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Infinera adds software to its PIC for instant bandwidth 

Infinera has enabled its DTN-X platform to deliver rapidly 100 Gigabit services. The ability to fulfill capacity demand quickly is seen as a competitive advantage by operators. Gazettabyte spoke with Infinera and TeliaSonera International Carrier, a DTN-X customer, about the merits of its 'instant bandwidth' and asked several industry analysts for their views.

Infinera has added a WDM line card hosting its 500 Gigabit super-channel photonic integrated circuit to its DTN-X platform

Pravin Mahajan, Infinera.


Infinera is claiming an industry first with the software-enablement of 100 Gigabit capacity increments. The company's DTN-X platform's 'instant bandwidth' feature shortens the time to add new capacity in the network, from weeks as is common today to less than a day.

The ability to add bandwidth as required is increasingly valued by operators. TeliaSonera International Carrier points out that its traffic demands are increasingly variable, making capacity requirements harder to forecast and manage. 

"It [the DTN-X's instant bandwidth] enables us to activate 100 Gig services between network spans to manage our own IP traffic which is growing rapidly," says Ivo Pascucci, head of sales, Americas at TeliaSonera International Carrier. "We will also be able to sell in the market 100 Gig services and activate the capacity much more rapidly."


What has been done

Infinera has added three elements to enable its DTN-X platform to enable 100 Gigabit services.

One is a new wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) line card that features its 500 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) super-channel photonic integrated circuit (PIC). Infinera says the line card has 500Gbps of capacity enabled, of which only 100Gbps is activated. "The remaining 400Gbps is latent, waiting to be activated," says Pravin Mahajan, director of corporate marketing and messaging at Infinera.

Infinera uses the DTN-X's Optical Transport Network (OTN) switch fabric to pack the client side signals onto any of the 100Gbps channels activated on the line side. This capacity pool of up to 500 Gbps, says Infinera, results in better usage of backbone capacity compared to traditional optical networking equipment based on individual 100Gbps 'siloed' channels.

A software application has also been added to Infinera's network management system, the digital network administrator (DNA), to activate the 100Gbps capacity increments.

Lastly, Infinera has in place a just-in-time system that enables client-side 10 Gigabit Ethernet optical transceivers to be delivered to customers within 10 days, if they out of stock. Infinera says it is achieving a 6-day delivery time in 95% of the cases.




TeliaSonera International Carrier confirms the advantages to having 100 Gigabit capacities pre-provisioned and ready for use.


"Having the ability to turn up large bandwidth is critical to our business, especially as the [traffic] numbers continue to grow"  

Ivo Pascucci, TeliaSonera International Carrier



"If it is individual line cards across the network when you have as many PoPs as we do, it does get tricky," says Pascucci. "If we have 500 Gig channels pre-provisioned with the ability to activate 100 Gig segments as needed, that gives us an advantage versus having to figure out how many line cards to have deployed in which nodes, and forecasting which nodes should have the line cards in the first place." 

The operator is already seeing demand for 100 Gigabit services, from the carrier market and large content providers. The operator already provides 10x10Gbps and 20x10Gbps services to customers. "With that there are all the challenges of provisioning ten or 20 10 Gig circuits and 10 or 20 cross-connects for each site," says Pascucci.  The operator also manages one and two Terabits of network capacity for certain customers. 

"Having the ability to turn up large bandwidth is critical to our business, especially as the [traffic] numbers continue to grow," says Pascucci.


Analysts' comments

Gazettabye asked several industry analysts about the significance of Infinera's announcement. In particular the uniqueness of the offering, the claim to reduce rapidly bandwidth enablement times and its importance for operators.


Infonetics Research

Andrew Schmitt, directing analyst for optical

Schmitt believes Infinera's announcement is significant as it is the first announced North American win. It also shows the company has a solution for carriers that only want to roll out a single 100 Gbps but don't want to buy 500Gbps.

More importantly, it should allow some carriers to deploy extra capacity for future use at no cost to them and that opens up interesting possibilities for automatically switched optical network (ASON) management or even software-defined networking (SDN).

"As to the claim that it reduces capacity enablement from weeks to potential minutes, to some degree, yes," says Schmitt.

Certainly Ciena, Alcatel-Lucent or Cisco could ship extra line cards into customers and not charge the customer until they are used and that would effectively achieve the same result. "But if the PIC truly has better economics than the discrete solutions from these vendors then Infinera can ship hardware up front and then recognise the profits on the back end," he says.


"You simply can't predict where the best places to put bandwidth will be" 


In turn, if customers get free inventory management out of the deal and Infinera equipment can support that arrangement more economically, that is a significant advantage for Infinera.

"This instant bandwidth is unique to Infinera. As I said, anyone could do this deal. But you need a hardware cost structure that can support it or it gets expensive quickly," says Schmitt. "Everyone is working on super-channels but it is clear from the legacy of the way the 10 Gig DTN hardware and software worked that Infinera gets it."

Schmitt believes the term super-channel is abused. He prefers the term virtualised bandwidth - optical capacity that can be allocated the same way server or storage resources are assigned through virtualization.

"The SDN hype is hitting strong in this business but Infinera is really one of the only companies that have a history of a hardware and software architecture that lends itself well to this concept," he says. This is validated with its customer list which is loaded heavily with service providers that are not just talking about SDN but actively doing something, he says.

"It [turning capacity up quickly] is important for SDN as well as more advanced protection arrangements. You simply can't predict where the best places to put bandwidth will be," says Schmitt. "If you can have spare capacity in the network that is lit on demand but not paid for if you don't need it, it is the cheapest approach for avoiding overbuilding a network for corner-case requirements.

"I think the accounting for this product will be interesting, it is likely that we will know in a year how successful this concept was just by a careful examination of the company's financials," he concludes.


ACG Research

Eve Griliches, vice president of optical networking

Infinera delivered this year the DTN-X with 500 Gig super-channels based on PIC technology. Now, a new 500 Gig line card has been added that can operate at 100 Gig and the remaining 400 Gig can be lit in 100 Gig increments using software. This allows customers to purchase 100 Gig at a time, and turn up subsequent bandwidth via software when they require it.

“No other vendor has a software-based solution, and no one else is delivering 500 Gig yet either,” says Griliches.

With this solution, ACG Research says in its research note, operators can start to develop a flexible infrastructure where bandwidth can grow and move around the network instantly. This is useful to address varying demands in bandwidth, triggered by incidents such as natural disasters or sporting events.

Rapid bandwidth enablement has always been important and takes way too long, so this development is key, says Griliches: “Also, it enables Infinera to enter markets which only need one 100 Gig wavelength for now, which they could not do before.”


“No other vendor has a software-based solution, and no one else is delivering 500 Gig yet either”


Looking forward, ACG Research expects this software and hardware-based instant bandwidth utility model will enable Infinera to widen its potential market base and increase its global market share in 2013 and 2014.



Ron Kline, principal analyst, and Dana Cooperson, vice president, of the network infrastructure practice

Ovum also thinks Infinera's announcement is significant. It brings essentially the same value proposition Infinera had with 10 Gigabit to the 100 Gigabit market - low operational expenditure (opex) and quick time-to-market. ”Remember 10 Gig in 10 days?” says Kline.

It further fixes an issue for customers in that with the 10x10Gbps, they had to essentially pay for the full 100Gbps up front, and then they could be very efficient with turn-up and opex. Customers made an efficient opex for more capital expenditure (capex) up-front trade. "With instant bandwidth, they don't have to make the upfront capex-versus-opex tradeoff; they can be most efficient with both,” says Cooperson.


Any vendor can shorten capacity enablement times if they can convince the operator to pre-position bandwidth in the network that is ready to be turned on at a moment's notice.

Ron Kline


Kline says operators has different processes for turning up services and in many cases it is these processes and not the equipment directly that is the cause of the additional time for provisioning. “For example the operator may not use the DNA system or may have a very complex OSS/BSS used in the process,” says Kline.

Nevertheless, the capability to have really short provisioning is there, if an operator wants to take advantage. In the TeliaSonera case, Infinera is managing the network so the quick time to market will be there, says Kline.

Cooperson adds that there can be many factors that impede the capacity enablement process, based on Ovum's own research. “But it is clear from talking to Infinera's customers that its system design and approach is a big benefit to those carriers, often the competitive carriers, in competing in the market,” she says. “Multiple carriers told us that with the Infinera system, they were able to win business from competitors.”

Any vendor can shorten capacity enablement times if they can convince the operator to pre-position bandwidth in the network that is ready to be turned on at a moment's notice. However what is unique to Infinera is its system is deployed 500Gbps at a time and all the switching is done electrically by the OTN switch at each node. Others are working on super-channels but none are close to deploying, says Ovum.


“Multiple carriers told us that with the Infinera system, they were able to win business from competitors.”

Dana Cooperson


The ability to turn on bandwidth rapidly is becoming increasingly important. From a wholesale operator perspective it is very important and a key differentiator.

"It's particularly relevant to wholesale applications where large bandwidth chunks are required and the customer is another carrier," says Cooperson. "Whether you view a Google or a Facebook as a carrier or a very large enterprise, it would apply to them as well as a more traditional carrier."

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