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November 14, 2016

Guest Blog: Enabling an Ecosystem of Open Networks for DCI and Metro Edge WDM Transport

By Brandon Collings
CTO, Lumentum

Bandwidth demands continue to grow exponentially. Our customers, and their end-customers, consistently report the need to accelerate innovation cycles and reduce costs across targeted parts of their network infrastructures. One approach is to leverage open white box systems to drive further innovation and cost reductions. Over the past few years, hyperscale data center operators have applied this approach to the switching fabric inside their data centers, enabling the construction of switches with simpler feature sets designed for their data center network performance, scaling, cost, and power requirements.

A similar approach is now underway for optical transport; however, as one moves lower down the layers, the functions transition from digital to analog. Converting and managing analog performance plus virtualization and disaggregation at the optical layer is complex. It necessitates collaboration amongst all participants. For wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) transponders, which convert short-reach grey optics into longer-reaching colored wavelengths, key technologies are required to generate, modulate, demodulate, and detect photons. These are highly specialized, and offer opportunities for differentiation through distinctive approaches such as novel coherent modulation and forward error correction (FEC) techniques, and large-scale photonic integration that increases fiber capacity, extends reach and significantly improves economics. For optical line systems, which multiplex, amplify and switch these colored wavelengths using reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADM), the industry has been trending towards disaggregating this layer into what is often referred to as an open line system (OLS). The intersection of these domains, between the WDM transponder and the line system, represents the clearest opportunity for disaggregation and the enablement of flexible transport solutions with standardized interfaces. The benefit for network operators through such a disaggregated approach is to increase the flexibility in deploying and utilizing network assets.

I believe that the move toward disaggregation and white boxes will accelerate the pace of innovation at the hardware and software layers across these targeted blocks of the network infrastructure. Disaggregation will enable greater efficiencies in the development and introduction of line systems, which in turn will accelerate investments into foundational optical technologies.

Infinera and Lumentum share similar core tenets of empowering network operators to scale bandwidth while accelerating the pace of innovation. A recent joint press release from Lumentum and Infinera describes the results of interoperability testing that validate Infinera’s Intelligent Transport Networks over Lumentum’s white box line system. The results confirm Lumentum’s belief that our whitebox ROADMs can be a powerful complement to massively scalable transport solutions from Infinera. And, the interoperability testing shows a strong commitment by Infinera and Lumentum to deliver innovative and open optical solutions that our customers desire. Both companies are collaborating as members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an industry initiative co-founded by Facebook to reimagine the traditional approach to building and deploying telecom network infrastructure.


The interoperability validation was conducted at Infinera’s engineering facility in Sunnyvale, California with Infinera’s end-to-end portfolio, including Infinera’s Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE) pilot hardware. The platforms interoperated with Lumentum’s white box open line system, featuring our latest generation of 20-port TrueFlex® ROADM channel monitoring and amplification products.

Lumentum’s announcement with Infinera marks the first multi-vendor-driven validation of an interoperable, open and agile approach to the construction of transport networks. So, what do these joint solutions offer customers? They give the operator the ability to leverage the power of Lumentum’s white box line system to choose the network capabilities they need, alongside Infinera’s coherent photonic integrated circuit (PIC)-based platforms, to create a scalable, programmable, and automated network. In addition, they offer network operators an ecosystem enabling open networks that encourages a strong focus on innovation and development of value-enabling capabilities for network operators of all scales.

Lumentum and Infinera are co-hosting a webinar on December 6, at 8 a.m. Pacific Time on ‘Trends in Optical Disaggregation’ that will discuss the joint open line system interoperability and other industry efforts. Register here.

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This guest blog was written by Brandon Collings, CTO at Lumentum. Infinera thanks him for his contribution.

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