How to Prepare Optical Networks for the Next Acid Test
August 19, 2020
By Fady Masoud
Director, Solutions Marketing
Nowadays, the term “passing the acid test” is widely used to highlight the proof of the value of something, or the standard that something must meet in order to prove its value. This phrase is derived from the test that gold prospectors and dealers used during the 18th century to check the purity of gold. The test was based on putting gold into nitric acid, which dissolves every metal except gold.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is definitely the acid test for all the optical networks out there. With most countries on lockdown, millions of people working from home, and students attending classes virtually, the limits of optical networks are being challenged.
Optical networks and their future innovations must withstand the following acid tests we’ve been witnessing since the beginning of this global crisis:
- Must quickly and efficiently handle any unplanned surge in bandwidth: Most, if not all, network providers have witnessed a significant increase in traffic during the first few weeks of lockdown. For example, by the third week of March 2020, Orange saw a 700% increase in users connecting to their company’s network remotely. Similarly, Facebook published that Instagram and Facebook Live views have doubled in a week.
- Must handle unpredictable traffic churn: With the proliferation of cloud-based services and high-speed mobility (e.g., 4G wireless), traffic patterns have been challenging to predict. With the current pandemic, this challenge is not getting any easier. Residential areas that used to be tagged as moderate from a network planning perspective are now hot spots that require significantly more bandwidth depending on the time of the day. BT’s weekday daytime traffic increased 35 to 60% compared to similar pre-COVID-19 days. The use of Microsoft’s cloud services, which heavily rely on data centers, soared as much as 775% in regions implementing social distancing and shelter-in-place orders.
- Must be highly flexible to cope with constantly changing networking conditions: With more capacity required throughout the network and unpredictable demand, the ability to easily, quickly, and remotely change network configuration becomes paramount. Increasing the capacity of an existing network site, adding a site to the network, or redesigning parts of the network to ensure maximum efficiency and reliability are all common tasks when elevating network capacity to embrace this fast-paced demand for change.
- Must stay cost-competitive despite challenging economic conditions: The surge in traffic demand does not always come with significantly more revenue. Purchased bandwidth blocks by residential users or higher-bit-rate links ordered from enterprises can help increase revenue streams; however, they only cover a limited portion of the CapEx and OpEx required to level up the network to cope with the new reality. Therefore, the network infrastructure must be able to increase capabilities and introduce a new generation of disruptive optical technologies that enhance network economics in a seamless and graceful manner.
So, how can one prepare the optical networks that carry the bloodstream of our hyperconnected lives for the next acid test? Let’s take a look at a next-generation network architecture leveraging XR optics.
Delivering a Transformative Network Architecture with XR Optics
XR optics is the latest technology innovation that is out to transform how optical networks are architected, operated, and evolved. XR optics utilizes digital signal processing to subdivide the transmission and reception of a given wavelength spectrum into a series of smaller-frequency channels called digital subcarriers. These digital subcarriers can be independently modulated, managed, and assigned to different destinations, enabling the industry’s first scalable point-to-multipoint, direct low-speed to high-speed optical transceiver connectivity. Any XR optics transceiver operating at N x 25 Gb/s (where N = 1 to 16) can communicate directly with any higher-speed transceiver that is operating in M x 25 Gb/s increments (where M = 1 to 16).
The breakthrough architectural approach of XR optics passes all the acid tests mentioned earlier. Specifically:
- Quick and easy capacity increase to address any urgent demand for bandwidth: Urgent and unforeseen spikes in bandwidth demand can be quickly, easily, and remotely addressed by assigning more digital subcarriers (N x 25G) to any site (endpoint), increasing the site’s capacity without truck rolls, network re-engineering, or any traffic disruption to the rest of the network.
- Dynamic network architecture for unpredictable traffic patterns: XR optics enables a consistent network architecture based on a common “currency” of 25 Gb/s digital subcarriers between hub-and-spoke locations. Utilizing 25 Gb/s subcarriers enables more dynamic and rapid allocation of capacity in the network without complex planning and time-consuming truck rolls. Capacity can be allocated easily across the network permanently or for a certain period of time, and the allocation can be manually performed or triggered by software automation. As a result, unpredictable traffic patterns no longer become a challenge.
- Significant reduction (from 40% to +70%) in total cost of ownership (TCO): This reduction consists of an immediate and massive elimination, by approximately 50%, of the number of optical transceivers in the network (from 2 x N to N + 1, where N is the number of endpoints), and the removal of numerous Layer 1 and Layer 2 platforms for traffic aggregation. Furthermore, XR optics maximizes router/Layer 3 efficiency, density, and simplicity by replacing large numbers of low-speed ports with far fewer and more efficient high-speed ports. Additional CapEx and OpEx (power consumption, footprint, sparing costs, etc.) reductions are also achieved by eliminating intermediate aggregation sites and their related costs. In addition to these significant reductions, XR optics enables a multi-generational network architecture. The unique ability to enable low-speed transceivers to communicate directly and simultaneously with a high-speed transceiver at the hub eliminates the situation where a single-site upgrade triggers the need for a network-wide upgrade.
Just like passing the acid test performed by goldsmiths meant bringing out the gold, XR optics unleashes networks’ full potential and paves the way for the future of connectivity.