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THE RACE TO 800G: 800G was a hot topic at industry events during the first quarter of the year, with two companies bringing the first offerings to market.

In the weeks leading up to this year's OFC, two companies announced their roadmaps for the next generation of coherent technology, focusing on new DSPs and optics designed to reach maximum speeds of 800Gb/s. More importantly, said the OFC post-show report, to deliver speeds of 200Gb/s and 400Gb/s over longer distances. Like 400ZR, these DSP chips use the latest generation (and most expensive) 7nm silicon processes and cost tens of millions of dollars to design and prototype.

Infinera's launch was the sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine, ICE6, which features dual-channel 800Gb/s per wave. Part of The Infinite Network, ICE6 builds on the ICE4 and Instant Bandwidth with a 1.6Tb/s optical engine, allowing network operators to meet the bandwidth growth requirements and increasingly dynamic, unpredictable traffic flows.

The Infinite Network is what Infinera describes as a 'disruptive end-to-end network architecture, designed to pave the way to instantly scalable, self-optimising networks.' The architectural framework is designed to help operator customers address challenges in efficiently scaling networks to support bandwidth growth, alongside bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive applications.

Addressing challenges

The launch also signifies the unity of Infinera's and Coriant's portfolios, following the acquisition by the former of the latter, as Rob Shore, SVP marketing at Infinera, explained: 'The Infinite Network represents two things, one is the visionary architectural framework, the other is the unification of the two companies, leveraging some of the unique capabilities of each and picking and choosing which are the best things to address the challenges our customers are facing.'

Coriant had a really strong SDN solution, Shore explained. 'It didn't have a lot of revenue on it,' he said, 'but it had a lot of strong capabilities, particularly with multi-layer. As Infinera realised some of the extra components that we got, we realised that we have not only a unique end-to-end solution, but also some really unique qualities and capabilities.

'That's when we started putting this Infinite Network together, looking at how can we leverage those, plus recognise what's going on in the industry, what challenges our customers are facing, and how we can leverage some of these capabilities to provide some differentiated solutions for them.'

The network consists of the Infinite Core, the Infinite Edge and Cognitive Networking. The Infinite Core addresses operator challenges in core networks, delivering optical performance from metro to subsea, including 600Gb/s per wavelength transmission, improved capacity-reach performance and flexible, scaleable software defined capacity on demand with instant bandwidth. Building on these capabilities, the newly launched ICE6 is engineered to deliver up to 800Gb/s per wavelength and an expanded toolkit of advanced coherent technologies.

Packaged in a cross-platform digital coherent module, ICE6 combines the company's sixth-generation photonic integrated circuit (PIC) with its in-house 7nm FlexCoherent digital signal processor (DSP) technology. ICE6 is available already, with the FlexCoherent 6 DSP available in quarter three, and the complete optical engine available by the end of the year. Platforms powered by ICE6 are due to be commercially available in the second half of 2020.

Featuring a second-generation probabilistic constellation shaping engine, powered by 7nm technology and a comprehensive toolkit of advanced coherent technologies, ICE6 will deliver up to 45 per cent higher maximum capacity per fibre, streamlined operations and lowest total cost of ownership.

Assisting operators

Dr Dave Welch, Infinera founder and chief innovation officer, said: 'Similar to the launch of ICE4, ICE6 will transform the market by delivering cutting-edge technology, designed in-house, enabling network operators to respond to the insatiable demand for capacity quickly, while optimising costs.'

Andrew Schmitt, directing analyst, optical networking at Cignal AI, stated: 'Infinera has historically been a leader in photonic integration and at the forefront of developing solutions in-house, exemplified by high-volume shipments of multiple generations of coherent engines. ICE6 should demonstrate similar leadership, with levels of optical performance that deliver greater capacity and reach for network operators.'

Ciena's latest addition is the WaveLogic range of technology products, which includes a single-wavelength 800G solution. The new technology is delivered in two solutions: WaveLogic 5 Extreme (WL5e) and WaveLogic 5 Nano (WL5n). In WL5e, tunable bandwidth up to 800G provides what the company calls significant efficiency advantages over 600G solutions, allowing customers to take advantage of the pending introduction of 400G interfaces in the data centre. A range of form factors allows customers to choose the best option in meeting network architecture requirements for certain applications, based on specific space, power and operational requirements.

Efficient transport

WL5e provides programmable capacity in 50G increments over a single-wavelength 800G solution, which means, according to Ciena, that it delivers 50 per cent more capacity per wavelength and up to 20 per cent higher spectral efficiency. It also enables an elegant evolution to emerging 400GbE-interface routers, with the ability to efficiently transport 400GbE client rates at any distance, from across the metro to across the ocean.

WL5n addresses the market of footprint-optimised coherent solutions for 100 to 400G applications. It supports a range of solutions that meet specific space, power and operational requirements, from standalone pluggables for 400ZR single-span DCI applications, to extended-temperature, standards-based optical modules for access applications, to compact coherent optics with seamless photonic layer integration for certain metro/regional applications.

WaveLogic 5 has seen Ciena's investment focus move towards key foundational technologies beyond digital signal processing (DSP), to include high-speed electro-optic components based on both silicon photonics and indium phosphide. This allows the company full control of the design of its coherent optical solutions.

The WaveLogic 5 range will be available in the second half of the year. WL5e and WL5n technology will be offered across the company's Converged Packet Optical and Packet Networking portfolios, and will be made available for use in third-party equipment via Ciena's Optical Microsystems portfolio.

Future planning

Scott McFeely, senior vice president of global products and services at Ciena, said: 'An important part of Ciena's success has always been our ability to anticipate market trends and strategically invest and out-innovate the competition to solve our customers business problems. WaveLogic 5 is another example of that leadership ability at work, underpinned by the financial strength, global scale and superior engineering expertise that affords us the confidence in continuing to deliver as promised on our forward roadmap commitments.'

Andrew Schmitt, directing analyst at Cignal AI, said: 'With the WaveLogic5 family, Ciena raises the bar once more for the optical networking market. WaveLogic5 incorporates aggressive vertical integration, coupled with a more open business strategy and a bold technical vision surpassing the goals of any of the earlier WaveLogic generations.'

Neil J McRae, chief architect at BT added: 'With WaveLogic 5, Ciena continues to push the boundaries of coherent optics and create a solution that will help reduce cost per bit and speed up our ability to turn up services more efficiently.

This is critical in today's highly competitive environment, driven by our customers' relentless demand for greater connectivity and bandwidth-consuming services.'

While Huawei did not announce any new coherent product launches, the company did hint that it will continue to invest in higher baud rate DSPs and coherent solutions.

According to the OFC post-show report, some of the equipment vendors and operators were somewhat sceptical about these solutions, in terms of high-volume applications, compared with standardised, commoditised 400ZR+ solutions. It stated that, given the massive investment and effort required, a substantial cost/bit reduction with these new 800Gb/s solutions will be the most important metric of success.
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Author:Portway, Keely
Publication:Fibre Systems
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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