• Technical Conference:  30 March – 03 April 2025
  • Exhibition: 01 – 03 April 2025
  • Moscone Center, San Francisco, California, USA

Committing to Sustainable Operations for the Long Haul in 2024 and Beyond

By Muhammad Sarwar, Distinguished Global Solution Planner, Fujitsu Network Communications

Escalating data demand continues to push network boundaries. A convergence of market trends, including the growth of cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), are placing tremendous pressure on hyperscalers, with data expected to exceed 221 Zettabytes by 2026.

This growth is leading to scalability challenges and a surge in the long-haul network market, which is now poised to outpace the metro sector. Together, these forces are transforming the architecture, design and operation of data center interconnect (DCI) networks. At the same time, the rising carbon footprint of data centers is driving a need for increased sustainability.

As optical technology evolves to keep pace, what technologies are on the horizon to help DCI network operators reconcile these seemingly conflicting demands?

Eye on tomorrow

The need for ever greater throughput, storage and compute power continues to fuel network performance improvements. Yet, with data centers facing ongoing cost per bit pressure, as well as space and power constraints, network systems are being compressed into an ever-smaller footprint. In turn, this leads to increasing thermal load on networking equipment, creating a continual need to decrease energy consumption and reduce heat transfer.

Moreover, rising energy costs and global net-zero initiatives further compound pressure to improve sustainability. Ultimately, to maintain competitiveness, DCI network operators must reduce power consumption and streamline operational efficiency, even as they scale their network capacity.

Today, many DCI network central offices (COs) and data centers still handle heat generation with the traditional method of air cooling. As thermal load increases, systems need larger fans running at higher speeds, significantly ramping up power consumption as well as noise. In fact, the worldwide energy consumption of data centers is expected to reach 803 Terawatt Hours (TWh) by the year 2027.

In the realm of supercomputers, intense thermal load challenges are addressed with advanced liquid cooling technology. Now, this technology is being applied in DCI transport networks, enabling network operators to lower operating temperatures and improve power efficiency while cutting acoustic noise in half.

Sustainable closed-loop liquid cooling technology not only reduces power consumption, but also provides improved heat transfer to maintain a lower operating temperature for greater cooling efficiency. In fact, power consumption can be reduced by more than 40 percent, since this advanced technology consumes less energy. Additionally, fans run much slower in a liquid-cooled system, enabling longer fan life, higher reliability and greater sustainability, leading to reduced maintenance overall.

Evolutionary transformation

While network operators seek advancements in sustainability on the road to net zero, business priorities dictate the need for improved performance, reliability, flexibility and speed, as well as reduced total cost of ownership (TCO). The continued disaggregation of optical network architecture is a pivotal catalyst to spark this transformation.

With evolution to a more modular, disaggregated architecture, DCI network operators are able to realize much-needed advancements such as pay-as-you-grow scalability, multi-vendor configuration, and open software that is fully programmable to manage virtualized resource optimization.

Further architectural changes occurring in transport networks are contributing to an increase in maximum transmission capacity. With conventional transmission solutions divided into C-band and L-band, previous ROADM networks faced wavelength range limitations — a particularly problematic issue for metro and long-haul DCI networks.

Evolution to continuous C+L ROADM architecture allows transport platforms to handle both wavelength bands at once. This not only boosts overall transmission capacity, but this transport platform architecture also uses only half the node equipment of current bolt-on approaches, enabling up to 80 percent power reduction versus C-band only.

Automated intelligence

A growing challenge inherent in today’s DCI networks is that as they become more disaggregated, operations are increasingly complex. Historically, maintaining a live optical network has been a time-intensive, manual job. However, growing complexity means a much greater need for automation and simplified architecture, particularly as operations teams tend to dwindle in size.

Many network operators are turning to AI and greater use of automation to perform simple tasks in a safe and reliable way. Recent AI and machine learning (ML) advancements, combined with automated fault localization and performance diagnostics, enable network operators to fully automate turn-up and optimization, thereby reducing human error, cutting costs and increasing reliability. As a result, overall network installation and commissioning can be reduced from days to hours, speeding time to service with a lower TCO.

Sustainable future

The data center environment is necessarily dynamic by nature, requiring ever greater agility and efficiency. Rising demands for data, security, speed and intelligence are continuing to drive optical technology innovation, sparking a revolution in network architecture.

As this transformation continues to ramp up, hyperscalers and DCI network operators must strike a balance between scalability, performance and cost. The key will be to build and maintain reliable, sustainable operations that empower the industry to truly thrive for the long haul.

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Muhammad Sarwar is a Distinguished Global Solution Planner at Fujitsu Network Communications, where he is a key contributor to Fujitsu’s network solutions strategy, architecture and portfolio. He is responsible for strategic planning, product roadmaps and core architecture within the optical transport portfolio. He also specializes in new product incubation and strategic program management. He earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University in New York and is author of over ten U.S. patents related to data communications, optical transport, and network security.

Posted: 4 March 2024 by Muhammad Sarwar, Distinguished Global Solution Planner, Fujitsu Network Communications | 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.