Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SONET Packet-Oriented Data Framing

In my last legacy PSTN post I discussed how Synchronous Optical Network (SONET) is used to multiplex, transmit and then de-multiplex voice calls. Today, let’s take a look at how SONET  is being used to transmit packet-oriented data (in today’s world - basically Ethernet).

In that last SONET post we said the SONET international equivalent is called Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH). Now, when we talk about data at the SONET/SDH level we’re talking frames (think layer 2 OSI model) and the base unit of framing for SDH is something called a Synchronous Transport Module, level 1 (STM-1) with operates at 155.52 Mbps. 

In the post I also said the base SONET standard bit rate is 51.84 Mbps and is referred to as Optical Carrier  (OC) -1 or Synchronous Transport Level  (STS) -1. Now, because we’re talking 3 times an STS-1 and it is concatenated (combined), the base SONET data framing unit (running at 155.52 Mbps)  is referred to as a STS-3c (Synchronous Transport Signal 3, concatenated) which is also referred to as an OC-3c (Optical Carrier - 3c). 

Now that I have you completely confused (!) lets’s talk a little more about packet frames. A typical packet frame consists of a header, payload (the actual data being sent) and some kind of trailer. I like to use a letter analogy to understand what is going on - someone writes a letter (think of the letter as the payload or data). It gets put on an envelope (think of the envelop as the header and trailer for now). At the sending end the letter gets a destination address, a return address, etc and gets delivered. At the receiving end the letter gets opened, the envelop discarded and the letter itself saved and used.

For an STS-3c framing unit, the payload rate is 149.76 Mbit/s and overhead is 5.76 Mbit/s.
If we look at an individual SONET STS-3c frame - it’s  2,430 octets long. SONET systems transmit nine octets of overhead and then 261 octets of payload in sequence. This transmission is  repeated nine times in 125 micro-seconds until 2,430 octets have been transmitted. 

Timing is critical here (that's why it's called synchronous) for communications across the entire network.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice! But it would be nicer if there are supporting diagrams. Thank you.