Monday, September 7, 2015

Blueprint: Shining Light in New Directions with CDC-F

Remarkable improvements for optical networks on the horizon with CDC-F technology

by Scott Larrigan

Optical networks support everything we do online — from email and video conferencing at work to social media and streaming video at home. This demand for more and faster data communication is putting extreme pressure on the capacity of our optical networks.  However, the arrival of a new technology is set to dramatically ease this pressure and make optical networks much more efficient.

Known technically as Colorless, Connectionless, Contentionless with FlexGrid support — but referred to more simply as CDC-F wavelength routing — this technology allows the limited number of photonic light paths, or wavelengths, to be dynamically routed throughout an optical network almost as easily as a person shining a flashlight in a new direction. While it is a truly remarkable technology from a physics perspective, it is also remarkable from a business perspective, significantly reducing network cost of ownership and providing the foundation for high capacity Cloud access and SDN-based agility.

Traditional Use of Wavelengths in Optical Networks

Currently, most optical networks deploy multiple static wavelengths between devices to connect our data communications traffic electrically.  In the past these devices included SONET/SDH add/drop multiplexers, but today are mainly comprised of Optical Transport Network (OTN) switches, Ethernet switches and IP/MPLS routers.

The main reasons for this type of static wavelength deployment architecture were the lack of sophisticated software and economical photonic components. In the past, advanced optical components operating on the photonic level could not be packaged into devices and deployed in large numbers across a network economically. The software needed to route wavelengths more dynamically throughout the optical network didn’t have the required Operations, Administrative and Management (OAM) capabilities to monitor, troubleshoot and assure end-to-end wavelength performance.

Initially, these barriers were not a significant issue for the creation of efficient optical networks because service connectivity capacities were a smaller percentage of the capacity of the transporting wavelength. Hence, electronic switching was required to fill wavelengths to efficient carriage capacities.

In addition, service connectivity demands involved inter-connecting distributed compute and storage for enterprise sites. This resulted in many service connections with different source and destination endpoints spread out throughout the network and the need for electrical devices to efficiently fill transport wavelengths between these endpoints. Finally, the benchmark for service creation time intervals was in the timeframe of days, if not weeks. So if a new wavelength was required, or needed to be re-routed, there was no competitive pressure to accelerate these time intervals.

New network demands on optical networks

Today, new capacity, architectural and agility demands are being placed on optical networks:

  • Service connectivity capacities match, or even exceed, the capacities of the foundational transport wavelength capacities.  For example, routers with 100GE interface capacities match the speeds of foundational 100G optical transport wavelengths.
  • Service traffic demands are moving from inter-connecting sites with distributed compute and storage to connecting sites to more centralized Cloud compute and storage services.  Hence, higher service capacities will be required to interconnect enterprise sites to large Cloud compute and storage data centers. 
  • Cloud data centers may utilize NFV (network function virtualization) architectures to interconnect sites with high levels of distributed storage and compute, resulting in the need for higher capacity services to interconnect them. 
  • With the advent of SDN, service creation times are expected to be in seconds. This new service creation agility is expected to use network resources more intelligently and support new types of revenue generating services that can have short, or time-of-day based lifetimes.

All of these factors are changing the way optical networks have to be designed and operated going forward. One reason is that there are now ways to efficiently fill transport wavelengths closer to service endpoints, which means fewer electrical touch points are needed to efficiently fill them. In fact, as soon was a wavelength is efficiently filled to 100G capacity levels the most economical way to route this wavelength light path is by keeping it in its native light form rather than convert it to and from electrical signals using electrical switching devices.

In addition,connectivity services can have much shorter lifetimes than before because of the rapid service creation capabilities of SDN.  This new dynamism makes the optimal deployment of the limited number of wavelengths more difficult, resulting in sub-optimal fragmented wavelength deployments that limit network capacity growth and increase network TCO.

CDC-F Technology Turns on a New Light

CDC-F — or Colorless, Connectionless, Contentionless with FlexGrid support — offers unprecedented agility for optical networks. However, like a number of technology acronyms it only conveys its true meaning to people working in a specific technology field. Here is what CDC-F technology is and what it can do inside the transport network.

  • “Colorless” means that it can dynamically change a wavelength frequency, or color of light.  Without colorless technology our data communications wavelengths are mapped to a fixed color of light, with no way the change it unless a card supporting a different color of light was used.  New “colorless” cards/modules support multiple colors of light with only software control required to change between colors.
  • “Directionless” means we can route wavelength light paths throughout a maze of intersecting fiber optical cables supporting traffic from different geographic directions without any manual reconfiguration of the network.
  • “Contentionless” allows us to make better use of the limited number of wavelengths that we have to support optical networks.  We can more easily deploy wavelengths that use the same frequency/color of light throughout an optical network provided that wavelengths of the same frequency don’t merge, or contend, for the same fiber optic cable.
  • Having “Flex-grid support” permits the creation of ultra-high capacity super channels comprised of several wavelength frequencies rather than just one frequency.  This is achieved by supporting a more flexible wavelength spectrum allocation grid together with the support of logical super channels comprised of several wavelength frequencies. 

When combined with the right wavelength routing control and OAM software, all the capabilities above provide the foundational agility to route wavelengths throughout optical networks almost as easily as a person shining a flashlight in a new direction.  This happens under software control, with no operational truck rolls required.

Wavelength routing technology allows optical networks to be more dynamic, enabling new tools that can optimize wavelength utilization in a network.  This type of optimization can lead to 35% network TCO improvements including greener networks that require less power.

However, the true value of CDC-F wavelength routing technology is that it provides the foundation of SDN- and NFV-based architectures that many optical network operators around the world are moving toward for the future.

Wavelength routing can facilitate the creation of these architectures because it addresses the SDN agility demands for a more dynamic and flexible network. For example, high capacity wavelengths can be more easily created and routed throughout the optical network to support the interconnection of Cloud datacenter virtualized compute and storage, and high capacity end user access to these datacenters. Wavelength capacities can also be increased by wavelength routing without having to change the wavelength routing hardware.  This trait has never been seen before in networks.

About the Author

Scott Larrigan is Senior Marketing Manager, IPR&T Product and Solution Marketing, Alcatel-Lucent, where he is responsible for marketing the company's IPRT portfolio including optics, microwave, and mobile backhaul. For years, Scott has been supporting an IP packet over optics network evolution and the optimization of mobile networks to support 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE over a common packet network. Scott has over 20 years experience in the telecom industry with roles ranging from marketing, business development, product management, and R&D. He holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, specializing in computer science, from the University of Manitoba in Canada. He also is a co-author of 4 patents related to IP networking technologies.

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Global LTE Subscriptions Pass 750 Million

The number of LTE endpoints worldwide passed 755 million as of 30-June-2015, according to figures from Ovum cited by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA).

Some other mid-year 2015 milestones noted by GSA:

  • 441 million LTE subscriptions were added in the past year, equivalent to 140% annual growth. 
  • For the first time LTE exceeded ten percent share (10.44%) of the worldwide subs total for all mobile technologies. GSA forecasts over 1 billion LTE subscriptions worldwide by the end of 2015.
  • LTE subscriptions increased by 113.5 million in Q2 2015, which is over 52% higher than for 3G/WCDMA-HSPA which gained 74.4 million. GSM subscriptions fell by over 98 million in the quarter.
  • APAC increased its share of global LTE subscriptions to 51.2%. North America has almost 200 million LTE subscriptions (198 million) and remains the second largest LTE market, though its share reduced to 26.2% of the global total compared with 42.4% a year earlier. 
  • European share remained at around 16% and the total number of LTE subscriptions across Western Europe markets has just passed 100 million.
  • Strong growth was seen in the Latin America and Caribbean region which now has over 22.5 million 4G/LTE subscriptions and over 17.2 million higher than a year ago, equivalent to 324% annual growth. A strong performance for LTE was also achieved in the Middle East where more than 1 million LTE subscriptions were added monthly. The region has 23.7 million LTE subscriptions and an annual growth of 194%. Russia has almost 3x the number of LTE subscriptions compared to one year earlier.
  • By June 2015, China had passed 225 million LTE subscriptions, 63.5 million in Q2 alone.
  • 422 operators have commercially launched LTE systems in 143 countries, according to GSA data announced in July 2015. GSA forecasts there will be 460 commercially launched LTE networks by end 2015. 
  • LTE-Advanced deployments have taken hold in all markets around the world. Now over 30% of operators are investing in LTE-Advanced system deployments, with the commercialisation of carrier aggregation the first feature to be exploited. 88 operators, i.e. over 20% of all LTE operators, have commercially launched LTE-Advanced service in 45 countries. 
  • 15 LTE-Advanced networks support Category 4 devices (above 100 Mbps up to 150 Mbps peak downlink speed) while 73 networks support Category 6 devices (above 150 Mbps up to 300 Mbps). 
  • The number of LTE and LTE-Advanced subscriptions is expected to pass the 3G/WCDMA-HSPA global total in 2020.

Nokia Unveils 5G "System-of-Systems" Architecture

Nokia Networks unveiled its programmable 5G architecture with the ability to reshape radio and core networks in real time to adapt to changing demands.  The goal is to enable Network-as-a-Service for operators to offer network functions to other industries. The announcement outlines key principles of this architecture and its suitability to address a variety of 5G use cases.

In a nutshell, Nokia will leverage the concept of network slicing in a fully self-aware software defined transport infrastructure that automatically adapts itself to changing service requirements.  This is achieved by Self-Organizing Networks (SON) for transport solution in combination with a multivendor Software-Defined Networking (SDN) fabric control that acts across SDN domains. The network control does not need to talk to every SDN controller since a single Rest Application Programming Interface (API) is used. Similarly, Nokia Networks is also introducing programmable APIs to the virtual core network elements to be able to adapt core network behavior in run time.

Nokia said its enables the core network to adapt to dynamically changing needs, such as the creation of new network slices or mobility profiles, either immediately or on demand.

“Nokia Networks is leading industry-wide 5G architecture work through various vehicles such as the 5G-Public Private Partnership (5G-PPP) project 5G NORMA (5G Novel Radio Multiservice adaptive network Architecture). With our cognitive and cloud-optimized architecture for the 5G era, we have outlined an end-to-end architecture that will allow unprecedented and cognitive customizability to meet stringent performance, security, cost, and energy requirements," stated Volker Ziegler, Chief Architect at Nokia Networks.

Key architecture functionalities:

  • Network Slicing: Multiple independent and dedicated virtual sub-networks (network instances) are created within the same infrastructure to run services that have completely different requirements on latency, reliability, throughput and mobility. 
  • Dynamic Experience Management (DEM): Automatic Quality of Experience (QoE) optimization of each application session provides superior customer experience even under high network load using up to 30 percent fewer resources. DEM can already be deployed in today’s networks. 
  • Service-determined connectivity: Conventionally, the network’s available connectivity determines what services are possible. In 5G, devices and services are no longer tied to a single point to point IP connection. In fact, the connectivity path can be freely chosen according to actual service demand. By enabling a service to determine the connectivity, the required latency and reliability can be assured by the network. 
  • Fast traffic forwarding: A distributed telco cloud structure, enabled by the Nokia AirFrame Data Center Solution, will support a new generation of critical services in such sectors as automotive and industrial. 
  • Mobility on demand: A wide range of mobility needs can be met, from stationary utility meters to high-speed trains. Typically, only 30 percent of users are mobile and do not need mobility support, providing an opportunity to use network resources more efficiently.

Nokia Expands its Telco Cloud Portfolio

Nokia Networks announced a number of improvements and enhancements in its telco cloud portfolio, including the new Nokia OSS Office for Telco Cloud, the Nokia AirFrame Data Center Solution (now also available in a container), the intelligent Nokia Service Chaining and Nokia cloud wise Care Services.

Some highlights:

  • The Nokia OSS Office for Telco Cloud solution is a service to help operators plan their best path for transforming their network and service operation centers for the telco cloud.  This includes planning from high level strategy to processes, tools and use cases. 
  • The Nokia AirFrame Data Center Solution is now available as a containerized solution with an efficient power and cooling system built-in. It can simply be dropped into place to cater for peak demand or to provide localized telco and IT services. A software-defined storage (SDS) module has also been introduced to provide flexible data storage pools within the data center environment.
  • Nokia Service Chaining provides greater efficiency and management through a virtualized service environment for the delivery of network services. Dynamic service functions, such as firewalls and media optimizers, can easily address peak loads and intelligently steer traffic. These scalable and best-of-breed functions can be implemented within the telco cloud at a fraction of the cost required for conventional networks. Nokia also launched third party appliance certification as well as implementation and integration services for service chaining.
  • Nokia cloud wise Care Services: two new service packages to help operators run and maintain their deployed telco cloud networks. Nokia Resolution Prime Services provides operators with a single point of contact and service management for resolving VNF faults within a complex multivendor telco cloud network. Nokia TotalCare for VMWare, a newly launched care package, supports operators’ VMWare deployments with an extended SLA covered by the company.

Bharti Airtel Picks Ericsson for 4G in Delhi

Bharti Airtel, India's leading telecom services provider has chosen Ericsson to roll out a 4G (LTE-FDD) network in Delhi. This four-year agreement marks the first LTE-FDD rollout by Ericsson in Delhi. As part of the contract, Ericsson will provide its multi-standard radio equipment from the Ericsson RBS 6000 base station family for macro and small cell networks. The agreement also includes deployment of Ericsson's LTE RAN software for Bharti Airtel. The solution works seamlessly with the existing 2G and 3G networks deployed by Ericsson. In addition to Delhi, Ericsson has also partnered Bharti Airtel to deploy LTE networks in 4 other circles.

Abhay Savargaonkar, CTO, Bharti Airtel, says: "The Delhi market is currently experiencing a rapid increase in the uptake of data-centric services. As market leaders, we at Airtel are deeply committed towards delivering the best data experience for
smartphone users and have made investment in high speed 4G network to improve the data experience of the customer. We are delighted to partner with Ericsson to offer a world-class 4G experience for our customers in Delhi."

In addition, Bharti Airtel awarded a four-year agreement to Ericsson to expand 3G WCDMA network across eight telecom circles in India. The new agreement includes rollout of 3G services in both UMTS 2100 MHZ and UMTS 900MHz band (in three circles). As part of the contract, Ericsson will supply, install and perform managed services for WCDMA Radio Access Networks (RAN). Ericsson will provide its multi-standard radio equipment from the Ericsson RBS 6000 base station family for macro and small cells. This will enable energy-efficient and cost-effective operations while allowing the operator to meet growing demands of better and faster mobile internet connectivity for the end-users.