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Two World Records Mark a New Chapter in the Evolution of Coherent Pluggables

portrait of Fady Masoud

March 6, 2023
By Fady Masoud
Director, Solutions Marketing

In the world of sports, setting a world record is a rare and incredible achievement. Athletes who manage to accomplish this feat must overcome numerous challenges and obstacles along the way. Setting two world records is an even more extraordinary accomplishment that requires unmatched skills, relentless determination, and a lot of hard work.

Recently, Infinera’s team went through this journey, setting two new industry records a few days apart. Believe me, the emotional level is so high when you know you have just raised the bar of innovation to an entirely new level, achieving capacity and reach usually associated with long-haul deployments using pluggables (uncharted territory?) and successfully overcoming numerous technical challenges (fiber impairments, etc.). This milestone has positive implications for service provider economics, as intelligent coherent pluggables like Infinera’s ICE-X can significantly reduce optical transport costs and enhance networking flexibility. The two new industry records are:

  • The longest ever transmission distance of 400 Gb/s using a QSFP-DD. This was achieved using an Infinera ICE-X 400G ZR+ intelligent coherent pluggable in a point-to-point configuration, hosted in an UfiSpace S9700-23D 400G Disaggregated Core and Edge Router at each end and connected over 2,400 km of Corning TXF fiber. If you are attending OFC 2023 in San Diego, please make a stop at the Infinera booth to see this demo in action.
  • The longest field transmission distance of 400 Gb/s using a QSFP-DD over a live production network. This milestone was achieved across Arelion’s production transmission network on routes between Dallas, Memphis, and Chattanooga, where Infinera’s ICE-X 400G ZR+ intelligent coherent pluggable successfully transmitted 400 Gb/s over 1,800 km of Arelion’s live network with concurrently deployed wavelengths from third-party solution providers.

These two records represent a major breakthrough in the evolution of optical networking. Let me explain. Up until now, transmitting 400 Gb/s over distances longer than 1,000 km has been limited to embedded optical engines built in sleds/modules and equipped in full-fledged optical transport platforms that are a few rack units high. Sleds provide the required space and adequate air flow to host and cool the digital signal processor (DSP) and the sophisticated opto-electronic modules that constitute the embedded optical engine. Such sleds typically are the size of a paperback book. Achieving such a distance using a 400G QSFP-DD form factor, which has the width of a USB thumb drive and the length of a ballpoint pen, is a major breakthrough from both engineering and operational perspectives. DSPs and transmit-receive optical sub-assemblies (TROSAs), two key building blocks, must be miniaturized to fit in such a compact form factor. Vertical integration becomes key to reduce the number of components, simplify design, and reduce power consumption so the proper cooling can be applied. Furthermore, the DSP must support a high level of programmability (spectrum, modulation, launch power, etc.) to overcome operational challenges, thus maximizing transmission capacity over the longest distance.

Another significant aspect of such an achievement is the fact that IPoDWDM can now deliver on expectations. Prior to this milestone, service providers have experienced many operational challenges when connecting routers using QSFP-DD-based coherent pluggables over a live optical network, as these form factors lacked the optical capabilities and performance to overcome challenging network conditions such as cascaded ROADMs and legacy optical line systems.

Exciting Times at OFC 2023

As the telecommunication industry converges to the alleys of OFC 2023 in San Diego, Infinera’s booth (#4126) will once again be host to many innovative and game-changing demonstrations, including:

  • High-performance Point-to-Point ZR+ Application: A demonstration of ICE-X 400G ZR+ in a QSFP-DD form factor providing 400 Gb/s connectivity between two routers over 2,400 km of Corning TXF fiber. This demo will highlight XR optics’ support for dual management schemes: host-based and host-independent management. In this particular demo, attendees will see how ICE-X 400G ZR+ intelligent coherent pluggables can be managed through the host device – an UfiSpace 400G Disaggregated Core and Edge Router in this case.
  • Point-to-Multipoint: In this demo, attendees can see in action how ICE-X 100G and 400G XR intelligent coherent pluggables, equipped in four different host devices, can efficiently aggregate traffic from different endpoints while reducing the number of transceivers by >50%, simplifying the network and enabling dynamic on-the-fly capacity allocation. In this demo, a host-independent management scheme, in line with the Open XR Management Specifications, will be showcased.

Between the two demos (point-to-point and point-to-multipoint), ICE-X XR intelligent coherent pluggables will be hosted in a total of five different hosts: three different router vendors, one packet optical platform, and one demarcation unit.

In conclusion, the setting of two new industry records in telecommunication is an outstanding milestone that marks a new chapter in the evolution of coherent pluggables and paves the way for more groundbreaking innovations in the future. I am looking forward to meeting with service providers and network operators at OFC 2023 and further discussing how Infinera’s ICE-X solutions can be transformative to their networks.