Multiservice field equipment and the future of 10G testing: EXFO one-on-one

Today’s telecom field technicians need to be equip with tools that are able to test a variety of technologies, especially as the industry transitions to a converged network infrastructure.  Not only does the equipment need to be versatile, it has to maintain a level of simplicity for technicians troubleshooting in the field.  TelecomEngine got a chance to speak with Karim Fahim, Senior Product Line Manager of Transport at EXFO, to discuss the FTB-1 NetBlazer platform, and specifically Exfo’s new offering, the FTB-880.

TelecomEngine: There is an ongoing transition toward a converged infrastructure for PDH, SONET and packet-based Ethernet services.  This requires a wide range of interfaces and rates.  How does the FTB-880 NetBlazer provide this while still taking into account such things as speed, cost and portability?

Karim Fahim, Senior Product Line Manager, Transport: Indeed, there is a transition toward converged networks that is well underway and with the FTB-880 we offer our customers a fully integrated test solution that is capable of addressing all of the field test requirements, whether it’s DSn/PDH, SONET/SDH as well as Ethernet services.  We leverage Exfo’s FTB-1 platform with a compact form factor, and a completely redesigned user interface in order to give field technicians the best tools that are entirely designed for them.  These tools offer multi-technology testing, portability, as well as performance with no compromise on any of these elements.

Specifically, how does the FTB-880 build off other testing equipment to provide testing to PDH, SONET and Ethernet circuits and what makes it different?

KF: Actually, offering such a unique test tool is not new to Exfo.  As a matter of fact, about four years ago we recognized that the transition toward converged networks was starting and we introduced the FTB-8130 NGE module to address multiple technologies such as DSn/PDH, SONET/SDH, OTN, Ethernet, Fiber channels and so on.  At the time, the FTB-8130 NGE was truly innovative in the sense that it was the first integrated, portable, multi-service test solution, and it actually continues to set the standard in the industry today.   So what we have done with the FTB-880 is we have taken on the learning from the FTB-8130 NGE and come up with a multi-service tester, in a more compact form factor, and with a more simplified user interface that is designed specifically to meet the requirements of the tier 1 field technicians.  What really sets the FTB-880 apart is the comprehensive feature set that is custom-built for the field technicians, combined with the flexibility that comes with the FLEX configuration.  What FLEX configuration really means is that our customers can configure the unit with any combination of rates and interfaces while having the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the unit is future proof and that they can easily add additional rates or interfaces in the field by a software upgrade at any time.  And of course, we also have the FTB-1 platform itself, which houses the FTB-880 module, and offers multiple connectivity options whether its Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, as well as a multitude of addition Exfo and third party test applications that can run on that platform. 

How does the FTB-880 offer a comprehensive test suit, but at the same time make it simple for field technicians to troubleshoot DSn/PDH, SONET/SDH and Ethernet Services?

KF: We’ve actually gone to great lengths to specifically try and balance those two seemingly mutually exclusive requirements.  The way we’ve addressed this is through our completely redesigned user interface that I alluded to earlier.  When a technician is using the FTB-880 they first get a list of all the possible test applications.  Once they select the application they wish to run, it is simplified to just focus on that particular test application.  So all the set-up parameters and all the test result phases are tailored to that particular test application, therefore eliminating any possible confusion.  Furthermore, all the tests that it can run come with simple pass/fail results against the established, user-specific accepted threshold, eliminating any guesswork from the interpretation of these test results.  As soon as the technician is ready to perform a different test, they can go back to that main page with a simple click and select a different test application.  This is how we manage to offer a comprehensive test tool, but at the same time keep it simple and focused to simplify the tasks of today’s field technicians.

How does the FTB-880 adapt to both GigE and 10 GigE circuits?

KF: So as I mentioned the FTB-880 was designed to be the most comprehensive tool for the frontline technicians, and as such it was very important that it covered the full range of Ethernet services offered today by service providers.  These services can go from a simple 10 M connection, all the way up to a 10 GigE connection.  The FTB-880 supports all of the interfaces for Ethernet from 10 M all the way up to 10GigE.  In addition to that, all of the test functionalities that are available are available for the entire range of interfaces to make sure that the methods and procedures are consistent across all the different types of services for 10 M to 10 GigE.  Just to give you an example, our EtherSAM test suite, which is based on the ITU-T Y.1564 standard, which has become the most adopted service activation and troubleshooting method today, is available on all the Ethernet connections from 10 M all the way up to 10 GigE.  This way we ensure that our customers can use the same methods and procedures to turn up any interface for Ethernet.

Different network topologies process Ethernet frames differently, which requires different testing.  How does the FTB-880 meet these different requirements?

KF: The wide range of Ethernet testing capabilities that we support on the FTB-880 allow us not only to test all types of Ethernet services such as mobile backhaul, commercial services and wholesale services; but also most of the network technologies or topologies that these services are delivered on.  EXFO has integrated key differentiated capabilities such as bidirectional or asymmetric testing on the Y1564 to make the FTB-880 the most suitable tool for Ethernet service tune-up and troubleshooting.  And this is for different topologies, such as point-to-point, point-to-multipoint; as well as different technologies such as MPLS/VPLS, pseudowire, and others.  In addition, these capabilities are an extremely easy to use user interface like I mentioned earlier, that is particularly adapted for the tier 1 workforce in the field today.

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