What's New and Next in Optical Technology: 100G, IPoWDM, P-OTS and WSS Show Good Potential

Optics Feature

What's New and Next in Optical Technology: 100G, IPoWDM, P-OTS and WSS Show Good Potential

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

Ongoing demand for network capacity drove an increase in optical network equipment spending in the second quarter in the Americas and the Asia Pacific, according to Infonetics Research. The firm noted that ADVA, Fujitsu and Infinera all saw significant new optical business in North America in the quarter. That contributed to a worldwide optical network hardware market increase of 2.9 percent between the first and second quarters of this year, bringing it to the $3.05 billion mark. 

Key optical technologies drawing dollars and interest in the marketplace include everything from the old favorites of 10G, 40G and 100G; to IP over WDM; packet-optical transport systems; and wavelength selective switching.

40G, 100G and Beyond

Growing network traffic continues to drive deployments of 10G and 40G optical and Ethernet ports on enterprise and service provider equipment. Infonetics says 40G ports shipped on enterprise and service provider equipment doubled in 2009; meanwhile, annual port shipments of 10G and 40G enterprise and service provider ports jumped 38 percent in 2009, a year in which worldwide revenue from such ports totaled $11.1 billion. Strong growth on the high-speed port front is expected to continue, with forecasts that 10G, 40G, and 100G port shipments will increase ten-fold from 2009 to 2014.

Of course, we’ve been hearing about 100G for some time, and it remains one of the hottest topics in the optical realm. What’s new is that, after talking about it for several years, the industry actually now appears to be moving forward with 100G in a real way. Standards around 100G are finally starting to come together, and we’ve seen some early trials of this technology.

Within the last six months to a year industry standards such as the ITU’s work to incorporate 100G into G.709, which was completed in December; the IEEE’s (News - Alert) client-side efforts around 100gigE, which was approved in July; and the 100G multisource agreement defining the optical module itself have taken shape, says Randy Eisenach, head of WDM and OTN product planning for Fujitsu Network Communications.

But although we’ve seen some service providers taking 100G for a test drive, Eisenach says those activities have been based on prototype modules exclusively, not on large volume gear. It’ll be about a year and a half until 100G starts hitting networks on a commercial scale, he says, noting that Fujitsu will be there both with turnkey solutions and components when that happens.

Not only does Fujitsu Network Communications have a variety of Ethernet demarcation, multiservice provisioning platform, packet optical networking, ROADM and WDM products, but Fujitsu Optical Components is a leading source of DPQPSK modulators and coherent receivers, two key components in 100G systems, and Fujitsu Microelectronics is a key provider of high-speed ADC (News - Alert) DSP chips.

“Fujitsu inside is going to be pretty common on a lot of people’s 100G developments,” Eisenach says.

The two driving forces of 100G technology, he adds, are router interconnect and WDM system and/or fiber exhaust. Service providers are trying to align the dates on which they will introduce 100G on transport platforms with when they will adopt 100G on router platforms. That, which is expected to happen late in 2011, will enable service providers to take the 100G flows coming off routers and interconnect those to other routers across metropolitan or long-haul routes.

On the WDM side, Eisenach continues, 100G platforms can be a nice solution for service providers with lots of 10G client signals and a WDM route that is out of bandwidth or a fiber network that has reached capacity. The solution here would be to install 100G muxsponders to improve the efficiency of existing systems, thus pushing off new WDM or fiber investments to a later date.

Ericsson’s Director of Transport Marketing David Giaina says the core of the network is where service providers really need a long-term plan to move to 40G and 100G. Ericsson is rolling out both of the above with its service provider customers, he says. The company has added redundancy on some very long-haul routes using WDM without generation, Giaina continues, and its 40G products can be used on some pretty poor quality fiber thanks to Ericsson’s modulation and amplification technologies.

The challenges of moving to 100G include reach and addressing the performance characteristics you run into when you move to higher speeds, notes Dave Brown, director of transport applications marketing for the optics products division at Alcatel-Lucent. However, he adds, Alcatel-Lucent believes its differentiator is the fact that its customers can deploy the company’s 100G solutions in both existing and new networks.

Confidence that service providers will continue to move to 40G and soon adopt 100G was exemplified with Cisco Systems’ recent acquisition of CoreOptics (News - Alert). Mike Capuano, director of service provider marketing at Cisco, says the optical DSP technology from CoreOptics will enable Cisco to accelerate the industry’s move to 40G, 100G and beyond. With the CoreOptics deal Cisco got both 10G and 40G transponders for metropolitan, regional and long-haul optical systems using different protocols, as well as an expanded optical presence in Europe.


Elsewhere on the optics front, IPoDWDM has begun to gain traction.

“Contrary to the general industry impression that there is little interest in deploying IPoDWDM on routers, a surprisingly large percentage of the service providers we surveyed recently are using or will use IPoDWDM on routers: about half in 2010, and 70 percent by 2012,” says Michael Howard (News - Alert), principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics.

The firm interviewed for the study 20 major service providers that represent 45 percent of the world’s telecom capex spend and 38 percent of worldwide telecom revenue. Infonetics also reports that while adoption of OTN routers is similar, it’s expected to be slower in the short term.

Mike Capuano, director of service provider marketing at Cisco, says that the main application for IPoDWDM solutions is in network backbones where routers connect together. He says a carrier might have a router with a short reach optical link to a cross-connect or SONET box. Out of that box another short reach wavelength might be going into a transponder, and out of the transponder the traffic goes to an add/drop mux. This scenario would involve five different interfaces, he says, which is pretty inefficient in terms of network cost and management. However, by bringing in IPoDWDM, he says, you integrate the transponder functionality into the router, so the router just spits out a wavelength.

Cisco had publicly announced 10 IPoDWDM customers as of late August, but Capuano says he wouldn’t categorize this technology as being in widespread use. That said, he adds that those who are using IPoDWDM are deploying it broadly, and the technology is “crossing the chasm” toward becoming mainstream.


While IPoDWDM systems are seeing good traction, it is packet-optical transport systems that Infonetics believes will be the bedrock of future optical networks. So says Andrew Schmitt, the firm’s directing analyst for optical.

There is some debate within the service provider community as to just what constitutes a P-OTS solution; however, many define it as the unification of the optical, circuit, and packet layers into one piece of optical hardware, according to Infonetics, which notes in a recent report that Fujitsu and Tellabs (News - Alert) grew revenue in the P-OTS market segment based on continued shipments to Verizon and other customers.

Eisenach says Fujitsu’s Flashwave 9500 is one of fastest-ramping products in the company’s product history. Verizon and 12 to 15 other service providers use it and are ramping up the ROADM and connection-oriented Ethernet capabilities of it.

“I think as the systems evolve in the future they’re going to evolve down two tracks,” he says.  “One will be packet optical networking platforms kind of in the metro area for gigE and lower services. And for gigE and above services, our view is it will probably get mapped into OTN payloads.”


Indeed, as Eisenach mentions, ROADM capabilities are seeing good carrier uptake. So well, in fact, that Schmitt at Infonetics says: “In a tough year for the overall optical network hardware market, the WDM ROADM optical segment has been the bright light in a dim room, and wavelength selective switches are the key component used by this equipment. WSS consumption has exploded due to aggressive ROADM deployment by carriers such as Verizon, and we see no end to this trend.”

Eisenach continues that an interesting, but just emerging, optical technology that’s gaining notice is something called flex grid wavelength selective switching. He emphasizes that this technology is probably three to five years away, but a lot of papers are being presented on it at various optical events.

“Today, all the transport systems – ROADM systems and WSSs – are designed and built from scratch to either support 40-50gHz spaced channels, or 40-100ghz spaced channels, or 50gHz spacing,” he says. “Every channel is very fixed. It’s always 50gHz spacing and you get 80 or 88 channels out of your ROADM system; or it’s 100gHz spacing and you get somewhere around 40 or 44 channels out of ROADM system.

“But, in reality, we don’t really need 50gHz or 100gHz to transport all of these signals down a fiber,” he says. “We could put 10gbps signals in as small as 25gHz spacing. [And] 40gbps signals are actually a pretty good fit for 50gHz-spaced systems. And 100gHz systems would actually be more optimized if they were on 100gHz channel spacing.”

Flex grid WSS would allow channel spacing to be altered based on the particular requirements of the payload.

“That’s never, ever been done before,” says Eisenach.

Edited by Tammy Wolf


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