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Maximizing the Middle Mile in the Shadow of the Magic Kingdom

portrait of Fady Masoud

September 7, 2023
By Fady Masoud
Sr. Director, Solution Marketing

Traveling to Orlando is different from any other flight I take. The airport terminal buzzes with a joyful energy as families gather for their upcoming adventures. Children, their eyes wide with anticipation and smiles that could light up the entire concourse, can hardly contain their excitement. They can’t wait to meet Mickey Mouse and their beloved Disney characters, explore the mystical castles, and embark on thrilling rides. While Mickey Mouse and I have, understandably, lost touch over the years, I was excited too, about attending the Fiber Connect 2023 Conference in Kissimmee, a short ride from Orlando and its Magic Kingdom.

Fady Masoud and Tim Masse at Fiber Connect 2023The conference kicked off with a series of captivating keynote speeches from thought leaders who are at the forefront of the fiber optics revolution. They shared their insights into the role of fiber optics in enabling ultra-fast internet speeds, powering 5G networks, and even revolutionizing healthcare through telemedicine and remote surgeries. For me, the most exciting part of the conference was the technology showcase of proofs of concept (PoCs), where companies exhibited their latest breakthroughs and innovations in fiber networking solutions to bring broadband connectivity to a new level. These breakthroughs can’t come at a better time, as the optical networking industry is witnessing the rise of coherent pluggables that are redefining network flexibility, scalability, and economics. In particular, intelligent coherent pluggables that support system-level functionality and host-agnostic management  as defined by the Open XR Forum are opening a new world of deployment options for network operators. These intelligent coherent pluggable solutions are poised to have a significant impact on applications ranging from the delivery of broadband services and passive optical networks (PON) to metro aggregation, point-to-point data center interconnect (DCI), and regional and long-haul optical transport. At Fiber Connect 2023, a special focus was placed on leveraging these solutions to enhance the value of PON.

PON networks are the technology of choice for last-mile access networks given their simplicity and cost-effectiveness. However, while PON networks are highly suitable for residential services, the technology falls short in keeping up with the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth fueled by enterprise connectivity and services and the migration to cloud applications.

In the PoC showcase, Infinera partnered with LightRiver to demonstrate a new generation of business services that can be delivered over an existing PON infrastructure. With speed up to 40 times faster and reach more than 10 times farther, this next generation of business services can meet the ever-growing demand for capacity and be extended to remote areas that were underserved in the past to boost local economies and cultivate small and medium businesses.

Our joint network demonstration consisted of two technologies working in concert:

  • Infinera’s ICE-X 400G XR intelligent coherent pluggables that leverage digital subcarrier technology to enable point-to-multipoint connectivity and high-capacity transmission over a single fiber. The demonstration also included point-to-point connectivity using ICE-X intelligent coherent pluggables in third-party routers.
  • LightRiver’s netFLEX® software, which is a multi-vendor/multi-technology optical domain controller for transport networks. netFLEX provides real-time network inventory, alarm, and performance data directly from network devices to visualize complete end-to-end services of all types. LightRiver’s “make it all look the same” mindset enables easy interaction and understanding via the user interface, but more importantly empowers automation through a suite of standard APIs that allow for simple integration with other external systems.

Demonstration Highlights

The demonstration consisted of two parts:

High-speed business services over PON infrastructure

Figure 1: High-speed business services over PON infrastructure

  1. A point-to-multipoint configuration (Figure 1) enabling the delivery of high-speed business services over a PON infrastructure. At the hub site, an ICE-X 400G XR intelligent coherent pluggable is hosted in a Juniper PTX10001 router and connected to two end sites or leafs. The hub is connected to Leaf 1 with 100 Gb/s capacity over single-fiber working, also known as bidirectional or bi-di. At leaf 1, there is an ICE-X Network Demarcation Unit (NDU) that acts as an interface between the 100 Gb/s coherent wavelength sent by the ICE-X pluggable and routers that don’t support the QSFP-DD form factor or the power envelope of coherent pluggables. This setup reflects how service providers can deliver coherent-level capacity from 25 Gb/s to 400 Gb/s over an existing PON infrastructure and then fan out to existing routers. Leaf 2 is connected to the hub over a fiber pair with an NDU aggregating traffic from a PON OLT. This setup shows how ICE-X can efficiently and cost-effectively backhaul PON traffic to hub sites over a fiber pair in this case or a single fiber as in leaf 1.
  2. A point-to-point configuration (Figure 2) showcasing a flexible and efficient optical transport application between two routers, often referred to as IP over DWDM (IPoDWDM). In this setup, an Infinera ICE-X 400G ZR+ intelligent coherent pluggable is hosted in a Nokia 7250 router at each end, enabling 400 Gb/s connectivity over an open line system from Smartoptics for an open and disaggregated IPoDWDM application. The distance between the two routers can be a few miles or over 1,000 miles depending on the application.

Efficient optical transport over third-party open line system

Figure 2: Efficient optical transport over third-party open line system

You can watch the full video of this network demonstration by clicking here.

Finishing on a “Magical” Note

Infinera and LightRiver - Most Innovative PoC Award at Fiber Connect 2023

Perhaps the most exciting moment for the Infinera and LightRiver teams was the PoC award ceremony on the last day. As the anticipation hung in the air like a starship from a Disney park, I sat among all the participants in the grand hall, waiting for the much-awaited moment for the judges to reveal the winner of the Most Innovative PoC award. And then, there it was. Infinera and LightRiver won the Most Innovative PoC for “Multi-vendor Middle Mile Use Cases Enhancing PON infrastructure.” I think I traveled back home happier than anyone on that plane. Not hard to achieve as most kids had grim expressions as their Disney vacation came to an end.