You can’t change the laws of physics, but can you negotiate with them?
I have always been a big fan of Star Trek. Though I’d like to say that this was because of its message of inter-planetary understanding, I admit it was probably more to do with the cool sliding doors on the Starship Enterprise. Whatever the case, the catchphrase from the show that made the biggest impression on me was Scotty’s famous, ‘You cannot change the laws of Physics’. Now that I work with some of the world’s biggest, most innovative and most ambitious network operators, I can safely say that Mr. Scott was only half right. You certainly can’t change the laws of Physics. But you can negotiate with them. At the same time, the laws of Economics might not have bothered the ‘Federation’ much, but they are as important to our customers as the rules governing the universe.
The factors drawing our customers into these considerations are well known. Networks are – in a very real sense – life. In just a few years, they have gone from a reasonably confined set of uses to almost total ubiquity. They facilitate many things (from education to entertainment) that make life enjoyable and increasingly, they underpin mission-critical services on which life can, quite literally, depend. At the same time, the ‘free internet’ of the early 2000s has fostered a vague sense that networks ‘should’ just be, well, free to users. The result is entirely elastic demand for capacity, combined with entirely inelastic willingness to pay more.
The way in which Nokia responds to these pressures, then, keeps a watchful eye on the economics, while at the same time finding smart ways to work with the laws of the universe for a more successful outcome. And, at the heart of our approach, lies a focus on a single adversary: complexity.
Complexity is the result of scaling up networks in response to ravenous demand. And it is complexity that is the biggest driver of cost in planning, implementing and managing those networks. Nokia’s focus is to enable our customers to scale precisely (and that can mean scaling down, as well as up) with simplicity. ‘Scale made Simple’ both sums up our intense focus on innovation in all areas of optical networking, and pinpoints exactly what our customers need to succeed.
From workhorse to thoroughbred
The workhorse for scaling optical networks is coherent optics; the engines that transit streams of data over specific channels in wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) networks. Nokia was first to market with 100G single-carrier coherent optical solutions and we are continuing to innovate in this area. Our fifth-generation coherent optical engines are application-optimized either for maximum capacity and reach for long-haul and subsea applications, or for pluggable low-power optics for metro and regional applications. As Mr. Scott would confirm, Shannon’s Limit challenges engineers in driving further advancements in coherent optics. But Nokia continues to innovate along new metrics to bring ever-greater scale, performance, and sustainability.
For example, we enable coherent optics to connect end-to-end across the network with photonic line systems that maximize capacity by transmitting multiple channels of data across a single fiber. Our C+L band solutions combine the so-called conventional (C) with long (L) bands. That sets Nokia apart from almost all our competitors. And we’re pushing the advantage home: our solutions now support second-generation C+L technology and allow network operators to maximize the bandwidth available from their fiber network infrastructure by operating in both bands, with double the WDM spectrum. No wonder we are the most widely deployed C+L vendor, and we make the most of that wide and diverse customer base to continue driving both in-house innovation and the industry ecosystem in this area.
If extra wavelengths provide more capacity, the next challenge is making use of them in an efficient manner and here, too, Nokia’s innovation gives us an edge. We enable connections across all parts of the network: scaling down for access and metro networks, while optimizing for regional and long-haul networks. Our optical line system solutions include a range of reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers, or ROADMs to manage these wavelengths flexibly, in form factors optimized for use and efficiency. Again, this flexibility offers advantages over less adaptable offerings from other vendors. And they provide another benefit too, in the shape of dual-sourcing arrangements that can help us navigate supply constraints, while alternative, less flexible solutions must make do with just one supplier.
For the network to deliver value of course, this capacity must be delivered in a way that matches the requirements of the specific services needed by end-customers, whether they’re residential, wholesale, managed services, or something else entirely. Our Packet-OTN switching solutions provide the flexibility to subdivide wavelengths in a way that helps customers match these needs precisely. We recently upgraded our 1830 PSS-x solutions to double switching capacity, offering up to a market-leading 48 Tb/s, for example. With a full range of access and metro P-OTN capabilities, such as our ONE and Wavelite P-OTN and WDM solutions optimized for access/metro, network operators can deliver efficient, differentiated, and reliable managed and wholesale services from edge to core.
Automation: the final frontier?
So much for Physics. But what about the other law – of Economics - that our customers keep in view? As operators scale their networks to deliver services to their customers, they also need to simplify network operations to prevent costs from spiraling out of control. Our WaveSuite applications, which leverage the work of Nokia Bell Labs – Nokia’s industrial research arm – in machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help by employing automation to operate the network more efficiently, and virtualize and monetize it quickly. WaveSuite applications can also automate optical network analytics and monitoring, generate actionable intelligence in order to engage corrective actions and reconfiguration, and accelerate and simplify service creation and activation.
Our innovative products and solutions are further complemented by WavePrime professional services. Our experts can tailor technology solutions to address the unique needs of each network operator and provide the business partnership that enables our customers to succeed in their markets.
It’s optical networking, Jim, but not as we know it…
Our vision for the future of optical networking combines technology innovation that can enable all aspects of network scaling with sophisticated automation and management tools to help our customers simplify their network operations. By exploiting the power of Nokia innovation, taking a holistic approach to network solutions and focusing intensely on customer needs in the real world, we believe we are best positioned to deliver our customers what they need: flexible scale, with extreme simplicity.