Automate Everything: The Next Phase of the Intelligent Transport Network

March 04, 2014

infinera_geoff-bennettBy Geoff Bennett

Infinera Product Evangelist

One thing I hear again and again from Infinera customers is that our gear is particularly easy to use.  And not just a bit easier than other gear – they tell me that it’s a night and day comparison with conventional DWDM equipment.  We’ve even been able to establish a Guinness World Record as a result of the scalability and ease of use of the Intelligent Transport Network.

Ease of use has many facets, but one obvious requirement is that it must be possible to automate day to day operations within the transport network.  Automation is a major factor in reducing network operations costs, and delivering services more rapidly.

We achieve automation using Control Plane protocols that make the network self-aware, such as Generalized MPLS (GMPLS), so that every network element understands the status and capabilities of every other network element.  But the reason that we believe Infinera’s GMPLS is dramatically more effective than other DWDM vendors’ is that we’ve always built OTN switching into every node we make.  In fact our DTN-X platform is an OTN powerhouse, with 5Tb/s of non-blocking switching capacity in a single chassis, scalable up to 240Tb/s in multi-chassis configurations while remaining non-blocking.  In other words we’ve been able to automate Layer 1 – or the digitally switched layer of the network – from the very beginning.

The next step is to allow Layer 0, the optical layer, to be automated as well.  To do this we have introduced the industry’s first Colorless, Directionless and Contentionless (CDC) super-channel FlexROADM.  So what does all that techno-speak actually mean?

CDC is a term that means the switching characteristics of the ROADM will not get in the way of configuration changes that the network administrator is trying to achieve.  In other words, a CDC ROADM that can route wavelengths or super-channels around the network can do so virtually worry-free, which dramatically reduces the level of offline planning historically required in conventional ROADM-based networks. For example, a color-specific ROADM might block a particular wavelength being switched.  A direction-specific ROADM might block a switching operation towards one direction.  And a ROADM that exhibits contention is one that cannot translate one wavelength to another during a switching operation.  All of these limitations, individually or together, are bad news for a network operator who simply wants the optical switching operation to happen in the most deterministic way possible.  So “CDC” is the ultimate goal for ROADM design.

Infinera has planned out our Intelligent Transport Network vision and even CDC is not enough in our book. A super-channel FlexROADM is a ROADM that is not constrained by the classic ITU-T fixed grid spacing because it can use a flexible grid to efficiently match the spectral width of the coherent super-channel it is trying to switch.  In the future these super-channels will vary in spectral width depending on their modulation format and carrying capacity.

I believe that Infinera has leapfrogged the competition and delivered the most functional and elegant ROADM solution on the market,  and it’s teamed with a powerful, non-blocking OTN switching capability to form a Multi-Layer Switch (i.e., encompassing Layer 0 and Layer 1) without compromise as the newly enhanced building block for the Intelligent Transport Network.

The next step is to be able to control this Multi-Layer Switching function using a standards-based, carrier-grade control plane.  Fortunately Infinera has about a decade of development and deployment experience with GMPLS, and this is the brains behind the operation that our customers are generally referring to when they praise Infinera’s ease of use.

The “G” in GMPLS stands for “Generalized”, and this protocol family was designed to be able to manage any underlying data plane – including packet, frame, TDM and optical wavelengths.

But super-channels are a new beast for GMPLS, and fortunately it’s more than capable of taming it.  A new set of Internet Drafts is well under way that deal with the notion of a “Spectrum Switched Optical Network” (SSON).  As the name suggests, the switching unit in an SSON is a contiguous lump of DWDM spectrum – in other words, a flexible grid super-channel.

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We believe that Infinera will be the first company to offer the full solution of:

–          An enhanced line system that copes with flexible grid super-channels, and the associated, third generation super-channel line cards operating on this flexible grid;

–          A super-channel CDC FlexROADM that offers the most flexible and most deterministic optical switching capability on the market, and is combined in a Multi-Layer Switching architecture with a powerful, non-blocking OTN switch; and

–          A unified GMPLS/SSON Control Plane that can drive this network in both the OTN and optical domains for a true “Infinera Experience.”

So it’s all about extending the incredible automation capability that Infinera already offers from the digital part of the network downwards into the new flexible photonic layer. The Intelligent Transport Network  is helping service providers automate more and more so they can scale their network while simultaneously being more nimble for a better competitive, posture and all the while reducing costs.

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