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A deep dive into the Importance of OTN

Optical Transport Network (OTN) technology remains a key enabler in the wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) transport domain. Its ability to partition optical bandwidth to satisfy the demands of individual applications and services effectively disaggregates usable capacity from the optical channel itself.  Without OTN, the two are inextricably linked. If the data rate of the service is lower than the capacity of the wavelength, the wasted bandwidth cannot be recovered. The efficiencies enabled by OTN segmenting this capacity across multiple services create operational, scalability and total cost (CAPEX + OPEX) benefits.

While OTN has been around since 2004, it has primarily been used by global Tier 1 operators in charge of vast national and international networks, where squeezing out every last drop of bandwidth is essential to streamlining operations and keeping expenses under control.  To date, Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators have been less enthusiastic about adopting OTN, choosing instead to light additional lambdas for the cost of a couple of transponders, rather than investing in an entirely new technology platform. For smaller operators, this would have required not only investment in new equipment, but also training for multiple technicians and NOC personnel, and an overhaul of their operating procedures that could impact everything from BSS and OSS systems to reassigning personnel assignments and job functions.  That was a lot to content with when the benefits of the technology were negligible.

Two factors, however, have emerged over the last few years that have changed OTN’s impact on these smaller providers and, as a result, they’re beginning to turn to OTN and hybrid-packet/OTN solutions.

The first is the arrival of coherent technology that is massively increasing the capacity available on a single wavelength.  At speeds of 10G, service providers were effectively limited to carrying six or eight services per wavelength. A couple of services could be multiplexed together on the same link but it wasn’t a big deal if the capacity wasn’t fully utilized. But, with coherent line rates running anywhere from 100G to 600G, a single link can now carry hundreds of services, all at a lower cost per bit. So, wasting bandwidth means leaving real money on the table.  In this new model, Tier 2 and Tier 3 operators are realizing that OTN is the best way to fill available capacity.

The second factor is the need for multi-carrier interconnection. Smaller regional carriers don’t have the same footprint as larger Tier 1 and Tier 2 operators, so they need to ride over third-party networks to provide the end-to-end service connectivity required to meet customer demand.  Creating a path over these disparate networks needs a common glue to bind them together. OTN’s globally accepted standard has proven to be the most effective method.

Combined, these two forces have created the business case for the introduction of OTN into the network, making it a viable option even for the smallest service providers.

It’s this expanded market that led EKINOPS to acquire OTN technology assets and introduce the new ETS (EKINOPS Transport Switch) that will add new OTN-based features and capabilities to the EKINOPS 360 portfolio.  This additional functionality will serve to enhance Ekinops’ advanced FlexRate™ transport solutions and vice-versa.  The ETS platform provides up to 2.88Tbps of OTN switching capacity and can be scaled to 6Tbps for application in both the metro and backbone network. The ETS uses an agnostic, non-blocking cell-based switch architecture capable of switching either packets or OTN frames for multi-layer service aggregation.  ODUk circuits can be switched at ODU0/1/2/2e/3/4 and even ODUFlex levels.  It integrates WDM interfaces on its line modules for interoperability with EKINOPS C600HC and C200HC pluggable optical transport modules. It can also interface at the OTN layer via the PM 100G-AGG, PM 100G-XPONDER and PM CRYPTO modules that provide standards-based OTU4 interfaces for native hand-off to the ETS switch, and at OTU2with the EKINOPS PM 10G-XPONDER module that provides an efficient on-ramp to the OTN network for 1GbE services by switching and aggregating them to a 10G line.

With an effective combined OTN/WDM solution, EKINOPS is now positioned to address the requirements of advanced network architectures like 5G, where the arbitrary concatenation of multiple different ODUk payloads, each with their own dedicated capacity, will form the foundation of the “network slicing” capability needed to deliver the different applications that 5G is designed to support.  Additional benefits to adding OTN switching to the transport network with the ETS include increased reliability with the service protection and restoration mechanisms OTN provides for different levels of QoS, as well as a distributed ASON-based software control plane that enables service and performance configuration.  What’s more, all of this falls under EKINOPS Celestis NMS umbrella presenting a unified management structure for both switching and transport.

By adding scalable OTN switching to its portfolio, EKINOPS is well positioned to deliver a complete Layer 1 transport solution that takes full advantage of the possibilities that coherent has to offer while providing the interconnection mechanism for multi-carrier environments and dynamic flexibility for the next generation of networks.

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