8 terabits per second would mean that this monthly data volume could be transferred in around five hours. So there’s still sufficient room for future growth.

Stable optics

The SWITCHlan backbone has multiple redundant designs. All of Switzerland’s geographical regions are connected by three different fibre paths. This fibre redundancy means that all the optical connections between the backbone routers are routed simultaneously via three different paths. So, the network automatically uses a different path for the affected connections whenever there’s a fibre interruption. The routers at the affected endpoints remain blissfully unaware of the interruption. This automatic protective function makes SWITCHlan extremely robust against fibre interruptions, hardware failures or power outages.

 

The basic optical infrastructure is designed to operate for 10 to 12 years. New transmission modules will soon be available as a first expansion step and will double the 8.8 terabits per second mentioned at the start of this article. In future, it is also conceivable that the basic optical infrastructure and the transmission modules will be separated, extending the platform’s service life by several years.

Clever planning

At router level, we introduced the second generation of 100-gigabit-capable routers last year. The prices weren’t the only things to see a drastic drop – the design also saw massive miniaturisation. For the first such routers with four 100-gigabit ports, we needed 10 height units (approx. 45 cm in a rack); today’s routers fit into a single height unit (measuring approx. 4.5 cm). What’s more, they offer 24 connections delivering 100 gigabits per second. So that’s a six-fold increase in one-tenth of the space. We took advantage of this in recent months and invested in expanding our 100-gigabit backbone. Today, all of Switzerland’s major university cities have two 100-gigabit-capable backbone routers that are interconnected by several 100-gigabit links.

We’re prepared for the future. And with our powerful, robust and flexible network, SWITCHlan will continue to meet the highest performance, stability and security demands for many years to come.

About the author
Fabian   Mauchle

Fabian Mauchle

After gaining a degree in IT (MSc FHO) from the University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil, Fabian Mauchle joined SWITCH in 2010. He works as a Network Engineer on the Network team, where one of his responsibilities is eduroam.

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