I’m guilty of missing the past few Cisco Packet Optical Networking Conferences (PONC), but I’m very pleased that I was able to attend the most recent one in Richardson, Texas. More than 150 customers, partners and industry analysts were present and several contributed to the event presentations. In addition to that, product experts from Cisco talked about disaggregation, network modernization and programmable, scalable DWDM networks. The focus this year was about simplifying the network, enabling automation and demonstrating these software innovations in the optical layer.
Optical networking hardware is expanding to higher bit rates, increased modular variations and increased spectral efficiency with flexible grid technologies. These features were demonstrated on the second day of the event and one customer chimed in saying “Wow, this is really awesome!”
I saw three key presentations at PONC that represented to me, a seismic shift in optical networking:
- Data Center Interconnect presented by Google
- Transport Modernization presented by Verizon
- The Role of Disaggregation in the Future of Optical Networks
Data Center Interconnect (DCI)
Per Vijay Vusirikala of Google, increased line rates are difficult to engineer and optimize but the operational efficiencies that you can achieve by automating Layers 1/2/3 are much more obtainable. Focus on embracing network change through enhanced data models and streaming telemetry was Vijay’s message here. This business minded approach to DCI was an eye opener for me. Suffice it to say that Cisco is way ahead in the development of enhanced data models and streaming telemetry for Layer 1/2/3. Since Cisco’s DCI solution, the NCS 1000 family, runs on IOS XR, NETCONF/YANG and streaming telemetry are built-in. With model-driven telemetry, software based automation solutions can analyze and adjust the network to take full advantage of all the changes that arise in near real-time.
Glenn Wellbrock of Verizon gave a very concise accounting of how they could utilize large scale Circuit Emulation (CEM) to transform central offices and decommission the circuit based Digital Cross Connects, SONET ADMs, and M13 Multiplexers without impacting customers. This is a major undertaking, but one that will save this provider billions of dollars. Many, including myself, thought that as the old circuit based TDM equipment failed and replacement parts were no longer available, providers would transition their customers directly to a routed network delivering only Ethernet services. This change from TDM service offerings to an Ethernet-only service would have trickled down to millions of end users and created a monster transition. Verizon decided there was a better way and that they could get most of the benefit of the routed network without changing every piece of customer premise equipment (CPE) through CEM. Standby for more news on Transport Modernization. Cisco is leading the way on the CEM hardware, with the NCS 4200 family, and more importantly Cisco is leading with the software tools to affect this change.
The Role of Disaggregation in the Future of Optical Networks
A very topical discussion, Ron Johnson from Cisco spoke about the emerging disaggregation market, and the benefits it might provide for service providers. Ron emphasized that disaggregation does not mean commodity. Disaggregation can, in fact, lend itself to a stronger and more “best of breed” approach than an aggregated solution. Disaggregation can offer more flexibility, and less customization of hardware. It’s also clear that there are many more opportunities to add value with software and focus on applications. Cisco is committed to delivering the disaggregation the market wants, in addition to providing the traditional solutions of fully integrated hardware and software for the optical networking market.
Vijay probably said it best when he said to expect change. Change is no longer the exception in optical networking. Those changes are best leveraged through innovation in software. Likewise, Transport Modernization involves some new hardware, but the software tools to orchestrate a seamless transition are really the big story. In this era of Optical Networking, maybe time changes both hardware and software?
Look for more announcements in this area, and please plan to join us November 15th and 16th for our PONC Rome event.