The Five Steps to Cognitive Networking (Part 2 of 2)

March 20, 2017

By Mike Capuano
Vice President of Marketing


In part one of this two-part blog series, I talked about the first two steps on the journey to cognitive networking. I noted that the industry has widely deployed dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) – Step 1 – but in a way that is highly manual when adding new optical capacity. The industry has also made good progress implementing software-defined networking (SDN) for Layer 2 and Layer 3 underlay control. SDN is also making great impact with overlay tunneling approaches inside the data center and in software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs). More recently, Infinera has enabled SDN for Layer 1 Optical Transport Network (OTN) circuits, such as in Windstream’s deployment, with the Xceed Software Suite. Xceed introduced a new software foundation of open source software and open application programming interfaces (APIs) along with a microservices-based architecture for building advanced SDN applications.

I also described Infinera’s widely deployed Instant Bandwidth and Time-based Instant Bandwidth capabilities, delivering software-based activation of capacity in 100 gigabits per second (Gb/s) increments – Step 2. Instant Bandwidth was built on a hardware foundation of 500 Gb/s multi-channel photonic integrated circuits (PICs), which enable cost-effective pre-deployment of capacity that can be software-activated as needed – the industry’s first instantiation of software defined capacity (SDC).

The SDC term is being used to highlight the importance of being able to add, move and retire optical capacity via software control – SDC is a subset of and complementary to SDN. SDC is a game changer in terms of matching the timing of capital expenditure (CapEx) to service revenue, reducing operational expenditure (OpEx), and speeding up the deployment of capacity and services. Contrasted with the typical manual method of optical capacity planning, engineering and hardware-based deployment used by most vendors (which involves truck rolls and extensive human interaction at multiple points in a network deployment timeline), SDC enables automation at all stages and lays the foundation for cognitive networking.

As we continue the journey toward cognitive networking, we need to continue to advance the SDC hardware and software foundations and leverage them both to deliver new capabilities. We need new generations of PIC-based optical engines that deliver increasing amounts of flexible DWDM capacity. We also need to add new software capabilities to leverage this flexible capacity with increasing speed and autonomous operation.

That brings us to the next exciting step in the journey: Instant Network.

Step 3: Instant Network

In November 2016, Infinera introduced a full portfolio refresh based on the Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE4), with the ability to deploy up to 2.4 terabits per second (Tb/s) of capacity in a single small-form-factor XT-3600 platform or upgrade our DTN-X XTC Series with integrated switching to 1.2 Tb/s per slot for a total of 12 Tb/s per chassis. This new portfolio harmonizes disaggregated DWDM “pizza” boxes designed for the internet content provider (ICP) market with DWDM platforms featuring integrated packet and OTN switching designed for the service provider market. With our new ICE4 optical engine, our solutions now have sliceable functionality – the ability to dynamically tune each of the six or 12 wavelengths being transmitted from the ICE4-based platform across the entire C-band, software-select the best modulation, and route the wavelength to the destination using the FlexILS flexible grid open line system.

The result of these ICE4 innovations is that service providers can now leverage ICP architectural principles with the hardware building blocks that let them construct the most cost-effective networks from day one, AND that uniquely feature massive pre-deployed capacity waiting to be activated via software.

Our next focus is advancing our software defined capacity implementation to take full advantage of this powerful hardware foundation. Today Infinera is introducing Instant Network. Instant Network takes SDC to the next level by 1) enabling capacity to be deployed faster and moved around the network with greater ease, and 2) through real-time automation of optical capacity planning and engineering.

Infinera Instant Network
Infinera Instant Network, the Next Generation of SDC for Cloud Scale Networks

Infinera Instant Network enters the market with three new components:

  • Instant Bandwidth Movable Licenses – The moveable license is no longer tied to a specific hardware module, but can be moved from one hardware module to another in a different location in order to satisfy unexpected hot spots in the network and provide a tool for network defragmentation. This is an essential component for the self-optimizing cognitive network of the future.
  • Bandwidth License Pool – Instead of needing to order and pay for a license up front, and then wait for the back-end processing to be completed, service providers are allocated a pool of different license types in the license store, which can be deployed immediately as service demands dictate. The software automates the mating of a license to a particular hardware module, either permanently or temporarily, and accelerates the deployment of a license from about three hours to a few minutes. Infinera bills the service provider post-deployment.
  • Advanced Capacity Engineering (ACE) Application: The ACE application leverages Infinera’s path computation engine (PCE) microservice in the Xceed SDN controller, which includes sophisticated algorithms developed as part of our Network Planning System (NPS) software. These algorithms and data models have been developed and refined over the last decade as Infinera’s portfolio has grown in scale and functionality. ACE takes these previously manual offline route and capacity planning processes and implements them in real time. ACE understands optical impairments and computes optimal Layer 0 routes between nodes across multiple paths, including automatic routing and wavelength assignment with multiple path constraints such as traffic engineering cost, distance and latency. ACE has open APIs that allow it to be called when a higher-layer service is being established to ensure there is enough capacity in the network, and if not, what type of wavelengths should be deployed when and where. We believe that ongoing planning efforts will be dramatically reduced when ACE is deployed.

All these capabilities deliver important benefits in the near term while paving the way to cognitive networking. With the ability to plan, deploy and move capacity automatically, we believe service providers will no longer need to go through the typical four-month capacity planning process and overprovision capacity in their networks to ensure that services can be supported. Now capacity can be deployed when a revenue-generating service is ready to be activated. Additionally, we believe that manual planning and deployment processes, including hardware installation and truck rolls, will be dramatically reduced, thereby lowering operational costs and minimizing planning and configuration issues due to human error.

Infinera Instant Network

Step 4: Open Multi-layer Virtualization, Slicing and Coordination

The next step is to continue to advance the capabilities of software defined capacity and to tightly link it into a multi-layer SDN-controlled infrastructure. As I mentioned in the first blog where I talked about the evolution of Layer T (the intelligent transport layer), according to IHS over 70% of service providers are already deploying or plan to deploy packet-optical transport systems (P-OTS), which integrate packet switching based on merchant silicon into DWDM systems. The same report references that “there are multiple reasons that operators are deploying P-OTS instead of a router,“ with the top two drivers being metro packet aggregation and simple IP transport such as uni/multicast. In such a multi-layer P-OTS infrastructure, open APIs are required across all layers to allow upper layer services to trigger automated deployment of resources at lower layers. For example, to establish a Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) Ethernet Private Line service from point A to point B, the system must request necessary Ethernet switching resources end-to-end, in turn request OTN transport and switching resources where required, and finally select the best DWDM path, including allocating more capacity using SDC if needed. In a P-OTS scenario, these activities can be coordinated using an SDN domain controller such as Infinera’s Xceed platform. It is also important for the SDN domain controller to have open northbound interfaces (NBI) to plug into upper-layer orchestration systems which can coordinate and optimize resources across the router and P-OTS/DWDM infrastructure as well as orchestrate virtualized network functions (VNFs).

 Step 5: Cognitive Networking

The end-goal for the industry is building a Layer T intelligent transport layer capable of cognitive networking that provides on-demand transport services to the cloud services layer (Layer C) in an automated manner. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of cognitive is “relating to… or involving conscious intellectual activity ([such] as thinking, reasoning, or remembering).” Fundamentally, this is where Infinera is headed: enabling a multi-layer network that is self-aware, self-organizing, and self-optimizing and that can take predictive and prescriptive actions based on what it has gleaned from its experience.

Infinera Instant Network
The Future of the Intelligent Transport Network is Cognitive Networking

While no network can completely plan or run itself, the cognitive network will dramatically reduce a number of manual tasks across a multi-layer network by leveraging advanced software, streaming telemetry, big data with machine learning and analytics to deliver predictive and prescriptive recommendations that will enable service providers to focus on the business – new services, best-in-class reliability, and building customer relationships. What is absolutely critical to this vision is building the right foundation so that cognitive networking can be realized. A fundamental capability of such a network is the ability to automate capacity engineering, and to be able to deploy and move optical capacity around the network using software instead of manual processes and hardware. Infinera is pleased to deliver the next generation of SDC with Instant Network, establishing the critical foundation required for an Intelligent Transport Network featuring cognitive networking, and in turn helping service providers to transform to a Layer T and Layer C architecture.

For more information, contact us.

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