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Compact Modular Is Ready for Prime Time

portrait of Fady Masoud

April 8, 2020
By Fady Masoud
Director, Solutions Marketing

Today, we’re witnessing the evolution of the compact modular optical platform and its resulting disruption to the entire optical industry: significantly lowering operating costs like footprint and power consumption while offering plug-and-play modularity and advanced automation and programmability.

According to industry analysts, the compact modular market is the fastest-growing segment in the optical industry, with year-over-year average growth of 24% forecasted between 2018 and 2023.

A Star Was Born

This isn’t a reference to the Hollywood box office hit – it all started with Infinera’s introduction of the Cloud Xpress, the industry’s first Ethernet appliance built from the ground up around internet content providers’ (ICP) need to interconnect data centers, also known as data center interconnect (DCI) applications. In addition to creating a whole new product category in the optical industry, the introduction of this first generation of compact modular triggered industry-wide development of such platforms.

A few years later, fueled by the need to expand client services beyond Ethernet to true multi-service support; expand applications beyond just DCI; and build support for photonic line functions like filters, amplifiers, and ROADMs, Infinera’s Groove G30 marked the second generation of compact modular – the industry’s first sled-based compact modular platform capable of supporting a mix of muxponders and fully featured metro photonics sleds in the same chassis.

The introduction of the “sled” concept was a major industry milestone – in it, modules (sleds) can be used like Lego blocks to quickly, easily, and cost-effectively build any optical configuration in a “compact” and “modular” form factor in a multi-vendor environment, thus raising optical networking flexibility to a whole new level.

Moreover, one of the key benefits of the sled form factor is to accelerate technology innovation, reflected in the fact that the Groove G30 was among the first platforms in the industry to offer 600G per wavelength in a compact sled form factor, significantly more bandwidth over longer distances, and lower power consumption, thus further reducing total cost of ownership.

Good News Travels Fast

With significantly better economics and compelling benefits, compact modular platforms have quickly gained adoption momentum with all types of network operators beyond ICPs, including communication service providers (CSPs), cable operators/MSOs, submarine network operators, research and education network operators, and many others in a wide variety of applications.

Compact modular platforms have quickly evolved from point-to-point Ethernet transport appliances for ICPs’ DCI applications to become the fastest growing market in the optical industry.

However, full adoption and wider deployment of compact modular platforms by CSPs require some key “carrier-grade” features, such as NEBS Level 3 compliance, redundant controllers, and the ability to manage multiple chassis as a single network element, among others.

Moving the Yardstick Forward Again

After introducing the first- and second-generation platforms,  Infinera is pushing the boundaries for compact modular optical platforms once again with the introduction of our third-generation solution to further accelerate adoption by network operators of all types and widen application scope from metro to submarine.

Infinera's GX Series

The evolutions in Infinera’s third-generation compact modular platforms can be summarized as follows: 

  • Higher-density chassis: Infinera has introduced new variants of our carrier-grade sled-based compact modular chassis supporting high-capacity aggregation for regional, long-haul, and submarine network applications. 
  • Advanced sled capabilities: Infinera has enhanced our sled functionalities with the following new capabilities:
    • New sled powered by the 1.6T sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6), which sets a new benchmark in optical performance, offering significantly more capacity at longer distances. 
    • Next-generation transponder/muxponder sled that provides advanced transponder and muxponder capabilities, sub-wavelength aggregation, and fully featured add-drop multiplexer functionality in a sled form factor, widening the scope of compact modular applications and addressable market yet again.
  • Carrier-grade features, such as NEBS Level 3 compliance, redundant controllers, and the ability to fit into 300-mm or 600-mm ETSI racks, for seamless deployment and integration into CSP networks, thus widening the application scope in various parts of the network.

The sled-based architecture continues to redefine network economics, enhance flexibility, and increase scalability. Infinera’s Groove (GX) Series expansion unleashes the power of the sled to extend compact modular deployment across all optical transport layers and all types of network operators.