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Applications on OFC: Optical networks key to addressing emerging network complexities

September 07, 2016
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Globally, the number of people connected to the internet is on the rise and is expected to reach 3.9 billion by 2017. This has been accompanied by a rise in video traffic, which is expected to grow by 720 per cent during 2012-17. Moreover, the number of devices connected to the internet will exceed 70 billion by 2020. Meanwhile, the average broadband speed has increased by three times during 2012-17 and cloud and data centre traffic has increased by almost 440 per cent during the same period. This indicates major changes in the needs of consumers and enterprises.

Consumers are demanding ubiquitous connectivity while businesses are being increasingly driven by cloud-based applications. As such, network services should match application delivery with the expectations of users. To deliver the experience that users demand today, transforming the optical layer can prove to be instrumental.

Emergence of new services and applications

Decades of investments in information and communication technology (ICT) and business process automation have put applications at the heart of how businesses interact with their customers, partners and employees. The emergence of cloud computing has propelled the IT revolution to new levels of application performance, demanding better and faster networks.

Thus, there are opportunities for rolling out optical networks to meet the needs of a cloud-enabled era, especially in enabling data centre interconnect (DCI) for the cloud. More and more organisations are adopting the cloud and increasing their expenditure on DCI. In fact, a 430 per cent increase in metro DCI applications is expected during 2012-17.

Service providers are faced with the dilemma of whether to invest in boosting the top line or the bottom line, or both. There is a need to balance investment in both technology and service evolution because focusing on only the cost equation leads to diminishing returns. To cater to these needs, optical networks are emerging as the foundation of the entire service-ready infrastructure.

End-user and service provider requirement

End-users, whether mobile, enterprise or residential, are demanding higher capacity and bit rates. From the service provider’s perspective, this means providing dynamic bandwidth and service-level agreements that support mission-critical services. To offer these, the transport network has to be highly scalable, agile and reliable. This need is driving the growth of optical networks since they can offer new services with the lowest cost per bit. Optical networks are moving away from being just a dump pipe to unlocking newer service applications, right from the access to the core network.

For instance, in the access network, there is a high demand for Cloud-RAN, which is emerging as a new technology, not only from a service perspective but also from the network-as-an-infrastructure perspective. This solution can be used for enabling network sharing among various service providers. In the metro architecture, efforts are being focused on adapting a dynamic consumption-based service model.  At the same time, a reliable, scalable and agile network is required.

Another technology that is gaining traction is network slicing, which is becoming a service or an application in itself. This involves slicing a network laid out by any one service provider for servicing multiple customers.

As new services have different requirements in different parts of the network, optical fibre technology can play an instrumental role in addressing these complexities and serving new-generation needs.

There are three possible dimensions of a business in terms of application or network evolution. Businesses, vendors and network providers need to sustain growth. For this, they require new revenue streams that can be achieved through various applications. To manage these applications, the network has to be agile and programmable. The vendor industry is focusing on developing technology and equipment that would enable this. These technologies can be used to bring about automation through technologies such as software-defined networks.

In sum, applications are driving the speed of business. There is a transition towards a cloud-based software-driven model. Agility across all layers of the network is required, leading to optical fibre becoming the foundation of next-generation networks. Optical networks can deliver higher bandwidth, enable infrastructure scaling, allow for a converged layer and meet all the service demands in an agile manner.

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