There have been dramatic changes in the network environment. Technological advances, together with the expansion of the Internet, have made it possible to break the communication barriers imposed by distance previously. Various virtual network communities are being formed as cost-effective broadband connections penetrate the global village. The role of networks is changing from merely providing distance connections to a platform for value creation. With this change, the revenues of network service providers (NSPs) are not going to increase greatly, so a a cost-effective optical network has to be constructed for the next generation (see box, "The Next Generation of Optical Networking") .
THE NEXT GENERATION OF OPTICAL NETWORKING
A new showcase for optical networking technology is beginning to light up, offering a test bed for research that could help spark a fire under the moribund industry. The National LambdaRail (NLR) project is linking universities across the United States in an all-optical network consisting of thousands of miles of fiber; it is the first such network of its kind. NLR's research focus (and potential future impact on the commercial market) is leading some networking experts to make comparisons between the project and the early investments that led to the Internet itself.
Recently, NLR completed the first full East–West phase of deployment, which included links between Denver and Chicago, ...