In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has transitioned to the confines of their houses. As a result, many businesses have moved to a work-from-home model to stay afloat in this trying time. While there are certainly upsides—for instance, having the shortest commute ever, getting accompanied by adorably furry co-workers, and finding unfettered access to snacks—it is still a major adjustment that many were not prepared for.
Work-at-home initiatives during the pandemic are putting excessive stress on carrier and data center networks. With a huge chunk of the global population tethered to the world of online entertainment, the pressure on data carriers is increasing in terms of providing uninterrupted and high-speed internet connectivity at an affordable rate. However, these data carriers are often limited by the current technology at their disposal. Despite the promise of supporting 400G and 600G headline data rate from these tools, the actual capacity is often much lower, putting a serious speed constraint on the internet providers. Moreover, the current technologies have shortcomings in terms of the distance it can cover without dropping the data rate further below. However, not all hope is lost. Similar to how every crisis sees the rise of an emancipator taking the center-stage and lead the world in a new direction, the field of optical connectivity has found its deliverance in the latest development at Infinera [NASDAQ: INFN].
"The new capabilities of Infinera’s GX Series facilitate the expansion of the compact modular market beyond ICPs to include traditional Service Providers as well"
Founded in 2000, Infinera is one of the mavens that provide an end-to-end portfolio of packet-optical solutions for the long-haul, metro, and cloud. The company has recently announced the successful completion of a live network trial of 800G single-wavelength transmission at 96 gigabaud over 950 km across a long-haul link in a major North American network operator’s production network. Powered by Infinera’s sixth-generation dual-800G Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6) technology, this achievement signals a significant industry milestone in driving down the cost per bit of telecommunications networks. The trial highlights the ability of Infinera’s 800G technology that is designed to enable network operators to rapidly and cost-effectively address the increasing capacity demands of new services such as 5G, enhanced broadband, and cloud-based business services.
The Catalyst for Improvements
Even though long-haul 800G is very likely to bring down network costs, optimize transportation, and ultimately improve service delivery, it won’t be limited to the long-haul alone. This race to 800G and similar capacity-focused transportation can also prove beneficial for more footprint-optimized solutions, particularly the 400G services that provide the crucial and in-demand links between data centers. While 800G transport is a headline-grabber in its own right, a further benefit is expected to come from what it highlights, such as a wider 400G transmission. As Tom Fallon, the CEO and director of the company, highlights, the technology currently available on the 400G market is currently more focused on local and metro/regional rather than the long-haul, while improved 800G transportation over longer distances can connect data centers, move into access networks, and enable localized 5G transport.
Another development that also rises from the recent 800G gains is 400ZR—an optical networking agreement in place to provide a footprint-optimized solution for high-capacity data transport over shorter distances.
Even though long-haul 800G is very likely to bring down network costs, optimize transportation, and ultimately improve service delivery, it won’t be limited to the long-haul alone
With connecting data centers one of the key applications, 400ZR aims to be pluggable, interoperable, and eventually as disaggregated as possible. As a result, with 800G moving from trial to rollout, the industry can expect to see a knock-on effect in local and metro connection improvements as well.
A Complimentary Suite of Solution
It is important to note that the success of the long-haul wouldn’t have been possible without the existing solutions that Infinera has already been offering to its clients. Founded on a vision of enabling an infinite pool of intelligent bandwidth powered by software-activated on-demand service provisioning, Infinera has already taken that proven capability from the core to the edge of the network with an expanded portfolio. The solutions suite is built upon proven expertise in optical, packet-optical, and IP transport, and leverages software-enabled automation capabilities that simplify service provisioning and reduce operational complexity in multi-layer, multi-domain, and multi-vendor networks. To this extent, Infinera moves ahead of the curve industry leadership in vertically integrated solutions that include an in-house developed photonic integrated circuit (PIC) and application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips and unique software solutions packaged together to deliver networks that offer ultra-high performance, yet remain easy to deploy, use and operate.
Additionally, Infinera’s ICE optical engine, the integral component of the long-haul, combines the company’s in-house-developed, industry-leading FlexCoherent digital signal processor (DSP) with its revolutionary optical front-end based on highly integrated and ultra-compact photonic integrated circuit technology. With industry-leading vertical integration, ICE provides superior optical performance that enables network operators to transmit more information over greater distances with world-record-setting spectral efficiency. This unique technology also provides the basis for Infinera’s Instant Bandwidth solution, which enables service activation a click, dramatically reducing operational effort, accelerating time to revenue, and eliminating many of the challenges associated with network planning and forecasting.
Infinera has also recently unveiled the expansion of its industry-leading Groove (GX) Series of open, compact, and modular transport solutions with first-of-its-kind sled-based architecture. The GX Series expansion leverages the power of sled-based architectures to bring operational efficiency and accelerated innovation cycles of compact modular solutions to a broader customer base. This expansion includes support for Infinera’s industry-leading sixth-generation ICE6 technology, carrier-grade features, high-density chassis, and a wide variety of advanced sled capabilities. The modular transport solution is designed to enable network operators to leverage the open, efficient, and flexible aspects of compact modular solutions for a significantly broader set of network applications.
It adds improved scalability and carrier-grade features to a modern data center-style networking approach with chassis options that streamline and accelerate large-scale deployments in a wide variety of data center and traditional service provider networks. These features include NEBS Level 3 compliance, field-replaceable redundant controllers; both AC and DC power supplies, enhanced security, 300-millimeter (mm), and 600-mm ETSI-compliant shelf variants, and multi-chassis single-element configurations. These advances represent the continuation of Infinera’s vision to bring open, modular, cost-effective solutions to its customers. The new capabilities of Infinera’s GX Series facilitate the expansion of the compact modular market beyond ICPs to include traditional Service Providers as well.
The Infinera Optical Innovation Center
Notably, Infinera capitalizes on its Optical Innovation Center (OIC), a multi-discipline optoelectronic R&D, to enable an infinite pool of intelligent bandwidth that the next communications infrastructure is built upon. The OIC comprises a world-class team of scientists and engineers with a proven track record of delivering game-changing advanced optical solutions. A highly vertically integrated organization, the OIC takes innovative solutions from conception to development all through to production. Core OIC disciplines of Infinera include coherent ASIC/DSP design, photonic integrated circuit (PIC) design and manufacturing, analog ASIC design, advanced packaging design and manufacturing, and holistic co-design, including the RF interconnect. Developing all these component technologies in-house, as well as packaging them into the final module in-house, ensures that industry-leading performance and capabilities can be delivered in the final products. Markedly, the OIC has a long history of industry firsts, including the first large-scale PIC, the first coherent PIC, the first commercial super-channels, the first Nyquist subcarriers, and the first point-to-multipoint coherent technology. Additional OIC innovation highlights include SD-FEC gain sharing, long-codeword probabilistic constellation shaping (LC-PCS), and dynamic bandwidth allocation (DBA). These innovations enabled the fourth-generation optical engine to set multiple subsea spectral efficiency records, and they are also behind the industry-leading 800G reach of Infinera’s latest optical engine, ICE6, as well as Infinera’s game-changing XR optics.
Foraying into the Future
In today’s fast-paced communications environment, where connectivity demands continue to scale, and end-user service differentiation is increasingly defined by speed and agility, Infinera is uniquely positioned to help its customers compete, succeed and thrive. Having already established its prowess, Infinera is now aiming the technology at hub-to-hub, long-haul transport applications like those used for subsea communications or to connect cities and data centers across large distances. Infinera has additional trials of its 800G-capable ICE6 transceivers planned for the coming months. These will include distance trials of the technology when tuned to 600G. With such ambitious plans, Infinera is now poised to take the world to an era of infinitely scalable bandwidth.