Infinera hints at upcoming metro aggregation platforms with new PIC introductions

Infinera has laid the groundwork for an upcoming announcement of its long-awaited metro aggregation platform – or, as it now appears, platforms – with the announcement that it has developed a pair of new photonic integrated circuits (PICs) for the application. Variants of Infinera’s 500-Gbps PIC that forms the heart of its DTN-X, the new chips support a two-level architecture with a hub and spoke photonic layer enabled via splitting a 500-Gbps superchannel into individual 100-Gbps streams.

Infinera has laid the groundwork for an upcoming announcement of its long-awaited metro aggregation platform – or, as it now appears, platforms – with the announcement that it has developed a pair of new photonic integrated circuits (PICs) for the application. Variants of Infinera's 500-Gbps PIC that forms the heart of its DTN-X, the new chips support a two-level architecture with a hub and spoke photonic layer enabled via splitting a 500-Gbps superchannel into individual 100-Gbps streams.

The company describes its vision in an article written for the March/April issue of Lightwave magazine (see "Transforming metro-network economics"). To meet the emerging requirement to support cloud-based services through flexible provisioning and network functions virtualization, Infinera proposes a two-layer metro architecture. Layer C, the cloud services layer, supports the provision and management of virtual network functions and other cloud-based services. It rides atop Layer T, an intelligent transport layer.

Layer T must provide high-capacity, flexible pipes with a minimum of line cards, stranded bandwidth, and network elements, the company believes. Infinera envisions an aggregation platform at the hub of the metro network that would leverage the newly announced ePIC-500. As its name implies, the hub chip set (one transmit, one receive) would support 500 Gbps of total capacity. Unlike the DTN-X PIC, which offers its 500-Gbps capacity as a single pool, the ePIC-500 could be used to dole out capacity in 100-Gbps "slices" on different wavelengths to smaller platforms at the network's edge. These smaller platforms would leverage the new oPIC-100. Depending upon how much bandwidth each edge site requires, the smaller platforms could have one or more line cards, each with an oPIC-100.

The hub platform would have as many ePIC-500 line cards as its spokes required.

According to Pravin Mahajan, director of product and corporate marketing at Infinera, models have shown the Layer C/Layer T approach will reduce module count by 28% on average while saving 31% in power and reducing bandwidth inefficiencies by 45% compared to current competitive approaches based on either single-wavelength or superchannel transmission of 100G, 200G, or 400G in the metro.

Mahajan acknowledged that Infinera will bring the chips to the field in the form of an upcoming metro aggregation product launch later this year. He declined to reveal exactly when the launch would occur.

However, some customers have been exposed to the technology, including Telefonica.

"We find the Infinera sliceable photonics technology to be very relevant for network architectures and have already tested this in our lab," said Juan Pedro Fernández-Palacios, senior manager at Telefonica, via an Infinera press release. "As cloud services take off, it is imperative that transport networks be scalable yet granular and simple to operate. Enhancing the superchannel technology with slice-ability is the right approach to satisfy these needs simultaneously."

It does not appear that Infinera plans to introduce line cards with the new PICs for either the DTN-X or the Cloud Xpress.

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