Leading the Way to Open Optical Networking

March 13, 2017

By Jay Gill
Principal Product Marketing Manager


The momentum toward open optical networking continues to build. Network operators, led by hyperscale internet cloud/content providers (ICPs), are asking for open optical line systems, open transponders and even fully disaggregated optical systems.  Suppliers are responding with a range of “open” claims and new strategies for succeeding in an open world.

This trend begs two questions: Why is “open” so hot right now? And how open are today’s optical networks in reality?

There are at least three good reasons for the “open” hype. First, ICPs have successfully disaggregated other parts of their networks in order to optimize cost and increase innovation, and expect that applying similar thinking to optical networks will provide similar benefits. Second, the rapid rate of innovation in coherent dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) transponders leads to a natural desire to decouple the transponders from the other optical systems in order to take advantage of the best transponders at any given time. Third, software-defined networking (SDN) principles and technologies – including open interfaces, abstraction and programmability – appear ready to help solve the complex problem of end-to-end control in multi-vendor optical networks.

But how open are networks today? As with many market and technology trends, the hype appears to be well ahead of the reality.

Consider the case of the open line system (OLS), which allow transponders from many different suppliers to share a single line system (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Open Line System
Figure 1: Open Line System

OLS deployment is widely seen as a concrete, realistic first step on the way toward greater optical network disaggregation, yet very few deployed line systems actually meet the requirements of an OLS. The biggest stumbling blocks that have not yet been addressed by many vendors are:

  • Lack of flexible grid support: Most existing line systems are fixed-grid, making them inefficient users of optical spectrum and incapable of accepting the variable channels that are increasingly needed to optimize capacity, performance and cost using techniques such as advanced encoding, increased baud rate and multi-carrier channels.
  • Proprietary controls: Many existing line systems use proprietary techniques for power measurement and balancing that effectively prohibit insertion of “alien wavelengths” from other suppliers’ transponders.
  • Lack of management support: OLS management requires careful consideration of how to plan, commission, monitor and restore alien wavelengths, but many line system suppliers have not implemented the necessary features for full manageability.

Infinera is leading the way to overcome these barriers and promote widespread OLS deployment in many different ways:

  • Defining OLS target requirements: Infinera’s recently published whitepaper, Future-proof Open Line Systems for Cloud-scale Networks, outlines a set of target requirements for open line systems to help guide network operators and industry working groups.
  • Leading OLS standardization: The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) recently named Infinera as one of the two co-leaders of its open line system working group. Avid Lemus of Infinera co-chairs the group along with Madhu Krishnaswamy of Lumentum. Having joined TIP in July 2016, Infinera has been actively collaborating with the industry to define the future of telecom networks. Infinera and Lumentum co-presented on OLS at Facebook’s TIP Summit in November 2016 applauding the initiative to drive this important transformation.
  • Deploying industry-leading open line systems: Infinera’s FlexILS is the industry’s most widely deployed flex-grid OLS, used in large-scale networks for over four years. FlexILS meets the requirements for a future-proof OLS and suffers from none of the barriers mentioned above.

OLS leadership is just one of many ways that Infinera is leading the way to open optical networks. The Infinera Intelligent Transport Network portfolio includes meshponders which are the next generation of open transponders featuring multi-terabit sliceable photonics and flexible grid. Our new platforms based on the Infinite Capacity Engine are fully compatible with legacy fixed-grid line systems and emerging flex-grid systems from providers such as Lumentum. In an industry-first multi-vendor interoperability test last year, Infinera validated its Intelligent Transport Network portfolio over Lumentum’s white box open line system. Infinera products support open application programming interfaces (APIs) and programmability, enabling integration into any SDN control or automation framework.  And the Xceed Software Suite, including the Xceed Multi-layer SDN Platform, is built from the ground up to be open, based on open source software with an open architecture and industry-standard open APIs.

Learn more about Infinera’s open leadership at OFC or contact us!

  • Visit us at OFC (Booth 3259) and see our open networking portfolio in action.
  • Listen to Infinera speakers at OFC events discussing disaggregation, open line systems and related topics:
  • For the full list of Infinera speakers at OFC, see our events page

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