Light Reading

Planning for 100G & Beyond

Sterling Perrin

At OFC/NFOEC last week, I had the opportunity to speak on an Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) -sponsored panel entitled “400G vs. 1 Terabit: Market Needs and Technical Challenges.” The session focused on the next-generation transport speed beyond 100Gbit/s.

When invited to speak, my initial reaction to the panel was: Isn’t this way too early? To put things in context, 100Gbit/s transport has yet to even get off the ground. Heavy Reading has just wrapped up several months of research on the emerging opportunity for 100Gbit/s – described in our latest report, "100Gbit/s Transport: Forecast & Analysis." The 100Gbit/s Ethernet interface was standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) in mid 2010, and there were only a handful of commercial deployments worldwide throughout 2010 – all involving just two equipment suppliers, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN). Our forecast calls for a 100Gbit/s ramp-up by 2012, with the transport rate exceeding both 40Gbit/s and 10Gbit/s in backbone capacity by 2015. We expect 100Gbit/s to have a long future as the dominant transport rate for backbone networks.

So, why are we talking about 1Tbit/s? While it’s absurd to think about a near-term commercial market for 400Gbit/s or 1Tbit/s transport, from a research and development perspective, the time to get started on the next-generation transport rate is now.

First, a fundamental issue needs be resolved as we look beyond 100Gbit/s: What will that next bit rate be? This is a new challenge for transport. Historically, telecom has migrated in 4x increments and datacom (Ethernet) has migrated in 10X increments. While 100Gbit/s Ethernet was a highly successful collaboration between the International Telecommunication Union, Standardization Sector (ITU-T) and the IEEE, the trajectory forward needs to be determined – hence, the 400Gbit/s (4x) vs. 1Tbit/s (10x) discussion. Collaboration between the IEEE and the ITU-T, and perhaps even the OIF, will be required.

Second, technology challenges continue to mount as transport rates move higher. The game of DWDM transport changed dramatically when transport moved beyond 10Gbit/s to 40/100Gbit/s, because of fundamental physics challenges that became significant beyond the 10Gbit/s bit rate. To overcome these challenges, we’ve seen tremendous innovation in modulation formats, the use of coherent detection and advanced forward error correction. Beyond 100Gbit/s, maintaining performance becomes even more difficult, while yielding more capacity from a fiber strikes a path of diminishing returns (regardless of performance). The best solution is yet to be determined. There are also challenges on the client side: Groundbreaking innovation will be required to reduce form factors, power consumption and costs.

Third, the pitfalls of 40Gbit/s need to be avoided. A major problem with 40Gbit/s – one that persists – is that all of the suppliers came at it independently, with no standardized set of technologies. For 100Gbit/s, the industry took a much more planned approach with which operators are now far happier (based on Heavy Reading surveys). This process must be repeated for the next-generation transport rate, and this planning takes time.

With network traffic continuing to increase, a transport rate beyond 100Gbit/s will be needed someday. Work needs to start sometime, and, with the major work on 100Gbit/s completed, this seems like a reasonable time for the work to begin.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:09:56 PM
re: Planning for 100G & Beyond

Now that the major work on 100Gbit/s technology is over, the time has come to ask: What's next?

Real 100G.

It's more workable now:  There's been time to replace the expert folk who left the field after serial 40G yielded few profits.

User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:09:56 PM
re: Planning for 100G & Beyond

Stevery is completelly right. 100G is far from being 100% practical.

We still have many issues to transport 10G signals on some older fibers, imagine beyond 100G.


Maybe the next step is to deploy a new medium, or at least better fibers.

At some point I think there will be the need to re-deploy the existing fiber infra-structure.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:09:50 PM
re: Planning for 100G & Beyond

Service providers will only re-deploy fiber infrastructure as a last resort.  And why should they when coherent technology has already been proven to enable 40G and 100G speeds on "bad fiber" that was barely capable (if at all) of transmitting traditional 10G traffic.

User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:09:49 PM
re: Planning for 100G & Beyond

Which commercially available 40G or 100G system has better PMD tolerance than 10G systems?

Even with the current advances on modulation technologies, as far as I know, PMD is still the main problem in the current fibers to deploy the 40G or 100G systems.

And beyond 100G, I suppose we will reach the limit on those fibers that were deployed in the 90's.


i understand the costs to re-deploy, but I wonder  if we aren't reaching a point that the whole infrastucture will have to be renewed.

Sterling Perrin
Sterling Perrin,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:09:48 PM
re: Planning for 100G & Beyond

Melao2 -

I agree with Bo on this one: the ability to work on existing infrastructure has been the #1 requirement for transport so far. To assume that for the next rate, that requirement will suddenly drop way down on the list is a very big assumption. From a supplier R&D standpoint, it means betting that operators will deploy new fiber while competing suppliers are working hard to make existing infrastructure work.

On Stevery's comment: I don't see why the "true 100G" distinction is so important outiside of some academic discussion. Are you saying that 100G that uses sophisticated modulation is less worthy in some way versus 100G baud rate with on/off keying? If this is your argument, then why is advanced modulation acceptable in wireless networking but not in optics?


User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:09:45 PM
re: Planning for 100G & Beyond

Hi Sterling, I do agree that investing in new transmission mediums, in this case fibers, will be very expensive. I do understand that in the in the ideal world, we would be able to use the existing fiber infrastructure to transport the traffic.

I am just wondering if there will be feasible conditions to develop some technology to enable more than 192 Wavelengths, each one with 100G, in the existing fibers. It could happen (maybe using another band?).

But if you take into the perspective that 19200 Gbps systems will take a time to be widely deployed, and also that more bandwidth than this will take sometime to be the bottleneck. You can put a good 5 years, or more.

By this time, maybe a refresh in the current infrastructure is needed, at least in most important part of the backbone. Or maybe not. I don't know. :)

I know that theoretically it is possible to transmit up to 100 Tbps in one fiber, and 19.2 Tbps is far from it, but how to achieve that?


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