Open Networks move closer to wide deployment at OFC 2018

LightCounting publishes Research Note on OFC 2018

The fiber optics industry is booming and OFC 2018 attendance was up 10% from last year. Expectations for the future are high as optical connectivity is a key technology for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G mobile networks. However, it remains uncertain how service providers and networks operators develop new business models and revenue streams from AI and 5G. It is clear that service providers want optical networks to have lower operating costs, and greater service flexibility, and many are exploring a move to using open networks to accomplish this. Some are starting with a limited approach, like OpenROADM, an intermediate approach, like open line systems, and some with an end to end open networking approach. All were evident at OFC 2018.

Scott Montford of AT&T presented an aggressive posture on open optical transport systems, both at a workshop and again in a Market Watch presentation, saying that AT&T was ‘working out the kinks’ of open systems this year, and moving to 100% open systems in 2019 (excluding their long haul/submarine networks). This is surely one of the most aggressive adoption schedules we have heard of from a traditional service provider.

One event that Scott mentioned several times was that AT&T was required to make “last time buys” of 40G transceivers in 2017, and with one order in the range of $40-50 million, it is clear why this gave them some major heartburn.  One stated benefit of moving to open networks is that AT&T will be able to purchase network equipment via a reverse auction each quarter, with all qualified vendors allowed to bid every quarter. Their goal is “no vendor lock-in”. Montford said that this will allow them to “cut and run” on hardware vendors if they don’t meet AT&T’s required price points, which he believes will translate into a 50% reduction in capex vs. present mode of operation.  Open systems will also allow them to upgrade capacity a span at a time vs. having to do it en masse across the entire network. In the long run, open networks will save money in opex via fewer truck rolls, and as they move away from the older Telcordia (Bellcore) OSS to newer SDN/NFV net management tools.
Vnayak Dungui of Facebook also talked about open systems in a presentation about optical technology in Facebook’s terrestrial networks. When asked over what timeframe Facebook was going to adopt open optical systems, he replied that ““Facebook doesn’t do anything over long time frames, it doesn’t believe in multi-year projects.”  Taken at face value, this comment suggests Facebook is on an adoption curve that may be as aggressive as AT&T’s. But by the same token, it also calls into question whether Facebook will be deploying the Voyager open transponder which it designed.

Several vendors announced ‘open’ products at OFC also. Juniper introduced the ACX6360 UNIVERSAL METRO ROUTER, which looks very similar to Voyager. It combines transport and router functions in a 1RU system with eight 200G pluggable coherent CFP2 ports and twenty client 100GbE QSFP28 ports. It supports full Layer 3 functionality, while Voyager is limited to Layer 2.

Hidoki Nakamura of NTT gave a presentation on a version of the Cassini white box transponder developed in conjunction with Edgecore Networks. The NTT version provides eight 200G coherent ports and sixteen 100G QSFP28 ports. The coherent line cards use a CFP2-ACO, and NTT’s new ‘TERA’ DSP that does 65Gbaud in multiple modulation formats.

Ciena announced the 8180 Coherent Networking Platform, which also looks similar to Voyager, but it is a bit more powerful. It supports for 400G wavelengths and scales to 6.4 Tb/s of packet switching, clearly designed with DCI applications in mind. The latest version of Ciena’s 6500 Reconfigurable Line System can be deployed as integrated or disaggregated system. It also reduces footprint and expands fiber capacity with L-Band support.

The subject of open networks will be explored in greater detail in LightCounting’s forthcoming ‘Cloud Report’, titled “The Impact of Cloud Services on the Telecom Industry”, which will be published by April 30th.

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LightCounting is a leading optical communications market research company, offering semiannual market updates, forecasts, and state-of-the-industry reports based on its analysis of primary research with dozens of leading module, component, and system vendors as well as service providers and other users. LightCounting is the optical communications market’s first choice source for the accurate, detailed, and relevant information necessary for doing business in today’s highly competitive environment. For more information, visit: or follow us on Twitter at @LightCounting.