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Convergence Blows Into The Windy City

The winds of network change have been gusting for years and have now become an outright storm of change. It's a storm that will be blowing through the Windy City of Chicago next week at the NXTcomm conference.

If you're thinking that you've never heard of NXTcomm, you're not alone.

It's a new name for the SUPERCOMM show, which traditionally was strictly about carrier and telecom networks. Times do change, and the carrier world is no longer just about telecom or data anymore. Networking is now the backbone of convergence for both enterprise and consumer markets across voice, video and data.

Convergence, which for years was only a promise, has now become a reality with technology scaling to meet increasing demands. Among those that pontificate and postulate about the new networking world order will be some of the biggest names in both the technology and entertainment spaces.

The first day's keynote lineup includes Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems; and Kevin Martin, chairman of the FCC.

The day-two keynote lineup is hardly a slouch, either, with Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon; Ed Zander, chairman and CEO of Motorola; and Bob Wright, vice chairman and executive officer of General Electric.

NXTcomm keynoters and sessions are loaded (and maybe a little bloated) with vendors that want to talk about how they are taking advantage of the triple play of voice, video and data with new and existing product and service offerings.

Some have argued that the capacity isn't there yet for full convergence and that video in the form of IPTV isn't quite yet ready. An entire conference track called Digital Hollywood is dedicated to IPTV and how both the carriers and the networks themselves are rising to the challenge of full digital media convergence.

At the core though, connectivity and bandwidth remain critical issues.

On the wireless side, various vendors and panels will debate the relative merits of 3G vs. WiFi vs. WiMAX. On the wired side, vendors will argue and announce new optical, Ethernet, and MPLS technologies and products each claiming to be faster, offer better quality of service and ultimately be a better conduit for triple play services.

Speed is always an issue when it comes to carrier networks, and it will be an issue at NXTcomm, too. The current maximum connectivity speed for the carriers is OC-768 with a throughput of 40 Gigabits per second (40Gbps). As is the case on the enterprise side, the race is on toward 100Gbps capability, which vendors and panels are also likely to discuss.

Juniper Networks jumped the gun a bit on the NXTcomm show by announcing its own show stopper last week. Juniper will be showing off its T1600 router, which can pump out a staggering 3.2Tbps (Terabits per second) of throughput in a single standard 7-foot rack or 1.6Tbps in a half rack.

Juniper has claimed that each of its blades can handle 100Gbps, a speed that in and of itself does not yet exist, but will soon.

In a way, that's what NXTcomm 2007 is likely to be all about: delivering technology today that will scale.

The name NXTcomm implies a discussion of what's coming next. Yet with the increasing demands of both media, enterprise and consumer markets, this year's NXTcomm is likely to be mostly focused on what is happening now to meet the demands of today and tomorrow.