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Aug 02 2016

The big optical shift – rethinking the foundation

Twitter: @nokianetworks

It doesn’t seem that long ago I was writing a blog post about a tipping point for the optical industry. We had brought out our 100G interface and people were wondering if the industry really needed that much capacity.  As it turns out, it did. Nearly every customer I visit today has 100G in their optical network.

Even so, their networks are filling up at an accelerating rate. Capacity demand continues to skyrocket. Higher interface speeds are now in demand. With its much-needed blend of performance, capacity and spectral efficiency, our 200G offer is fast becoming the interface of choice for optical transmission.

But we are at a very different turning point now. It is more of a seismic shift — one that will give rise to new kinds of networks and businesses. Operator costs are rising and revenue isn’t growing in line — squeezing profitability. So operators have to address the issue of reducing total cost of ownership (TCO).

At its heart, this shift is primarily being driven by cloud-based technologies, which are being adopted in webscale data centers, enterprise networks and the Internet of Things (IoT). More importantly, operators are also adopting them.

This adoption is driving not just more capacity requirements on transport networks, but also the need for much more agility at the optical layer.  This includes agility for dealing with rapidly changing traffic patterns efficiently, in providing connectivity on demand and in rapidly introducing new services. And, of course, doing so without losing security and reliability. These are the keys to improving profitability and lowering TCO but allowing for response to the new demands of cloud and content providers, enterprises and IoT.

5 top trends shaping optical innovation

Here are my pick of the five biggest trends requiring this seismic shift in transport network architectures, and I’d be happy to hear your thoughts too:

  1. Enterprises will move to hybrid public/private IT clouds that require enterprise network services on-demand
  2. Content and cloud providers will build ever-larger datacenters, requiring massive interconnect capacity plus improved security of in-flight data
  3. Centralized RAN in mobile networks will need high capacity optical fronthaul for applications such as small cells
  4. The explosion of IoT, and the eventual arrival of 5G in support, will demand lower latency and higher degrees of on-demand connectivity
  5. Operators will adopt edge cloud architectures in which central offices become distributed data centers hosting cloud services and virtualized network functions

This is a big shift for the industry, not just in the massive capacity it will demand, but also in the agility and programmability required of the transport network.  All layers of the network, including optical, need to be programmable and policy-driven. And, most important, they must be self-healing, automated and available on demand —because, at the end of the day, this shift must address operator TCO.

Nokia led the 100G revolution with a significant investment in electro-optics, and we continue to believe coherent silicon is a foundational element of the different architectures that each of these trending applications of cloud technology will need. It is with these trends in mind that we’ve introduced the first truly programmable electro-optic chipset, which is at the heart of our programmable foundation for optical networks.

What network macro trends are you seeing that either support or contradict the above?  Do you agree that this is the shift that the industry needs to make? Dialogue is welcome ...

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks and #Optical #Cloud #IoT #datacenter #hybridcloud

For further reading, please refer to our Insight articles:

Cost-effective C-RAN can upgrade the urban core

About Sam Bucci

Sam Bucci heads the Optical Networking Business Unit for Nokia’s IP/Optical Networks Business Group. Sam spends an inordinate amount of time on airplanes working with customers around the world. It is the insight he gains on his travels combined with his deep knowledge of photonic networks which makes him a recognized expert and visionary in the optical field.

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