By Fady Masoud
Senior Marketing Manager
While dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) disrupted the telecommunications industry by allowing multiple optical carriers to travel in parallel on the same fiber, thereby increasing total capacity, the latest innovation in photonic integration and digital signal processing has led to the introduction of super-channels to take the network into a new era of capacity and scalability.
A super-channel combines several optical carriers to create a composite line-side signal of the desired capacity that is provisioned in one operational cycle, thus increasing total fiber capacity and spectral efficiency by eliminating many of the guard bands reserved at each side of every optical carrier. As the cloud continues to reshape the optical networking landscape, fostering unpredictable traffic patterns and an ever-expanding appetite for capacity, increased network agility becomes paramount. This blog describes how to increase network agility with a technology innovation, “sliceable optics,” designed and built to use super-channels to enhance networking flexibility and optimize network assets such as power and real estate.
What Are Sliceable Optics?
Super-channels revolutionized the optical industry by addressing the cloud’s demands for capacity and efficient fiber usage. Sliceable optics increase the benefits of super-channels by allowing the slicing of any super-channel, so each 100 gigabits per second (100G) or Nx100G wavelength can be tuned across the C-band, modulated and then routed in multiple separate directions to the appropriate destinations (Figure 1) over any open optical line system. The ability to “slice and dice” super-channels reduces the need for modules, such as transponders, by up to 77 percent, and lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) by approximately 53 percent, all while raising the network to a new level of flexibility.
Conventional optical vendors use transponders with a single 200G or 400G wavelength, which often require multiple circuit packs, more fibers, significantly higher power consumption and a much larger footprint. Sliceable optics simplify traffic aggregation and accelerate service turn-up by eliminating truck rolls while providing 100G economics at multi-terabit scale.
Why Sliceable Optics?
Sliceable optics offer four primary benefits to increase network agility for network operators.
- Lower TCO and operating expenditure (OpEx): Conventional networking requires transponders and muxponders to deliver the desired capacity to each remote site, which often results in the extensive use of chassis and circuit packs. Alternatively, Optical Transport Network (OTN) switching provides networking flexibility, but it often comes with high capital expenditure (CapEx) due to the use of OTN switching fabric and client and line interfaces. Moreover, delivering high capacity (e.g. 300G) to a remote site over an OTN-switched network requires a significantly higher-capacity line rate (multiple 100G or 200G wavelengths), which further increases TCO.
Sliceable optics strike the perfect balance between flexibility and cost (lower TCO, lower CapEx/OpEx). They provide networking flexibility without truck rolls and with significantly lower power consumption and a smaller footprint. A case study of a U.S.-based nationwide service provider revealed 50 percent lower TCO, 40 percent lower rack units per client gigabit per second (Gb/s) and 20 percent lower watts per client Gb/s when compared to the service provider’s nearest competitor.
- Optimized connectivity: Each “slice” can be set to operate over the optimal modulation scheme (e.g. quadrature phase-shift keying [QPSK], 8QAM [quadrature amplitude modulation], 16QAM) to provide the best capacity/reach ratio. Moreover, sliceable optics provide the perfect match between traffic requirements and delivered capacity at each site by combining one or multiple carriers. Essentially, sliceable optics allow a connection optimized for both capacity/reach and bitrate to every remote site.
- Increased networking flexibility and speed: The cloud demands a new level of network agility where connections can be created, modified or retired in real time without prior planning or labor-intensive operations. Sliceable optics let network operators dynamically increase or decrease the capacity to any given site easily, quickly and without truck rolls (Figure 2), thus underpinning cloud applications with an agile and highly flexible network infrastructure.
- Automated operations and network programmability: Unlike transponder/muxponder-based connectivity, sliceable optics let network operators extend back-office software scripts and tools to control service activation and delivery, accelerating operations and enhancing network programmability. The service-ready capacity (such 1.2 terabits per second [1.2T] or 2.4T) can be remotely and quickly activated to meet upper-layer applications’ triggers for instant bandwidth.
What Are the Applications for Sliceable Optics?
The benefits of sliceable optics span a wide scope of applications such as traffic aggregation, dynamic infrastructure for 5G and data center interconnect (point-to-point and evolution to mesh), as well as extended network coverage for cloud service providers.
While super-channels disrupted the optical industry by delivering higher capacity and increased spectral efficiency, sliceable optics elevate networking agility to a new level. The ability to slice and dice super-channels significantly reduces TCO through lowered power consumption and footprint, increases network flexibility and streamlines operations through automation and programmability.