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Optical Innovation for Next-gen IP-Optical at MPLS SD AI Net World Congress 2022

April 26, 2022
By Paul Momtahan
Director, Solutions Marketing

It was great to attend Upperside Conferences’ MPLS SD AI Net World Congress 2022 in person this year, as opposed to last year’s virtual-only event. The event ran for three days from April 5-7 in Paris. My colleague Christian Uremovic spent most of his time engaging with visitors to the Infinera booth, with a lot of interest focused on XR optics pluggables,

Meanwhile, I tried to attend as many of the presentations and panel sessions as I could. As someone who primarily attends optical events these days, it was great to catch up on the latest developments in the IP and application layers that sit on top of the optical network, especially as coherent pluggables herald a new era of IP-optical integration. Many of the IP-related themes have parallels in the optical world – themes such as openness, disaggregation, interoperability, intent-based networking, and sustainability/power consumption.

Some of the top concepts included computing-aware routing, anycast, GitOps, NetOps, and Kubernetes. Computing-aware routing and anycast are intended to enable service requests to be directed to the best available resource in a distributed multi-access edge compute (MEC) environment. MEC was itself an important topic for the conference, with one interesting application being localized video processing in retail, automatically restocking as shelves start to empty. GitOps and NetOps are taking the DevOps concept and applying it to infrastructure and networks respectively. Kubernetes is the industry-standard toolkit for orchestrating containerized applications, with many potential networking use cases and synergies.

There were also a lot of acronyms: ZSM (zero-touch network and service management), MIAD (MPLS label stack indicator and ancillary data), SRH (segment routing header), STAMP (Simple Two-way Active Measurement Protocol), and IFIT (in-situ flow information telemetry). ZSM is an ETSI initiative for end-to-end and domain-based closed loop intent-based automation, while MIAD refers to new types of labels in the MPLS label stack. STAMP and IFIT provide two approaches for measuring IP performance.  STAMP, an evolution of TWAMP, uses its own packets to measure things like latency, jitter, and loss, while IFIT adds its own fields to the IP header in order to measure the performance of live traffic.

More than 100 networks have IPv6 for more than 50% of their addresses, and there are over 4 billion IP addresses currently in use today. One survey reported that segment routing MPLS (SR-MPLS) has been deployed by 65% of operators, with the remaining 35% planning deployment in 2022 or 2023. Segment routing IPv6 (SRv6) is yet to be widely deployed outside of China, with the previously mentioned survey showing that only 2% of operators have deployed it and only 18% are planning deployment in 2022 or 2023. Inside China there are already 40+ commercial SRv6 deployments.

I also learned a new word: experiential from ETSI’s Experiential Networked Intelligence project. And my fear of parking meters got worse with the knowledge that they could be used by hackers as bots to launch a new class of distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS), though this was somewhat tempered by learning that AI can also play a key role in mitigating these new threats.

I participated in the IP-Optical session on day 3, Thursday, April 7. Key topics discussed during this session included the benefits of coordinated control for the IP and optical layers and comparisons of different IP-optical architectures, including hop-by-hop routing with no optical passthrough and ROADM-based architectures with optimized passthough, a topic I touched on during my 2021 presentation for this event. Several presenters extolled the benefits of 400G coherent pluggables and the positive impact these would have on IP-optical integration.

Next-generation IP-Optical network building blocks
Figure 1: Next-generation IP-Optical network building blocks

My presentation gave an update on optical innovations for next-generation IP-optical networks. Starting with optical engines, I talked about the performance-focused innovations that are enabling embedded optical engines such as Infinera’s ICE6 to maximize wavelength capacity-reach with 800 Gb/s to 1,000+ km and to maximize spectral efficiency with up to 42.4 Tb/s in the C-band and 80+ Tb/s with C+L-band. These innovations include ultra-high baud rates, high modem SNR, and features such as Nyquist subcarriers, long-codeword probabilistic constellation shaping (LC-PCS), and SD-FEC gain sharing.

I then talked about how innovations related to footprint and power consumption, including photonic integration, have enabled 400 Gb/s coherent pluggables. And while the option to put coherent pluggables directly into routers has several potential benefits related to cost, power consumption, footprint, and simplified cabling, this comes with several challenges, especially relating to manageability. However, Infinera is innovating to address the manageability challenge. One area of innovation is intelligent pluggables, integrating shelf- and card-level functions such as remote management, in-band communications channel, topology awareness, optical spectrum analyzer, streaming telemetry, and VLAN awareness, into XR optics pluggables.

Another Infinera innovation in this area is the recently announced Intelligent Pluggables Manager, a lightweight software application that enables intelligent pluggables to be managed as “virtual transponders” inside routers while also providing access to the full capabilities of XR optics, including point-to-multipoint, which is another innovation that I covered in the presentation. Finally, I talked about optical line system innovation and Infinera’s Open Wave Manager, also recently announced, which provides a single pane of glass when Infinera Xponders are deployed over third-party optical line systems, thus enabling network operators to fully unleash the benefits of open optical networking with more choice, faster innovation, and improved economics

Overall, despite a few lingering travel “challenges,” it was great to be meeting face-to-face again and sharing new ideas. IP-optical integration is becoming a key topic, and we at Infinera look forward to playing our role as the industry continues to innovate in this area.