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Ciena expert: Autonomous networks of the future are set to be ‘self driving’

Ciena expert: Autonomous networks of the future are set to be ‘self driving’

CSPs must meet the growing unpredictable network connectivity requirements of IoT devices and on-demand streaming services.

Easier to run and more responsive to customer needs the network of the future is coming, Ravi Mali, of Ciena, tells us.

Communications service providers (CSPs) share a near universal goal: to drive down network costs and increase profitability. This goal boils down to three basic elements: reducing capital and operating expenditures, while improving the range and quality of services offered.

CSPs must also meet the growing unpredictable network connectivity requirements of IoT devices and on-demand streaming services.

To achieve this combination of seemingly conflicting goals, CSPs are taking steps to transform their optical networks. Moving from static, ‘one-size-fits-all’ models to open and programmable network platforms that deliver the exact level of performance required at any point in time.

CSPs need to be able to easily tune, control, and dynamically adjust optical capacity as needed. This will enable them to more efficiently address end users’ requirements.

In the Middle East, we are also seeing a growing presence of internet content players like Facebook, Google and Amazon working with service providers to bring content closer to the end-user.

We also see a growth of private and public cloud infrastructure being built by large enterprises and network operators alike. As a result, optical networks need to be more dynamic so that they can respond in real-time to the unexpected bandwidth requirements driven by content moving to the cloud.

Underpinning the new autonomous network approach is software defined networking (SDN), where software is used to automate processes and help increase revenue potential.

SDN also transforms the way optical networks are built, by eliminating old processes and enabling new operational practices. Engineers can be more creative in how they design the network when some hardware barriers are removed.

For example, historically, the limited visibility into network performance has meant that conservative engineering assumptions are made when planning optical network capacity.

This results in a network with excess SNR (signal-to-noise ratio) margin that operates at sub-optimal capacity. Now, with real-time monitoring and reporting, network planners can use network management and planning tools to operate existing network assets more efficiently and avoid premature overbuilds.

Another factor restricting agility in optical networks is that today, these networks are planned using predicted worst-case capacity and end-of-life, full-fill system scenarios. They are built assuming a static mode of operation where the capacity rate of each wavelength is fixed.

If capacity is over estimated, network providers are left with an inefficient network, paying for equipment that is sitting idle. On the flip side, if new demands arise unexpectedly, they need to go through new lengthy and costly planning and deployment cycles.

It is time to challenge these traditional practices. Why manage optical networks in a static mode when capacity depends on available system margin – a fluid variable over the life of the network?

Using configurable variable bit-rate coherent optics combined with real-time link engineering tools, CSPs can safely exploit excess margin to extract more value from existing assets. Benefits include greater capacity without requiring new hardware deployments, as well as enhanced network survivability.

The only way today’s optical networks can handle unpredictable traffic demands and service level guarantees is through pre-deployment of hardware. As a result, network capacity and other infrastructure is often sitting idle and not generating revenue.

With a software-defined optical network equipped with configurable optics, CSPs can dynamically allocate capacity as needed to meet business objectives and changing customer demands using existing deployed assets.

In the future, networks will be simpler, with fewer layers and more automated multi-vendor, multi-domain service orchestration. New analytic capabilities will enable problems to be detected and addressed before they happen, avoiding service fluctuations and even outages.

Additionally, machine learning will enable us to understand what the expected end-of-life wavelength fill will be for specific paths and increase capacity rates of deployed coherent optics so that CSPs can better monetise their assets.

Using this new approach, unexpected service demands will be dealt with in minutes without the need for field visits.

With Liquid Spectrum, Ciena has developed an innovative solution that helps CSPs take tangible steps towards making the autonomous network a reality. It meets CSPs’ needs for a programmable and software-defined optical network that is a more strategic contributor towards greater profitability.

Liquid Spectrum dramatically simplifies how optical networks are designed, built, and operated. It enables systems that can scale to meet today’s significant bandwidth demands, while being open and programmable to deliver the exact service performance required at any point in time.

It looks at the network and available margin and upshifts coherent optical capacity that has already been deployed where there is enough margin to do so. This helps reduce the need for CSPs to ‘overbuild’ networks which will sit idle in anticipation of future or peak demand.

The solution includes Ciena’s highly instrumented reconfigurable photonic layer, WaveLogic Ai tuneable coherent optics, Blue Planet Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller, and new SDN software applications. With Liquid Spectrum, CSPs will be able to monitor and mine all available network assets, instantly respond to new bandwidth demands and allocate capacity across any path in real time.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) and standard interfaces support CSPs’ requirements for an accessible, open architecture.

In the connected world of the future, cars will increasingly drive themselves. Communications networks are heading the same way and with Liquid Spectrum, Ciena is helping to make the self-aware, intelligent network a reality.