The heart of next generation networks is currently centered on building blocks for performing transport, switching, routing, amplification, attenuation, storage and conversion functions. One of the key elements of the network is a switch, which might perform as an optical switch (optical-electrical-optical, or OEO) or a “purely” photonic switch (optical-optical-optical or OOO). The merits and benefits of both in actual network applications are analyzed and outlined. Although both switches have their own advantages as a network element, the full judgement of their role in next generation networks requires an “overall network view”. Network functionalities such as grooming capabilities, scalability, traffic management, protection, line equalization or performance monitoring are those taken in competitive analyses in terms to understand some impacts of switch choice in the network. It is expected that both optical and photonic switches will play complementary roles in next generation networks. Combined with new communication technology advances in routing, transport, amplification and wavelength conversion, both switches will be the cornerstones of next generation solutions, each one with its specific role.

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