Taking a cue from IT's separation of hardware, operating systems and applications software and, more recently, the separation of compute, storage and networking in data centers, the trend toward disaggregation and open optical networking is starting to impact the broader communications equipment market.
In the second report of our three-piece series -- "Open Line Systems Gather Momentum" -- we analyze how approaches to optical networking based on disaggregation and software-defined networking control are set to dominate -- and the key questions that still remain.
This impact is already being felt with the shift to SDN, disaggregating the control plane from the forwarding plane, and the shift to network functions virtualization (NFV), disaggregating network hardware from software functions.
In terms of WDM (wavelength-division multiplexing) transport, disaggregation arrives in the form of open line systems (OLS). However, traditional integrated approaches also have advantages and many operators want to migrate to multivendor OLS at their own pace. Some are embracing and deploying OLS today but many remain unconvinced of its benefits and are waiting to see more deployment proof points and mature solutions. This does not mean they are in different camps so much as different stages of evaluation and adoption.
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In fact, integration and disaggregation are not mutually exclusive. With both, the goal is to reduce cost, footprint and power consumption with tight integration, leveraging technologies such as photonic integration for electronics. The grouping of functions and the pace of adoption will depend on factors such as innovation, depreciation and renewal cycles, as well as capacity and scalability requirements.
In short, open optical networking is an emerging frontier but operator strategies require balance. There is no single sweet spot that suits all operators; there are, however, sweet spots that benefit some operators to move to OLS today. The global trend is towards OLS separated from transponders with open APIs.
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Table of contents:
- Traditional Integrated WDM Systems
- Benefits of Disaggregation
- Impact on supply chain
- Enter the SDN
- Is Integrated Still Optimum?
- Barriers to Deployment
— Adrian Pennington is a journalist and editor specializing in the creation, business and technology of moving image media. Published in The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Hollywood Reporter he also copywrites a range of marketing materials for brands and marketing agencies. Follow Adrian on Twitter at @pennington1; on LinkedIn at
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