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Real-time visibility makes optical networking smarter

Part 1: Ciena's Liquid Spectrum

Systems vendors are making optical networks smarter. Their latest equipment, combining intelligent silicon and software, can measure the status of the network and enable dynamic network management.

Ciena recently announced its Liquid Spectrum networking product while Infinera has launched its Instant Network. Both vendors exploit the capabilities of their latest generation coherent DSPs to allow greater network automation and efficiency. The vendors even talk about their products being an important step towards autonomous or cognitive networks.

"Operators need to do things more efficiently," says Helen Xenos, director, portfolio solutions marketing at Ciena. "There is a lot of unpredictability in how traffic needs to be connected over the network." Moreover, demands on the network are set to increase with 5G and the billions of devices to be connected with the advent of Internet of Things.

Existing optical networks are designed to meet worse-case conditions. Margins are built into links based on the fibre used and assumptions are made about the equipment's end-of-life performance and the traffic to be carried. Now, with Ciena's latest WaveLogic Ai coherent DSP-ASIC, not only is the performance of the network measured but the coherent DSP can be used to exploit the network's state rather than use the worse-case end-of-life conditions. "With Liquid Spectrum, you now don't need to operate the network in a static mode," says Xenos.


We are at the beginning of this new world of operating networks


Software applications

Ciena has announced the first four software applications as part of Liquid Spectrum. The first, Performance Meter, uses measured signal-to-noise ratio data from the coherent DSP-ASICs to gauge the network's state to determine how efficiently the network is operating.

Bandwidth Optimiser acts on the network planner's request for bandwidth. The app recommends the optimum capacity that can be run on the link, based on exploiting baud rate and the reach, and also where to place the wavelengths within the C-band spectrum. Moreover, if service demands change, the network engineer can decide to reduce the built-in margins. "I may decide I don't need to reserve a 3dB margin right now and drop it down to 1dB," says Xenos. Bandwidth Optimiser can then be rerun to see how the new service demand can be met.

This approach contrasts with the existing way end points are connected, where all the wavelengths used are at the same capacity, a user decides their wavelengths and no changes are made once the wavelengths are deployed. "It is much simpler, it [the app] takes away complexity from the user," says Xenos.

The Liquid Restoration app ensuring alternative capacity in response to the loss of a 300-gigabit route due to a fault. Source: Ciena

The two remaining apps launched are Liquid Restoration and Wave-Line Synchroniser. Liquid Restoration looks at all the available options if a particular path fails. "It will borrow against margin to get as much capacity as possible," says Xenos. Wave-Line Synchroniser is a tool that helps with settings so that Ciena's optics can work with another vendor's line system or optics from another vendor work with Ciena's line system.

Liquid Spectrum will be offered as a bundle as part of Ciena's latest BluePlanet Manage, Control and Plan tool that combines service and network management, resource control and planning.

Xenos says Liquid Spectrum represents the latest, significant remaining piece towards the industry's goal of developing an agile optical infrastructure. Sophisticated reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers (ROADMs) and flexible coherent DSPs have existed for a while but how such flexible technology has been employed has been limited because of the lack of knowledge of the real-time state of the network. Moreover, with these latest Liquid Spectrum software tools, much of the manual link engineering and complexity regarding what capacity can be supported and where in the spectrum it should be placed, says Xenos.

"We are at the beginning of this new world of operating networks," says Xenos. "Going forward, there will be an increasingly level of sophistication that will be built into the software."

Ciena demonstrated Liquid Spectrum at the OFC show held in Los Angeles last month.  


Part 2: Infinera's Instant Network, click here

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