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March 12, 2018

ICE5: Innovation on Fast Forward

By Jay Gill
Infinera Senior Marketing Manager

Today we announced the newest Infinite Capacity Engine, ICE5, representing a new step function in optical performance and capacity. ICE5 is a tightly integrated 2.4 terabit per second (Tb/s) optical engine delivering an astounding 600 gigabits per second (Gb/s) per wavelength to enable the most demanding cloud scale applications, such as data center interconnect and fiber-deep access architectures for mobile 5G and cable networks.

At OFC this week, we are demonstrating the ICE5 engine with real devices and showing the key performance metrics of 64QAM modulation and 66 Gbaud speed. We believe this puts us among the leaders in moving to 600G, and we’re the only ones doing it in an integrated 2.4T engine with Infinera’s unique Instant Network capability for software-defined capacity on demand, a complete solution designed to enable high service agility, streamlined operations and low total cost of ownership (TCO) for our customers.

ICE5 in Context: Demonstrating Innovation on Fast Forward

How does ICE5 fit into the bigger picture of optical engine innovation at Infinera? And what might be coming in future ICE generations?

Looking back to 2016, we made two promises to our customers:

  1. The first Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE4) will deliver truly differentiated optical performance and value to our customers.
  2. With ICE5 and ICE6, we will establish our new cadence for optical innovation to maintain and extend industry leadership. Figure 1 shows our intent to deliver the next two ICE generations on a cadence of approximately 2 years, if not faster. This is what we are now calling “Innovation on Fast Forward.”
ICE Family
Figure 1: The Infinite Capacity Engine Family

These were both bold promises. So how are we doing? Let’s review.

ICE4: Better than Advertised

As I noted last week in anticipation of the ICE5 announcement at OFC, ICE-based platforms are exceeding our customers’ high expectations from metro to subsea, around the globe. Netflix, Seaborn, Hetzner Online, and RETN are just a few announced ICE4 customers representing a wide range of applications.

We are also seeing major internet content providers (ICPs) and communication service providers (CSPs) choose ICE4 as the basis of major backbone upgrades and network transformation initiatives. As these customers deploy ICE4 along with FlexILS, the most widely-deployed future-proof open line system, and Instant Network for software-defined capacity on demand, they are moving to a whole new level of network and service agility and velocity with low total cost of ownership.

ICE4 is also reaching new record performance milestones in deployed networks. A few examples:

  • Industry-leading fiber capacity at 16QAM: 27.6 Tb/s (watch the video)
  • Record-shattering subsea spectral efficiency: 18.2 Tb/s over 10,000 km (read the story)
  • Record lightning protection: 100% protection against all observed events

This last item deserves a little explanation. You might ask, “Does lightning actually affect optical fiber? I mean, glass is an electrical insulator, right?” Surprisingly, it does, when that fiber is carried in aerial cables such as the optical ground wire (OPGW) cables on power transmission towers. Lightning strikes induce polarization transients that disrupt coherent optical transmission, resulting in dozens or even hundreds of outage events every year on some fiber routes in lightning-prone areas. You might also ask, “Is this really a problem for many network operators?” and the answer to that is absolutely “Yes.” Aerial fiber is extremely common and cost effective, so it is part of virtually every major long-haul network and many metro networks as well. A wide range of customers on multiple continents are facing lightning problems, and these problems are only getting worse as we move to higher order modulations that are more sensitive to the lightning-induced transients. As illustrated in Figure 2, based on measured lightning events from a recent study,* Infinera’s ICE4 protects against all observed events, while typical products do not, leaving networks exposed to outages.

Figure 2: Infinera ICE4 Lightning Protection


ICE4 and Open ICE

ICE4 is also delivering great performance over third-party line systems, a capability that we call “Open ICE.” When a European wholesale operator wanted the best solution for low latency services between financial trading centers, they chose the ICE4-based XT-3300 meshponder. Using Open ICE, they are extending these XT-3300-based low-latency services over an Infinera FlexILS line system and a competitor’s line system, enabling them to standardize on one ICE4 solution and eliminate costly, high-latency signal regeneration.


Figure 3: Open ICE Application: Low Latency over Multi-vendor Line Systems


ICE4 C+L Solutions: Doubling Fiber Capacity

Building on these successes, ICE4 is now expanding to the L band. New ICE4 L-band meshponders, combined with a FlexILS line system that is designed for expandability from C band to C+L without service impact, will effectively double the available fiber capacity on an existing fiber to over 50 Tb/s.

Figure 4: Infinera C+L Solution

Looking Ahead to ICE6 and Beyond

Based on our demonstrated progress with ICE5, we are clearly keeping optical engine innovation on fast forward, and we’re already working on the next generation, ICE6. In ICE6 we will be increasing the sophistication of modulation techniques to squeeze out a few more percentage points of C-band capacity. Unfortunately, the Shannon Limit dictates that the fiber capacity gains available from modulation alone are largely gone. So, we will also focus on increasing baud rate to lower cost and power per bit. As we move to 88 or 100 Gbaud and beyond, with our unmatched photonic integration and our ability to optimize design and packaging of in-house developed electronics and optics into tightly integrated optical engines, we believe are very well positioned to meet the challenge.

Let us help you speed up your future with the Infinite Capacity Engine: innovation on fast forward.

* Charlton, et. al. Optics Express 25 (9), 9689 (2017).

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