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IP and optical convergence is not just for hyperscalers. Heavy Reading survey data suggests that communications service providers are evaluating this new transport architecture, and many expect to move quickly toward adoption.

Sterling Perrin

December 14, 2021

4 Min Read
400G coherent pluggable optics: A key to IP and optical integration

The advent of coherent pluggable optics at 400G is one of the key enablers that was needed to propel IP and optical integration into the mainstream.

At 400G, IP and optical integration has addressed the biggest historical barriers to its adoption. The faceplate tradeoff between client- and line-side optics has been eliminated thanks to 400G coherent pluggables, and integration has benefited from advances in software automation and the shift toward open networking in general (which also includes pluggable coherent optics).

Along with 400G pluggables, other enablers for IP and optical convergence are open and model-driven implementations of DWDM and a major push toward interoperability. IP and optical convergence is also enabled by moving services onto the IP layer, a concept known as routed optical networking.

This blog is the final installment highlighting the key findings from Heavy Reading's "Coherent Optics at 400G, 800G and Beyond Market Leadership Study" launched with industry partners Cisco, Infinera and Juniper. Conducted in September, the survey attracted 81 qualified network operator responses worldwide.

Heavy Reading survey research shows that communications service providers (CSPs) are not only evaluating new architectures, but they also intend to move quickly with deployments. Nearly a quarter of CSPs surveyed already have an active plan to deploy coherent pluggables in 2021, and an additional 44% have plans for future deployments beyond 2021. Combining the responses, a full two-thirds of CSPs surveyed intend to converge coherent pluggable optics in their routers.

Figure 1: What are your plans for converging coherent pluggable optics into your routers? n=81 Source: Heavy Reading, 2021 n=81
Source: Heavy Reading, 2021

Furthermore, many CSPs are far along in modeling networks to converge optical and routing. A surprisingly high 37% of CSPs surveyed have already modeled their networks for convergence, indicating that many of the operators that intend to migrate their services over IP have already done the network modeling work to support their case in moving forward. There are, however, some significant variations by geographic region; the US CSPs surveyed are further along compared to their counterparts in other regions.

Figure 2: Have you modeled your network for operating with converged optical and routing? n=81 Source: Heavy Reading, 2021 n=81
Source: Heavy Reading, 2021

Cost savings are a major benefit of converged architectures, which eliminate the transponder and associated space, power, and cooling from the network. In the survey, Heavy Reading assessed the importance of total cost of ownership (TCO) savings for 400G coherent pluggable optics when compared to traditional transponder-based networks. TCO measures both the capex and opex factors of cost savings.

Roughly two-thirds of respondents anticipate TCO savings of 20% or greater, while nearly a quarter (22% of the group) expect TCO savings in excess of 40%. Over time, these figures may even tick higher, as 19% of CSPs surveyed are still in the evaluation phase and are currently undecided.

Figure 3: What level of TCO savings do you anticipate by converging 400G coherent pluggable optics onto routers for hop-by-hop transport, when compared to traditional transponder-based architectures? n=81 Source: Heavy Reading, 2021 n=81
Source: Heavy Reading, 2021

In addition to coherent pluggable optics at 400G, software automation in transport networks (i.e., SDN) is a major contributor to the rise of IP and optical layer convergence today.

Heavy Reading asked respondents to rate the importance of vendor vision for converging pluggable optics combined with management and automation (in other words, full hardware and software convergence across layers). For 83% of CSPs surveyed, vendor vision for hardware and software convergence with automation is at least "important" in network planning; for 21%, this vendor vision is "critical."

Significantly, not one respondent feels the combination of hardware and software convergence is unimportant, though a small percentage are still deciding.

Figure 4: How important to your network planning is vendor vision for converging pluggable optics into routers combined with management and automation? n=81 Source: Heavy Reading, 2021 n=81
Source: Heavy Reading, 2021

IP and optical convergence is a major shift, and the migration will take time. But Heavy Reading survey data is clear that many CSPs expected converged architectures to play a major role in their next-generation transport networks. Stay tuned!

Looking for more information?

Coherent Optics at 400G, 800G and Beyond
Coherent Optics at 400G, 800G and Beyond: A 2021 Heavy Reading Survey

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Principal Analyst – Optical Networking & Transport, Heavy Reading

This blog is sponsored by Cisco Systems.

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About the Author(s)

Sterling Perrin

Senior Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

Sterling has more than 20 years of experience in telecommunications as an industry analyst and journalist. His coverage area at Heavy Reading is optical networking, including packet-optical transport and 5G transport.

Sterling joined Heavy Reading after five years at IDC, where he served as lead optical networks analyst, responsible for the firm’s optical networking subscription research and custom consulting activities. In addition to chairing and moderating many Light Reading events, Sterling is a NGON & DCI World Advisory Board member and past member of OFC’s N5 Market Watch Committee. Sterling is a highly sought-after source among the business and trade press.

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