The Evolution of the Compact Modular Optical Platform A major shift is underway in the optical networking industry. As internet content providers – or ICPs – started to rapidly scale their traffic, they quickly realized that the restrictive, large, and power-hungry monolithic chassis needed to build a high-speed optical network weren’t going to work for their business model. They needed a solution that was much simpler and less expensive to operate, and that supported software automation that would enable them to quickly scale just ahead of their own demand. The answer was an open, disaggregated, modular solution where network functionality is broken into small, discrete functional units. In 2014, Infinera pioneered this market with a new class of optical networking system called compact modular platforms. These small-form-factor devices with standard open APIs were designed specifically for use in the disaggregated optical networks of ICPs. Open disaggregated optical networks separate the muxponders and line system to enable operators to take advantage of new technology as it is available. While the initial compact modular platforms were pizza box configurations, Infinera also pioneered the second generation, which introduced configurable sled-based form factors. This radically expanded the functions and applications for compact modular solutions. With removable sleds, a single device can support any configuration of muxponders, switching sleds, and line system functions like ROADMs, filters, and amplifiers. These platforms have integrated standard open APIs that simplify operations and make it easier to introduce new technology into any operator network. While adoption began in ICPs, communication service providers – or CSPs – quickly realized how these platforms could also help them improve flexibility, reduce costs, and accelerate innovation in their metro, long-haul, and submarine networks. But communication service providers have their own unique equipment requirements, referred to as “carrier-grade.” To address these requirements, some compact modular vendors have evolved their offerings to include additional form factors that address a wider variety of deployment scenarios, add redundant controllers to maximize reliability, and are designed to meet the more stringent regulatory requirements of the CSPs. As compact modular platforms continue to take share of the overall market, they are becoming even more flexible, with support for additional open interfaces and a modern, container-based operating system that enables operators to rapidly take advantage of new functions and features. These systems are ready to support any new types of traffic management, optical engines, and line system technologies as they become available. All-in-one compact modular platforms enable network operators to address a wide variety of applications with a single device and provide the foundation for future growth. These simple, flexible, programmable, and easy-to-deploy devices represent the fastest growing segment of the optical networking industry.
Published on: March 21, 2022