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Infinera automates capacity engineering with Instant Network

Moving optical capacity from one place to another in a DWDM network can be difficult, but Infinera claims to have solved this challenge by making its bandwidth licence process more responsive to customer needs.

The result – which the company calls ‘Instant Network’ – allows customers to turn up capacity in just a few minutes rather than the hours it would have taken using its Instant Bandwidth licenses, or the months that it can take using a traditional capacity planning process.

Traditional capacity planning processes require hardware to be in place before changes can be made. This leads service providers to overprovision optical capacity by as much as 50 per cent to ensure they can deliver services where they are needed and quickly, according to Infinera.

Infinera says it’s laid the foundations in hardware and software to create a more flexible approach. On the hardware front, its Infinite Capacity Engine provides up to 2.4Tb/s of pre-deployed optical capacity from a single line card. Instant bandwidth licences allow customers to buy the hardware with its pre-installed massive pool of capacity, but defer payment for that capacity until it is required.

Instant Bandwidth has proven popular, with more than 70 of customers using it, including half of customers for its DTN-X XTC platform, its top three subsea customers and more than 60 per cent of data centre interconnect customers, Infinera says.

There were some challenges that Instant Bandwidth couldn’t solve, however, says Geoff Bennett, director of solutions and technology for Infinera. Even though data traffic keeps on growing, the distribution of that traffic can change, for example, a different connection being required when a bank moves its operations from London to Frankfurt.

Instant Bandwidth licences are tied to a specific node and piece of hardware. When a connection moves, the network operator is left with the problem of turning off the licences that are no longer required. “Instant Bandwidth didn’t have a mechanism to do that because it always assumed that you would need to grow,” said Bennett. Infinera doesn’t want those licences returned.

Instant Network solves this problem by creating a bandwidth licence pool, with licenses that can be deployed anywhere in the customer’s network. The licences can be activated instantly the moment an invoice is issued for that capacity and moving a link is no longer an issue. “All they need to do is return their licence to the pool, and then we don’t have a revenue recognition problem,” Bennett explained.

Tied in with the bandwidth licence pool is the concept of movable licenses. Service providers can now use software to move their bandwidth licenses across the network as traffic conditions change. This reduces capital expenses by reducing the amount of idle capacity provisioned specifically for network resiliency and makes it easier to respond to customer demands for new services.

Commercial mechanisms had to be put in place to make this possible. “We know that a lot of these features are incredibly valuable to customers because in the past, we’ve solved that problem with a meeting or an exception. What we want to do now is make it part of the system,” Bennett said.

Bennett isn’t afraid to call the individual changes “evolutionary” but thinks that combined, they enable some revolutionary things. “Once you get a critical mass of those changes, it enables a new business function,” he remarked.

The final step that Infinera’s still working on will be to automate the capacity engineering process through software. Infinera is developing an app, called Automated Capacity Engineering (ACE), that takes manual offline route and capacity planning processes and implements those algorithms in a microservices-based path computation element (PCE). ACE understands optical impairments and computes the optimal Layer 0 routes between nodes across multiple paths, including automatic routing and wavelength assignment with multiple path constraints such as traffic engineering cost, distance and latency. The PCE will be prototyping this year and available in the first quarter of 2018.

“Capacity engineering is now a major challenge for network operators as demands for more agile connectivity increase,” said Andrew Schmitt, founder at Cignal AI, via the press release. “Infinera’s Instant Network evolves its existing solutions to automate capacity engineering in a way that no other architecture can match by combining high-capacity integrated photonics and a unique software approach.”

Infinera says these enhancements are leading it towards what it calls ‘cognitive networking’ where the software learns from the network components and proactively recommends new routes and deployment options. Bennett says that’s not just another Infinera buzzword, but a term that originated in the radio world, where the system automatically adjusts to optimise capacity.

“Our goal here is to make the system fully automated, because when you have any kind of manual process in that chain, it’s going to be an inhibitor to automation,” he said.

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