Infinera unveils ICE6 coherent engine, Infinite Network vision

Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN) has unveiled its sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6) as well as a vision for what it calls the Infinite Network in which the ICE6 will play a major role. The ICE6 will support transmission of a pair of 800-Gbps coherent wavelengths for a total capacity of 1.6 Tbps for core to metro applications. Meanwhile, Infinera plans to offer disaggregated routers and pluggable coherent optics for edge network applications. The company also reiterated its commitment to its Cognitive Networking initiative.

Feb 19th, 2019

Infinera (NASDAQ:INFN) has unveiled its sixth-generation Infinite Capacity Engine (ICE6) as well as a vision for what it calls the Infinite Network in which the ICE6 will play a major role. The ICE6 will support transmission of a pair of 800-Gbps coherent wavelengths for a total capacity of 1.6 Tbps for core to metro applications. Meanwhile, Infinera plans to offer disaggregated routers and pluggable coherent optics for edge network applications. The company also reiterated its commitment to its Cognitive Networking initiative.

The company dropped the first hints about ICE6 last year at OFC 2018 while discussing the unveiling of the ICE5 – which has now been put aside, says Robert Shore, senior vice president of marketing at Infinera. The ICE5 aimed to give Infinera 600-Gbps capabilities (see “Infinera fifth Infinite Capacity Engine ICE5 supports 2.4 Tbps”). However, Coriant brought 600-Gbps coherent transmission technology with it when Infinera acquired the company (see “Coriant adds 600G transmission to Groove via CloudWave T”), making the ICE5 redundant, Shore explained. Development resources therefore were shifted to the ICE6, enabling its debut earlier than originally planned, Shore added.

In addition to higher transmission rates, the ICE6 will offer individual control and optimization of the eight Nyquist subcarriers that will compose each 800-Gbps superchannel. It also will support efficient mesh restoration via Infinera Aware (the current incarnation of what was originally Coriant Aware, a smart provisioning and restoration scheme). The photonic integrated circuit (PIC) portion of the ICE6 has completed development and will be on display at OFC 2019 in San Diego next month. The companion 7-nm FlexCoherent 6 DSP, which will leverage “second generation” probabilistic constellation shaping (so called to differentiate it from Nokia's implementation), will be available in the third quarter of this year. Infinera expects to roll out systems using the full ICE6 in the second half of 2020. There will be versions of the ICE6 optimized for long-haul networks (ICE6c) and the metro (ICEe). Infinera plans to package these into DCO modules, although not necessarily pluggable ones.

The ICE6 will form a major capability building block within Infinera’s Infinite Network strategy. The strategy derives from what Infinera sees as several major trends:

  • Unique application requirements in the access
  • The distribution of compute resources throughout the network
  • The move toward application-centric networking
  • The resulting dynamic traffic patterns the above trends create
  • The necessity for coherent transmission to move toward the network edge
  • An overall need for optical layer flexibility.

The Infinite Network seeks to address these requirements through three initiatives:

1) Creation of the Infinite Core, which will extend from today’s network core through the metro and across submarine networks. This network segment will be where the ICE6 finds its initial home. The Infinite Core is distinguished by the ability to add capacity exactly when and where needed (leveraging extensions of Infinera’s Infinite Bandwidth technology as well as well as network automation).

2) Establishment of the Infinite Edge, which will include the company’s existing XTM Series as well as provision of a line of open, disaggregated routers called the DRX Series. (Coriant launched a potentially similar line of open edge platforms, called the Vibe series, last year before the acquisition; see “Coriant introduces Vibe X90 white box switch for mobile and converged applications”). Infinera has worked with Edgecore Networks on the development of such platforms, Shore revealed, using a Coriant-derived operating system. The company also has teamed with Affirmed Networks for additional software platforms, Shore added. The Infinite Edge will apply to a variety of access network initiatives, including the fiber deep, Distributed Access Architecture deployments of cable MSOs.

Infinera also plans to deliver a line of coherent pluggable transceivers; details on these are forthcoming. The Infinite Edge also will benefit from what Infinera calls “virtualized lasers” – the ability to split the optical spectrum delivered via a single laser within the ICE6 into different parts that can be delivered to different locations.

3) The Infinite Core and Edge will see enhancement from Cognitive Networking, Infinera’s approach to self-optimized, self-healing, automated networks based on machine learning and artificial intelligence (see “Building the Foundation for Cognitive Networking”). Infinera sees Cognitive Networking evolving from the company’s current Transcend Software Platform. To get there, Infinera will create the Infinera App Store, from which network operators can acquire the apps they need.

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