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.@acg_r recently conducted a research project to identify the challenges, drivers, and opportunities in transport network automation. Get a glimpse into what’s really driving operators to automate their networks from @TeresaMonteiro_ on the Infinera blog. https://t.co/P1kSE7KxMj
Your Network: As Fast as a Cheetah and as Accurate as a Falcon! - www.infinera.com
ACG Research has just published a report on service provider directions in network automation, summarizing the results of a recent primary research project. ACG independently conducted this research, sponsored by Infinera, to identify the challenges, drivers, and opportunities in transport network automation. While I strongly encourage you to read the entire report, I am highlighting my six favorite findings in this blog.
Network automation is a vibrant, high-value investment area. Automation of service provider networks proves to be an area of active investment across all the regions of the world, with an expected compound annual growth rate of around 20% over the next five years.
With the launch of 5G services and an increasing interest in and adoption of disaggregated and open networking solutions, it is only natural for network automation to come under the spotlight. On one hand, network operators are starting to offer a series of 5G service types with diverse requirements, such as high bandwidth, low latency, ultra-reliability, and massive connectivity. On the other hand, open, potentially heterogeneous networks pose some management challenges. Increased network automation, down to the transport layer, can play a critical role in offloading the complexity that these new paradigms bring to the network and its operation.
Customer satisfaction and business agility are the driving forces of automation. While CapEx and OpEx savings are certainly expected when implementing network automation solutions, this survey shows that service providers are, above all, looking at network automation as a means to achieve superior customer satisfaction and improve business agility.
Figure 1: Benefits from enhanced network automation (source: ACG Research)
Network automation can boost customer satisfaction by enabling service requests to be fulfilled faster, supporting better compliance to service level agreements, and facilitating faster problem resolution, while business agility is enabled by the revenue acceleration brought on by quickly delivering new and more services.
Operators are starting small but targeting fast returns. The survey also reveals that, despite the promising benefits of network automation, operators find it hard to articulate a business case for some of the solutions, potentially limiting their adoption. In fact, not only are operators looking for vendors’ support to quantify the value of network automation, they also want vendors to advise them on what to automate. Operators want help identifying those low-complexity tasks that are performed often in the network, manually or with limited scripting, which can be automated with lower risk, setting the building blocks in place for larger tasks while still providing a fair return on investment.
As network equipment increasingly implements common data models such as OpenConfig or OpenROADM, open and standard interfaces such as NETCONF/ YANG, and mechanisms such as streaming telemetry, the network becomes more flexible and its control more uniform and therefore easier to automate. This enables network automation initiatives to extend beyond pure configuration and provisioning applications. Complemented by continuous monitoring information from a host of network parameters and devices, automation applications can evolve into recommendation systems and closed loop mechanisms, bringing intent-based networking to life.
The next natural step is the integration of analytics and machine learning, supporting the collection and processing of large amounts of data and enabling proactive decisions on when and how to act in the network in an autonomous manner.
The fundamentals cannot be overlooked. Many operators start the network automation journey with use cases related to network deployment, extending the investment into network operations in a second step. But this survey pinpoints an awareness that, as network complexity and emerging services scale, network planning and design will also greatly benefit from automation. More than 85% of the respondents in the survey considered the network planning and design area as significant or most significant in contributing to the benefits of automation.Network planning and design tasks, such as designing new infrastructure for 5G, cable, or broadband access; identifying needed resources for upcoming capacity demands in an existing network; creating work orders; ordering equipment; etc., which are performed prior to service provisioning, have been handled as silos and often given lower priority by operators, but this is predicted to change, with an increase in the corresponding investment by network operators.
It’s all about a strong partnership. Network operators and vendors alike understand that planning, deployment, and operation processes vary considerably from one company to another. Different network automation requirements can be implemented on a common platform (preferably one that is standards-based and modular), but some software adaptation, integration, and customization will always be required. It is refreshing to see in the survey results that operators recognize the need for their own involvement in these activities – only 9% foresee turnkey products – and expect to partner with their equipment vendors to achieve successful deployments.
The right expertise is needed in each domain. While the survey shows that virtually all operators recognize the value of industry standards for communication between network elements and management applications, it is interesting to note that there is a preference within the operators for infrastructure vendors to focus on supporting their own equipment, where they are the ultimate experts and their specific know-how makes the difference. After all, domain automation is the base for more extensive automation solutions to build on.
To conclude the survey on network software and automation on a lighter, humorous note, ACG Research asked the respondents which animal would best represent how they will feel once their company’s automation journey has been successfully accomplished. The two most selected animals, in a tie, were the cheetah and the falcon. When asked to justify their selection, respondents cited speed and accuracy. Infinera’s network automation solutions, complemented by our global services and support, are the right choice to help your network go as fast as a cheetah and as accurately as a falcon!
Could indium phosphide photonic integration be key to the ongoing development of high-performance coherent optics?
To address the undeniable growing demand for higher bandwidth, optical vendors have been playing their role with the development of various coherent optical transceivers for different areas of the market, each with its own set of design considerations.
Historically, the most used material platform for the photonic integrated circuits (PICs) behind these products has been indium phosphide (InP). However, the increase of silicon photonics in recent decades has promised to disrupt the optical components industry with a common platform on which diverse optical functions can be integrated – in a way that scales easily to high volumes – while keeping manufacturing costs low.
With new developments in this area, will this ultimately start to make InP irrelevant? Not so, argues Paul Momtahan, director of solutions marketing at Infinera. ‘There’s been quite a bit of buzz about [silicon photonics] in the industry,’ he said. ’We have been asked “is this still a place for InP?” But, there are arguments for both sides of the InP/silicon photonics debate. If you look at the coherent flow bubbles, it’s maybe not quite a 50/50 split, but there are vendors using InP, particularly if they have a background and assets and InP, and their vendors are using selective atomics. We believe there’s a very clear case for InP.’
Loss and gain Both technologies have their advantages. Silicon, for example, can provide low losses for its passive components to support manufacturing of very small photonic circuits.
However, its physical properties prohibit capabilities such as optical gain for laser or amplification functions. This means that siliconbased transceivers would require a separate, unintegrated InP-based laser and erbiumdoped fibre amplifier (EDFA), while InP-based transceivers can be built as fully integrated PICs.
This presents some obvious cost and footprint benefits to using InP, which are punctuated by the use of waveguides, rather than coupling optics when it comes to performance and power consumption, thanks to the avoidance of coupling losses.
‘One of the big differences between InP and silicon photonics,’ said Momtahan ’is how they use different physical effects to change the refractive index. InP uses the opto-electric effect and silicon photonics uses the plasmadispersion effect. The indium phosphide effect is much more efficient.’
Momtahan explained there are two things we can look at in terms of efficiency. ‘One,’ he said, ‘is how long the modulator is, and the other is how much voltage. Comparing InP with silicon photonics to get the same effect, we either need 10 times the length of modulator or 10 times the voltage. So, InP is 10 times more efficient at changing the refractive index.’
This, he added, will have a fundamental physical advantage in terms of the modulator. ’Generally, when you go to a new speed, a higher baud rate, it is typically InP that is the first material to provide the modulator for that. But both technologies are improving. Eventually silicon photonics will probably do 90+ GBd modulators, but at that stage InP will have moved on to 120+ GBd.’
Need for speed Momtahan believes these speeds are the way in which the industry will move in terms of PICs. ‘The industry is looking at 120GBd as a next step. InP will be a key component of that in terms of the photonics, because of the aforementioned benefits. What you will see is the next generation of modulators that come after the current 90+ GBd. These will also be InP.’ As well as the provision of instant bandwidth, the benefits of any coherent technology cannot be discussed without mentioning distance. This is another area in which Momtahan believes there is a distinct advantage.
The firm partnered last year with network provider Windstream for a live network trial that successfully achieved 800Gb/s singlewavelength transmission over 730km across Windstream’s long-haul network between San Diego and Phoenix, using Infinera’s Ice6 gift-generation coherent technology. Another successful test was performed alongside th operator Verizon, which achieved an 800Gb/s single-wavelength transmission over 667km between Nashville and Atlanta; and a 600Gb/s single-wavelength transmission over 2,283km from Atlanta to Memphis, with a loopback in Memphis.
‘It is advantageous to the industry being able to do these very-high-capacity wavelengths of long distances, that we’re doing with Ice6,’ explained Momtahan. ‘That also has significant benefits, in terms of driving down the cost-perbit, driving down the power consumption, and increasing the spectral efficiency. So that’s kind of where we’re at with the Ice6.’
High-performance Momtahan believes that InP could be the superior photonic integration material for the high-performance segment, although he recognises that silicon photonics can still be an attractive option for applications that perhaps have more modest data rate requirements, or where vendors may not have the necessary expertise to build a fully-integrated InP-based PIC, or are unable to make the substantial investment in building their own InP manufacturing facility.
Several research groups suggest one promising path could be hybrid integration, integrating lasers on top of complex silicon photonics with the integration of silicon photonics PICs with InP PIC circuits. ‘Time will tell,’ said Momtahan. ‘There’s a little bit of a battle going on there. The silicon photonics folks are trying to catch up. We’ll see what happens. Certainly for Infinera, our future generations will be based on InP.’
GN4-3N – the next generation of the GÉANT network – network.geant.org
In response to the H2020 call H2020-SGA-INFRA-GEANT-2018 Topic , GÉANT is proposing the most significant refresh of the GÉANT network in a decade, with a major project designed to support the needs of Europe's research and education community for the next 15 years.
The GN4 Phase 3 Network (GN4-3N) project will involve restructuring the GÉANT backbone network through exploration and procurement of long-term Indefeasible Rights of Use (IRUs), leased lines and associated equipment, serving the GÉANT partner NRENs and providing interconnectivity to the global research and education community.
A market study was undertaken on availability and pricing for connections that are either fibre, spectrum on fibre, or (multiple) 100 Gbps connections, and the proposed work will substantially increase the number of fibre-connected countries to provide a more-level network experience for all partners. This will also enable higher minimum-capacity thresholds, ease of access to clouds and other services, and the highest levels of security.
Building the network based on long-term fibre leases creates a stable, yet flexible, infrastructure
Building the network based on long-term fibre leases creates a stable, yet flexible, infrastructure. The Open Line System provides a similarly stable layer on top of that infrastructure so that the technological evolutions in transponder technology can be easily and affordably integrated. This creates a more future-proof environment.
Through this proposed work, the GÉANT Association, together with its National Research and Education Network (NREN) partners will provide future-proof capacity and enhanced service capability to support the planned and anticipated growth in demand across Europe.
Traffic on broadband networks increased by 51% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to OpenVault.
The firm’s fourth quarter OVBI report included many validations of the impact of the pandemic on broadband usage. The firm found that average per-subscriber usage increased from 344 GB during the fourth quarter of 2019 to 482.6 GB per month during the fourth quarter of 2020. That was an increase of 40%.
Pandemic Broadband Traffic
The impact of the pandemic accelerated during the second half of the year. OpenVault found that fourth quarter monthly average usage — 482.6 GB – represented a 26% increase compared to the third quarter monthly average of 383.8 GB.
Total broadband traffic also was driven by an increase in users. The report — OpenVault Broadband Insights – found a 6.5% increase in subscribers. The two trends – more people using more data — led to the 51% overall broadband traffic increase over the year.
Median monthly usage for the fourth quarter of 2020 was 293.8 GB, a 54% increase compared to the year-ago quarter’s 190.7 GB.
An interesting trend noted by OpenVault is that ebbs and flows in traffic mirrored pre-pandemic dynamics, just at a higher level.
Source: 4Q20 OVBI Upstream usage also increased. During the fourth quarter, upstream usage averaged 31 GB per month, an increase of 63% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.
The pandemic broadband traffic report also looked at power users:
14.1% of subscribers consume more than 1 TB of data per month. That is a 94% rise – 61% in the fourth quarter of 2020 alone – from the fourth quarter 2019 average of 7.25%.
Extreme power users (who consume more than 2 TB per month) increased by 184% year over year, from 0.76% in 2019 to 2.2% at the end of last year. Similar to with those using 1 TB data, 120% of that increase occurred between the third and fourth quarters.
Providers offering unlimited, flat-rate billing packages had nearly 30% more power users than those with usage-based billing plans.
53.6% of all subscribers now consume more than the former power user threshold of 250 GB per month.
OpenVault suggests that operators must proactively address the traffic increases. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was complete and has forever changed broadband usage patterns,” the pandemic broadband traffic report said. “Network operators now must contend with significantly higher average bandwidth usage, with implications for both network management and revenue. Network operators should evaluate all network management options to ensure they deliver the best customer experience while maximizing profitability.”
In November, OpenVault released research on the great increase in power users. It found a 110% increase in power users who use 1 TB or more of data (to 8.8% overall), a 172% increase in extreme power users consuming 2 TB or more of data (to 1% overall) and an increase of 124% in gigabit subscribers (to 5.6% overall).
Both India and Israel now have achieved closer ties with the Arabs, resulting in increased economic and security cooperation against common threats, especially Iran and Pakistan. These three powers have come together to serve as a barrier against the repercussions of Joe Biden’s disastrous policies. The message is clear: Stick with Trump’s policies or we […]
Cable's deployments of a distributed access architecture (DAA) are still in the early innings and still represent a sliver of the overall DOCSIS network pie, but Vecima Networks is seeing operator deployment activity start to ramp up.
Sales of the vendor's Entra-brand DAA products accelerated to C$8 million ($6.29 million) in fiscal Q2 2021, up 54% from C$5.2 million ($4.09 million) in Q1 2021, and up more than six times from the C$1.1 million ($866,000) pulled in for the subsegment in the year-ago quarter.
Vecima also saw some increased contribution from the Nokia cable access portfolio acquired last year for $4.87 million. Entra results for the quarter included C$3.4 million ($2.67 million) of sales from the cable access portfolio acquired from Nokia, up from just C$1 million ($787,000) in the prior quarter.
The addition of the Nokia cable access portfolio gave Vecima a mix of remote MACPHY and 10G EPON products that complemented its existing remote PHY lineup. Cable operators are starting to pursue DAA network strategies to help drive more capacity into the hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) network and to prepare for DOCSIS 4.0 and access network virtualization.
Vecima ended the quarter boasting Entra "engagements" with 58 cable operators in multiple regions, including 40 that are either in lab trials, field trials or in live deployments. Of that 40, 24 are in the purchasing/deployment phase.
Order sizes are also growing, with one tier 1 customer shifting to "thousands" of Entra DAA nodes, up from prior orders in the "hundreds," CEO Sumit Kumar said on Thursday's earnings call.
Vecima posted total Q2 revenues of C$30.4 million ($23.93 million), up 21% year-over-year, ending the period with C$20.8 million ($16.37 million) in cash.
The Chinese government is still holding two Canadians – Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig – in custody as apparent retaliation for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver back in December 2018. In The Wall Street Journal's latest update to the story, the former deputy national security adviser, Matthew Pottinger, is said to have described the men as "hostages" and is quoted as saying their release would be "part of any kind of settlement that could possibly occur between the Department of Justice and Huawei." Huawei's continued claims that it operates independently from the Chinese government are rendered all the more unbelievable when one considers the trouble China is going through just to pressure Canada into releasing Meng.
Over the past few weeks, Infinera has had the opportunity to perform a submarine network field trial over the MAREA trans-Atlantic cable with our ICE6 optical engine, which already leads the industry in terrestrial reach at its headline data rate of 800 Gb/s over terrestrial network routes.
MAREA is essentially the benchmark for trans-Atlantic cable systems, as it was specifically designed for high-performance coherent transmission – it is the cable system on which every submarine network vendor’s implementations will be measured.
The ICE6 results were truly amazing, achieving two incredible industry firsts. As with all trials like this, we need to be clear on the difference between the “hero result,” which has no additional deployment margin, and the “deployable result,” where there is allocated margin to allow real services to be deployed at this data rate or with this total capacity. In summary:
MAREA hero results over 6,640 km:
30 Tb/s of total capacity on a single fiber pair
700 Gb/s data rate per wavelength
MAREA deployable results over 6,640 km:
28 Tb/s of total capacity on a single fiber pair
Up to 650 Gb/s data rate per wavelength
I’m fortunate to have had the chance to discuss the ICE6 trial with two of the key people who made it happen: Dr. Steve Grubb, Global Network Optical Architect at Facebook, which operates several of the MAREA fiber pairs, and Dr. Pierre Mertz, Infinera Fellow and a world-class submarine networking engineer when it comes to optimizing subsea transponder performance.
The MAREA Cable SystemGeoff Bennett: Steve, you were involved in the design of MAREA – perhaps you could give a quick summary of why it’s so iconic in terms of performance metrics.
Steve Grubb: Of course. MAREA is a trans-Atlantic cable that stretches from Bilbao, Spain to Virginia Beach, VA, U.S. – a cable distance of about 6,640 km. I think it’s fair to say that MAREA is the highest-performing cable system in the world because it was specifically optimized for maximum capacity per fiber pair. It utilizes a large-area, low-loss optical fiber type based on a pure silica core and has excellent performance. The cable system also has short amplifier spacing of 56 km, allowing an excellent optical signal-to-noise ratio. When MAREA became ready for service in February 2018, it had a design capacity that rivaled all of the other contemporary operational trans-Atlantic cables combined.
As a result, every vendor of submarine transponder equipment has trialed its transponder technology on this cable (both in single-pass and the 13,200 km loopback in order to assess trans-Pacific performance) in a bid to set the highest records in total fiber capacity and spectral efficiency. Pierre and I were involved in a similar trial of Infinera’s ICE4 technology in September of 2018, and that deployed capacity record still stands. Now it’s time for the next generation to show us what it can do.
Geoff Bennett: Steve, I remember seeing a conference presentation from you, I think it might have been back in 2013, at the time when the MAREA cable was being designed. You said then that despite the incredible capacity boost that the first generation of coherent transponders had delivered, you were pretty confident that there was “a lot more gas in the tank” in terms of subsea fiber capacity. Did you ever think that would translate into the ability to operate error-free 700 Gb/s wavelengths over an Atlantic cable?
Steve Grubb: Geoff, of course I did – I never had a moment of doubt! No, I’m kidding…I think back then even the idea of 8QAM or 16QAM trans-Atlantic was considered to be a real stretch. But we’ve had 16QAM technology deployed and delivering over 24 Tb/s of capacity on MAREA for over a year. To give readers some context, with the results of the latest trial, we see that a single MAREA fiber pair can deliver almost as much capacity as the entire SpaceX satellite system will when it’s fully deployed (Ed: 32 Tb/s indicated on page 5 of the FCC filing). The total MAREA cable capacity should be capable of 224 Tb/s given these latest trial results.
Geoff Bennett: According to analyst reports, the hyperscale ICPs like Facebook already account for over two-thirds of international submarine network capacity. What do you use it all for?
Steve Grubb: 3.1 billion people worldwide use one of the four major Facebook platforms at least one time per month, and the vast majority of these users are outside of the U.S. We also have an increasing number of data centers outside of the U.S. Hence the need for large amounts of international submarine traffic.
Geoff Bennett: Pierre, if we look at the increase in transponder capacity that happened around 2012 with the move to the first generation of coherent, that delivered a 10-fold increase on older submarine cable types. MAREA and ICE4 together deliver another threefold increase on top of that. What would you say were the biggest factors that gave that improvement?
Pierre Mertz: As a matter of fact, Steve and I gave a webinar on those factors after the ICE4 trial. But if I had to choose one feature it would be the move to Nyquist subcarriers with ICE4. As we move to ICE6, there’s a really fantastic interaction between subcarriers, our long-codeword PCS, and new nonlinear algorithms and mitigation techniques (e.g., super-Gaussian distributions), as well as dynamic bandwidth allocation that provides us a lot of granularity in the way we can tune the performance of an individual wavelength.
Geoff Bennett: Steve, I listed two different data rates in the summary – 700 Gb/s and 650 Gb/s. Could you clarify the difference between a hero value and a deployable value?
Steve Grubb: Submarine networks have a long tradition of pushing the boundaries of optical performance, which then spills over to terrestrial network performance. So, it’s normal to include data rate or capacity results that are right on the edge of the forward error correction (FEC) limit – in other words, it’s error-free transmission but an operator would not normally feel comfortable operating services under those conditions. So, the capacity of 30 Tb/s and the per-wavelength data rate of 700 Gb/s are both hero numbers, representing the upper bound of this innovative technology.
In contrast, what Facebook relies on is how much capacity we can expect under real operational conditions with an optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) safety margin that takes into account natural fluctuations along the amplifier chain or losses we might incur if the cable suffered a break and repair, for example. We believe those are the deployable results of 28 Tb/s fiber capacity and up to 650 Gb/s per wavelength.
Geoff Bennett: Pierre – how did you achieve 28 Tb/s over a single fiber pair with commercial margins? I have to say I thought the ICE4 capacity of 24.0 Tb/s must be running close to the Shannon limit…are we breaking the laws of physics here?
Pierre Mertz: Not quite…but you’re right that we really are close to the theoretical limits with ICE6. Just to be clear, every fiber pair in the world has its own unique Shannon limit, which is to say that every fiber pair in the world has a unique bandwidth number, and a unique signal-to-noise ratio. What we’re able to do with ICE6 is dial in the right set of performance parameters to allow our compensation algorithms – whether it’s the FEC, or the DBA, or our nonlinear algorithms – all of that flexibility is what allows us to push right up against the Shannon limit.
To do that, we found that operating at a lower baud rate provides us better spectral efficiency – and the result is an optimal 450 Gb/s per wave in order to achieve 28 Tb/s in total. This is a really interesting result because it means that as a submarine network operator starts to fill the cable, they could operate at high data rates, like 650 Gb/s, that are less spectrally efficient, but more cost effective on an interface basis…and then as the cable utilization increases, they can switch toward a lower data rate and higher spectral efficiency and add transponders to provide the capacity they need.
Geoff Bennett: And to be clear – did you just test one wavelength on the entire fiber, so there was no chance of inter-channel interference?
Pierre Mertz: No, that wouldn’t be a realistic result. We always try to test as close to reality as we can because we use amplified spontaneous emission (ASE) utilizing ASE noise generators – these are like an erbium-doped fiber amplifier on steroids – to generate optical load across the entire spectrum, just like if you fill the fiber with data channels.
So, we’re not actually breaking the laws of physics…however, we’re pushing them harder and harder. In this diagram you can see a simplified Shannon equation. It really only has two terms on the right-hand side – the bandwidth term, B, and the log term based on the signal (S)-to-noise (N) ratio. When MAREA was first brought into service, the amplifier bandwidth was exceptional because they have a very flat gain over about 4.5 THz. Increasing that amplifier bandwidth versus older submarine amplifier technology increased the capacity in a linear fashion. Inside the log term is where ICE6 is doing the work, and on the graph you can see that if we increase the capability of the transponder, it gets harder and harder to translate that into more capacity.
Geoff Bennett: So, Steve, I assume Facebook still needs additional submarine network capacity growth year on year – where do you go next on the technology roadmap?
Steve Grubb:We still have capacity on MAREA, with additional fiber pairs to light up. We are also continuing to build and plan new submarine cables. The great thing about ICE6 is that, as Pierre said, the higher data rate per wave, the better the cost per bit – and that includes the fact that we need fewer transponders that consume less rack space and less electrical power. The 28 Tb/s option with ICE6 reduces the network element count by 60% vs. the boxes previously required for 24 Tb/s…that’s a huge improvement, especially in cable landing stations where real estate and power are often at a premium.
Where do we go after that? Long-term, the trend for new submarine cables is space-division multiplexing, or SDM, a topic that Pierre and I also gave a webinar presentation on along with Dr. Sergei Makovejs of Corning. In simple terms, SDM is where we would design a cable system based on less capacity per fiber pair, but the ability to support more fiber pairs per cable. In fact, there is a viable roadmap toward a 1 petabit trans-Atlantic cable in the next five to 10 years, should we need to stay on the same growth trajectory.
Geoff Bennett: That’s an amazing prediction – however, I know submarine network demand is forecast to grow to the point where we may need that petabit cable even sooner! Steve and Pierre –