This paper presents views on the future of optical networking. A historical look at the emergence of optical networking is first taken, followed by a discussion on the drivers pushing for a new and pervasive network, which is based on photonics and can satisfy the needs of a broadening base of residential, business, and scientific users. Regional plans and targets for optical networking are reviewed to understand which current approaches are judged important. Today, two thrusts are driving separate optical network infrastructure models, namely 1) the need by nations to provide a ubiquitous network infrastructure to support all the future services and telecommunication needs of residential and business users and 2) increasing demands by the scientific community for networks to support their requirements with respect to large-scale data transport and processing. This paper discusses these network models together with the key enabling technologies currently being considered for future implementation, including optical circuit, burst and packet switching, and optical code-division multiplexing. Critical subsystem functionalities are also reviewed. The discussion considers how these separate models might eventually merge to form a global optical network infrastructure.
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