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Hardware Innovation and SDN Bring Renewed Promise to IP+Optical Integration Hardware Innovation and

By Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

Sterling has more than 15 years' experience in telecommunications as an industry analyst and journalist. His coverage area at Heavy Reading is optical networking, including packet-optical transport.

IP and optical integration as a concept has a long history. It has been a topic that has come and gone at OFC for the 16 years that I have been an industry analyst and an attendee at this event. The early buzz around “IP over glass” diminished rapidly when operators quickly realized that there were no standards for interoperability. So the focus shifted to standardization with GMPLS. Periodic multi-vendor interoperability demonstrations were held to prove that IP and optical integration was technically feasible. Most notable were the massive Supercomm demonstrations over the years hosted by the OIF.

But demonstrations and product announcements never materialized as commercial deployments for the following reasons:

  • Lack of demonstrable business case: IP and optical integration could be shown to work, but no one really showed the business value of doing so.
  • Lack of a configurable photonic layer: large scale photonic switches never made it to market, and a static photonic layer greatly reduced the value of integrating IP and optical layers.
  • Lack of viable standards for interoperability: Vendors were happy to show proprietary integration but operators made clear that they wouldn’t lock in to one vendor, and GMPLS wasn’t really standard enough to make interoperability practical.
For these reasons, IP+optical integration faded. But at recent industry events – including at this year’s OFC – we are seeing a resurgence in the topic driven by three significant changes:
  • Colorless, directionless, contentionless (CDC) ROADMs are providing a reconfigurable photonic layer that give a big boost to the value of integrating optical and IP layers.
  • Some operators are demonstrating a compelling value proposition for integrating IP and optical layers, with hard numbers behind it.
  • Last, but far from least, SDN is emerging as the software glue connecting the IP and optical layers in way that never possible in the past.
Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom have perhaps been the biggest proponents of IP and optical integration and have published compelling models that show router port and transponder reductions of up to 60% by coordinating the IP and optical layers for router bypass and multilayer restoration.

Still missing up until very recently has been the ability to provide this multi-layer integration in multi-vendor networks, but SDN is eliminating this final barrier to architecture adoption. At OFC 2016, Telefonica, along with its vendor partners, is showing multi-vendor, multi-layer restoration in action using SDN. They are calling this as an industry first, and we believe this is true.

The restoration demonstration uses routers from Cisco, Nokia (Alcatel-Lucent), and Huawei, DWDM equipment from ADVA, Coriant, and Huawei, and orchestration software from Sedona Systems. The optical restoration demonstration follows a provisioning demonstration that Telefonica hosted at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in October. That demonstration involved hardware from Ciena, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, and Huawei, with Sedona Systems again as the software orchestration supplier.

To be clear, Telefonica says that additional SDN standardization work is needed before these applications can be deployed commercially throughout their networks. But the hardware and software innovations over the past year should not be under-estimated. IP+optical integration provides big value for operators and its time is coming.

Posted: 22 March 2016 by Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.