Industry Spotlight: Ciena’s Helen Xenos on 400G and Other Optical Trends

September 25th, 2017 by · Leave a Comment

Now that 100G has been with us for most of a decade, we should be about due for the next wave of technology.  And indeed we have started to see 200G solutions come out, and 400G appears to be just about ready.  Ciena is one of the companies pushing technology past current boundaries and is actively rolling out its own solution.  With us today to tell us what to expect and when to expect it is Ciena’s Helen Xenos. Helen is a senior director on the portfolio marketing team at Ciena and bears responsibility for taking the company’s converged packet-optical and high capacity coherent solutions to market.

TR: Where is the industry at right now with 200G, 400G, and other technologies?

HX: Today in the industry in general, operators are deploying technologies that offer up to 200Gbps channel capacities. However, we are at the stage where this now changing. We are at a turning point where next-generation coherent technologies that offer up to 400Gbps of channel capacity are becoming available. From a Ciena perspective, we’re very excited about this, because our WaveLogic Ai technology is the first coherent solution that brings this single carrier 400Gbps to the optical industry.

TR: When do you expect Ciena’s product to be ready?

HX: It’s available today.  We’ve already started shipping for initial customer deployments, and just last week AT&T announced that we successfully trialed the technology and Vodafone New Zealand announced a deployment.

TR: How does Ciena’s solution work on the technical side?  How will it affect spectral efficiency?

HX: By using higher bandwidth electro-optics, it’s going to operate at a higher baud rate, processing more information per second. Our customers are going to be able to deploy more capacity over their networks, but the signal itself is going to take up more spectrum than what they’re used to deploying today.  When carried as a super channel, it’s going to require 61.5Ghz, and if it’s carried on its own across the network it will require 75 gigahertz.

TR: What are the key benefits network operators might derive from moving up to Ciena’s 400G solutions?

HX: WaveLogic Ai processes the information faster, and is therefore able to provide higher capacity across a wide range of applications. That means that our customers can drive down their capex and power costs because they end up using fewer hardware elements in their networks and have fewer wavelengths to manage.  Also, because of the advances from a digital signal processing perspective, coherent optics are now becoming more programmable. They can generate different types of constellations, and this is what allows the user to tune the capacity to the needs of a particular application, whether it is 400G at over 300kilometers’ distance in the metro; 300G for regional distances up to 1,000 kilometers,  200G at over 3000km, and 100G over 7,000km. Network operators are looking to provide seamless, on-demand connectivity to their end users, no matter where they are.  They want their network to be able to drive both more capacity and scale.  They need it to be more flexible to accommodate different types of connectivity demands.  And they need it to allow for as much automation of operational tasks as possible.

TR: Where are 400G solutions likely to find application first?

HX: Certainly, for short-reach applications, e.g. DCI applications where they have cables in the ground with thousands of strands of fiber interconnecting the data centers. Yet with all the traffic that ICPs and data center operators are seeing, they’re expecting that the fiber is going to be completely filled up in the next five years. New technology that allows them to scale and manage their networks more easily, or simply be able to do more with less is an advantage and something people are looking to deploy. More generally, network operators want to deploy the technology to tune the optics and maximize capacity for whatever the reach is that they need. Over long haul lengths, they’ll use it at 200G. Over more regional distances, they’ll use it at 300G. And over shorter distances they’ll use it at 400G. One of the early deployments is going to be in a subsea application on the Monet cable system with Angola Cables, where we’re able to get unregenerated 200G channels across greater than 10,500 kilometers, which is pretty significant and is more than double the capacity using today’s cables and coherent technologies.

TR: What kind of customer do you see as driving demand initially?

HX: Big content providers are definitely the initial first movers. Then there are also large telecom operators and MSOs as they’re building new networks or upgrading their network.

TR: In which global markets do you think the demand will be greatest initially?

HX: I would say there is a lot of demand in North America, some in the Asian high growth regions as well, and subsea as well. Those are the key areas that I’m seeing the most demand initially.

TR: When and how should we expect various implementations of Ciena’s technology to be rolled out?

HX: We will be offering three product implementations of the new WaveLogic Ai technology. We are going to have it on the 6500 Packet-Optical Platform, which is our multipurpose platform that consolidates DWDM, OTN switching, and packet switching into one platform and is built to support a very flexible mix of services. This is what would be used by a large service provider building a next generation network or for subsea applications. We’re also going to be offering WaveLogic Ai with our Waveserver Ai platform which is a very compact 1RU stackable platform that’s really optimized for the content-provider and for DCI applications, offering very high-density, high-capacity connectivity for a server-like operational model. And thirdly, which we announced at OFC last year, we are going to be offering the Wavelogic Ai technology as a modem through our partners at Neophotonics, Oclaro, and Lumentum. They will be offering it in a five by seven MSA type form factor to other customers in the industry as well.  The 6500 and the Waveserver Ai are being shipped to our customers now and are starting to be deployed.  The modem would be in the 2018 time frame, with our partners making the announcements when they’re offering it to their customers.

TR: Is 400G for long-haul operations something that is also going to be available soon?

HX: Today and for the foreseeable future, it’s more for shorter distances. It depends on the state of electro optics technology. With a higher baud rate of the coherent solution, we could be able to in the future get to a stage of 400G long-haul. Certainly, that is a requirement for situations where spectral efficiency really is very important, e.g. submarine applications in particular or long-haul networks. But the technology is not there yet at this point.

TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!

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