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Four Advantages to Scale Your Access and Metro Networks with ICE-X

Jon Baldry

December 21, 2023
By Jon Baldry
Director, Metro Networking

2023 has been a momentous year for Infinera with the commercial availability and first customer shipments of ICE-X, our portfolio of intelligent coherent pluggables that support both ZR+ point-to-point networks and XR optics point-to-multipoint architectures. Customers like Allo Technology in Malaysia are already benefiting from ICE-X pluggables in their XTM Series metro and regional networks.

So, what advantages do ICE-X intelligent coherent pluggables bring to customers?

  1. Improved network economics
  2. 10G to 100G upgrade path for Auto-Lambda networks
  3. Single-fiber network infrastructure support
  4. Improved supply chain management

Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in more detail.

Improved Network Economics

There are multiple factors that enable ICE-X optics to deliver improved network economics.

With ICE-X pluggables available at 400G, 200G, and 100G, devices such as the XH800 xHaul-optimized packet optical transport switch leverage ICE-X pluggables’ programmability and high performance to minimize or eliminate regeneration and minimize infrastructure. As mentioned in the press release, Allo Technology conducted a field trial where Infinera’s ICE-X intelligent pluggables demonstrated outstanding point-to-point performance across Allo’s network spanning 1,228 kilometers from the Thailand border to Malaysia.

Customers, including Allo, are building networks that will migrate to a point-to-multipoint architecture as traffic demands grow. These networks can realize 30-70% total cost of ownership savings as the point-to-multipoint architecture reduces the amount of networking hardware and reduces ongoing space and power costs. For those readers who want to dive into these benefits in more detail, they are outlined at length in the ICE-X Point-to-Multipoint Optics in Infinera Metro DWDM Networks application note.

XTM Series XH800XTM Series XH800

10G to 100G Upgrade Path for Auto-Lambda Networks

Auto-Lambda pluggable optics are very similar to ICE-X pluggables in that they are autotuneable and host agnostic, meaning they can also be deployed in a wide range of third-party host devices, such as routers or switches. These optics provide network operators with simple-to-deploy and very economical network architectures using 10G SFP+ DWDM optics directly into third-party host devices in access nodes and additional XTM Series hardware in hub nodes to pre-aggregate router traffic.

The addition of ICE-X optics and the ICE-X Network Demarcation Unit (NDU) provides these networks with a 100G upgrade path for those access nodes that need to jump from N x 10G to 100G transport. Mixing Auto-Lambda and ICE-X optics in the same XTM Series network enables these operators to seamlessly move from 10G to 100G on an as-needed basis.

Auto-Lambda networks are widely deployed across the globe supporting a range of backhaul applications – mobile, residential, and business/enterprise applications. Many of these customers are already evaluating or planning ICE-X upgrades for their most demanding access nodes.

Single-fiber Network and Passive Optical Network Support

Single-fiber working (SFW) is a fact of life in many networks, especially those with access domains to support passive optical network (PON)/fiber to the home (FTTH) networks. SFW causes significant challenges for higher-speed coherent optics, as outlined in the previously mentioned application note. In fact, almost all coherent optics cannot support SFW operation. ICE-X optics solves this challenge by using the XR optics digital subcarrier technology to use some subcarriers in one direction and others in the other direction over the single fiber. In effect, a regular 400G ICE-X pluggable can become a 200G “bi-di” (bidirectional) pluggable through a simple software-configurable setting.

ICE-X optics in action in single-fiber networksICE-X optics in action in single-fiber networks

Bringing ICE-X pluggables into metro networks enables support for 100G and 200G devices over SFW, which is a major step forward for network operators that have single-fiber domains within their transport networks and need to move up to the higher capacity offered by higher-speed coherent optics.

Improved Supply Chain Management

The optical networking industry, both vendors and network operators, is finally getting back to normal after major post-COVID supply chain challenges in 2021-22. During this time, optical networking vendors suffered significant component supply chain challenges that led to extended lead times from all vendors, although not all vendors suffered to the same degree. Supply chains have been back to normal for Infinera for some time now, and most other vendors are returning to normal levels too.

Naturally, we all hope that the whole industry doesn’t suffer the same major supply chain challenges in the future. Minor supply chain issues are probably a fact of life for any modern company. Simply put, the more of the supply chain that any manufacturer directly controls, the better their ability to manage the situation to ensure a constant and reliable supply for customers. So, enabling ICE-X support in access and metro networks will improve lead times for customers should the industry face similar issues again in the future.

Exciting Times Ahead

With better economics, mixed Auto-Lambda and ICE-X deployments, support for single-fiber infrastructure and a more robust supply chain, ICE-X pluggables can offer network operators the flexibility and control they need while scaling their access and metro networks.