OFC Highlights Open Optical Nets

Article By : John Walko

A summary of announcements at last week’s Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibition (OFC).

The annual Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exhibition (OFC), the showcase of the optical components and communications sector, launched Monday (June 7). But, despite having moved from its normal March slot, the gathering is, regrettably, another on-line only affair.

As usual, some participants have got quickly off the mark with their announcements. For instance, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), the Facebook-inspired and led project that has added early and significant momentum behind the Open RAN concept, reminds the sector that it is also playing an important push with its on-going Open Optical and Packet Transport Project Group.

Major companies involved, including ADVA, Fujitsu, NTT, IP Infusion, Telefonica, Orange and Telia, have announced that the initiative’s Converged Architectures for Network Disaggregation and Integration (CANDI) subgroup has successfully demonstrated open optical networks control and management.

The sub-group suggests the trials were “a crucial step in helping operators adopt best-in-breed solutions for increased vendor diversity and agility in their optical networks.”

Specific elements involved in the demonstration included unified SDN control and management of the disaggregated, multi-vendor components within an open optical network: Open line system (OLS), Open Terminals (OTs), and Optical Planning Tools.

The TIP sub-group said multi-vendor integration and services operations “were achieved through open standard models and APIs supported by the Optical SDN Controller, including Transport-API, OpenConfig and Open REST.”

Integration was then validated across numerous functionalities, including network topology discovery of the open OLS and OTs into the Optical SDN controller; on-line provisioning of optical circuits including dynamic on-demand path computation deploying an external vendor-neutral planning tool; and the establishment of optical circuits between transponders and line interfaces from different suppliers over partially disaggregated open line systems.

ADVA OFC
ADVA’s technology used in the TIP proof-of-concept for open optical networks (source: ADVA)

“This proof of concept is an important milestone in the journey to fully open and disaggregated optical networking. It offers new levels of visibility and a way to manage the entire multi-vendor environment,” commented Christoph Glingener, CTO at ADVA.

Analysts also revealed their recent findings around the sector to coincide with the event. For instance, Cignal AI suggested there have been strong gains in switching and routing spending by operators in the first quarter of the year, but these were offset by the slightly weaker deployment of optical transport gear.

Looking at the regional positions, the analysts report subdued activity by Chinese operators across all product categories after last year’s strong growth, while most other territories showed a rebound this quarter.

Scott Wilkinson, lead analyst for transport hardware at Cignal AI, noted that “Chinese spending on optical hardware has plateaued as major 5G network builds mature and new projects have not been initiated.”

He added that the country’s “extraordinary growth during 2015 to 2018 could not continue long term due to the impracticality of expanding upon the enormous amounts that had been spent in the region.”

Other regions are said to have reported year-on-year growth, in part because 5G builds have not yet plateaued.

Cignal AI also reports slightly negative YoY spending on optical hardware in North America, but stood up reasonably well in some other regions, notably Japan and Europe. In the latter, sales are said to be up 20% on the previous year.

Interestingly, the analysts note that despite losing new deals in some EMEA countries, for instance at Swisscom and Deutsche Telekom, the Chinese group’s market share leadership “remained steady.”

The strongest performance for packet transport gear during Q1 was in Japan, up a remarkable 40% YoY. Surprisingly, it was the incumbent carriers that led the charge, rather than newcomers such as Rakuten. Cisco has held its leading position in the region, the company doubling its packet transport sales on an annual basis.

Optical component specialists have already announced advances at the OFC, including both Lumentum and Source Photonics, both based around 800Gbps transceivers targeting data centres and optical networks.

According to Source Photonics (West Hills, Calif.), while the initial wave of wide scale deployment of 400G is taking place in data centres, “hyperscale data centre customers are already looking into 800G and beyond, together with the release of 25.6T switching ASICs, to further support the increasing demand for bandwidth-intensive applications.”

The company posits 800G client interfaces will not only double port density over currently available 400G transceivers, but also are expected to further reduce per gigabit power and cost over equivalent 400G clients.

According to Source Photonics’ CT, Sheng Zhang, the 800G transceivers will be available in different form factors and interfaces “supporting optical connectivity between transport, routing and switching equipment.” Samples are expected to be available from the third quarter of the year.

Over at Lumentum, the company suggests that with the massive proliferation of data-heavy services, “cloud services infrastructure growth in 2021 is expected to reach a 27% CAGR.”

So, while 400Gbit Ethernet (GbE) is still being widely deployed, 800 GbE “is poised to rapidly follow to address these bandwidth demands.”

One approach being followed at Lumentum is to install eight 100Gbps optical interfaces, or lanes. “As an alternative to reduce the hardware count, increase reliability, and lower costs, a team of researchers at Lumentum developed an optical solution that uses four 200Gbps wavelength lanes to reach 800Gbps.”

Other novel developments will surely be highlighted at this week’s OFC.

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

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