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Driving Blind? See the Light in Your Optical Network Using Software and Automation

June 11, 2020
By Teresa Monteiro
Director, Solutions Marketing

How Telia Carrier and Infinera Instantly Optimized 490 Live Network Links

What if our cars didn’t have a fuel gauge, or didn’t show us how many miles we have to go before we run out of gas? Would that affect how you drive or how often you fill up your tank?

Most of us would do some basic math to figure out when we needed to fill up next. Some of us might even create a spreadsheet to record fill-ups, miles driven, driving patterns, and road conditions, so we could build a more sophisticated data model for estimating fuel consumption.

But I think we can all agree that without those fuel gauges we would be more conservative while driving, using worst-case gas consumption estimates, adding a safety buffer on top of that, and filling up at the gas station more frequently than needed.  We also might find ourselves getting a bit nervous every now and then, fearing we were running out of gas, and slowing down – just in case!

This can be compared to the real-world situation of many network operators, who lack reliable, real-time visibility of the overall optical performance of their network and who are, specifically, blind to the optical margins of the services running in their networks.

The optical margin of a signal, measured in decibels (dBs), represents how much the quality of that signal can further degrade until it no longer can be recovered error-free – simply put, how far it is from transmission loss.

What About Offline Planning Tools?

To help understanding the optical performance of a network and the optical margin of each service that runs through it, network operators usually rely on offline planning tools. However, these types of tools lack synchronization with real-time network data. Like a driver with no gauge, offline planning tools tend to model optical performance degradation over time in a conservative manner, which translates to unnecessarily large safety buffers for validating optical margins, to ensure service survivability even in worst-case scenarios.

So, these network operators, just like those drivers without gauges, operate their networks less efficiently and seldom at the highest possible capacity.

And the lack of visibility only gets worse as networks become more dynamic. Not only are new applications (5G, the Internet of Things, and the enterprise cloud) driving overall capacity demands, but many of these services also come with more stringent performance specifications.

Now, layer all that on top of your adoption roadmap for software-defined networking (SDN), new automation techniques to understand, and your new optical equipment that is more open and flexible, offering a wider range of modulation schemes and baud rates to choose from. Feel overwhelmed yet?

Getting the Right Results

Unfortunately, unlike monitoring your fuel tank level, monitoring a single optical performance parameter is not enough to understand the state of a fiber optic connection. Network operators need to use software tools that look at the health of their entire network and use multiple real-time optical metrics to come up with their results.

We recently tested this approach in a live network field trial with Telia Carrier. During this trial we gathered data from over 490 live network links during a period of more than a month.

The software tools uncovered what we would find in almost every operator network: unused incremental network capacity. This type of analysis allows operators to maximize their existing investments and enables more efficient growth planning. You can read more about this joint Infinera and Telia Carrier trial in our white paper.

When coupled with additional software intelligence and automation capabilities, such as end-to-end path computation, network restoration, or closed-loop automation, as provided by tools like the Infinera Transcend Software Suite, optical performance analytics tools enable intelligent network decisions, including the ultimate efficient resource planning and optimal timing for preventive maintenance activities.

Next time you worry about the efficient use of your optical network, remember your fuel gauge and ponder whether optical performance analytics software might be just what you need to operate at the highest possible capacity.