Regardless of whether you’re a service provider operating metro networks or a small carrier with a regional backbone network, a more open way of networking is increasingly high on the agenda. This flexible networking trend can also be called open optical networking or disaggregated networking. It is being driven by opportunities to increase capacity, flexibility and cost efficiency with new technology like 400ZR.
This leads to questions of how to structure and upgrade networks to make best use of 400ZR and what the most cost-effective way to do that is. You might also be wondering how to go about managing a more disaggregated network.
Let’s recap the key considerations for why you need more capacity at less cost and then we’ll dive into these questions.
1. More capacity – less cost – now possible with 400ZR
With consumer broadband consumption rising steadily and business customers deploying new 5G-dependent technologies, many carriers are finding that their existing regional and metro network capacity will not be enough anymore. At the same time, as margins on subscriptions go down, you are challenged to make your networks more cost-efficient. To remain competitive, you must also continuously innovate to offer faster connections, more features and more data capacity for your subscribers.
Many carriers see great potential in 400ZR to both increase capacity and cut costs, especially the capability to use 400ZR-compliant optics both in low-cost 100G mode (100G IP over DWDM) and at 400G. Metro and regional networks have high-capacity needs but not anywhere near the same performance requirements as a truly long-haul network. This means that optical networking equipment designed for long haul usage may not provide the best value for you. Optimizing the cost per GB is probably higher on your agenda when searching for the best path forward for structuring and upgrading your network.
2. Making traffic flows more efficient
Metro and regional networks have largely been structured the same way for decades. This traditional path is transponder-heavy although sometimes the transponders may not always add value in comparison to other options. It’s also reliant on proprietary line systems, which means that carriers have to pay a licensing fee to the vendor each time they need to activate a new wavelength channel. As a result, adding capacity to support growth and adapting your regional or metro network to changed consumption patterns comes at a cost.
Forward-thinking operators are looking for new, more flexible ways to make traffic flows more efficient. One way of doing this is to turn to open line systems. This way, you have more freedom to customize traffic flows. You can also strategically place ROADMs along the way. This more modern, open way of structuring metro and regional networks is increasingly catching on as it also helps you get the most out of high-capacity, cost-effective technologies like 400ZR.
3. Upgrading to 400ZR – without starting from scratch
After considering whether to rebuild or restructure your network when upgrading to 400ZR, you may be left wondering how much of your old equipment will have to be thrown out. It’s not very cost-effective to have to upgrade almost everything all at once. This is why a trend is intensifying toward enabling 400ZR over existing line systems and routers. This way, you can upgrade key network elements without having to replace and upgrade everything else around them.
It’s also common sense that you can get more capacity at less cost by having the freedom to mix and match network elements from different vendors. With a disaggregated regional or metro network, you are free to choose the component that delivers the best value for money without having to replace everything else to go along with it. It also helps to future-proof your regional or metro network and ensure ROI when you invest in network elements that conform to open standards and interoperate with those of other vendors.
4. Streamlining disaggregated network management
If you’re taking a serious look at disaggregated regional or metro networks to achieve the flexibility you need for higher capacity at less cost, then you may be concerned with how to manage these networks. When you have all the network elements from a single vendor, you know who to call in case of a failure. As a part of the overall drive toward cost efficiency, many service providers are also interested in ways of streamlining the management of their regional and metro networks.
In this context, consolidation, automation and simplification of management are trending. In fact, the demand for more flexible networking has intensified in the past years so much that more open management solutions are being developed and advanced. Finding an effective multi-vendor management solution can simplify troubleshooting, streamline network operations and solve the greatest challenge of going the flexible networking route.