As traffic volumes continue to explode due to cloud computing, OTT video, 4G backhaul, IoT and other high-bandwidth use cases, traditional IP networks are creating major operational challenges for network operators. Increasing access, aggregation, and metro network capacity requires more and more routers – resulting in constantly rising equipment, real-estate, power, cooling, management and support costs. With IP routers required in all areas of the network, management and support requirements are typically very complex.

It has become clear that this model won’t work into the future.

Many forward-thinking operators have turned to Ethernet to future-proof their aggregation networks. With converged IP and Ethernet, it becomes possible to replace a large number of IP routers with a number of smaller devices that collectively work together to form highly scalable converged networks – reducing network footprint and lowering operating costs. With a simpler network architecture, and simpler customer premise equipment (CPE), networks are also easier to deploy, manage and monitor.

Leading Ethernet equipment can also be seamlessly integrated with the optical transport layer to provide scalability on-demand. With no need to add new devices to increase available capacity, operators can take growing traffic demands in stride.

As an additional benefit, key network functions can be centralised to make networks ‘application agnostic’, allowing layer 2/3 such as business Ethernet services, mobile backhaul services, virtual network functions (VNFs) and residential broadband services to be deployed concurrently on the same, highly efficient converged architecture.

With converged IP and Ethernet, it becomes possible to replace a large number of IP routers with a number of smaller devices that collectively work together to form highly scalable converged networks – reducing network footprint and lowering operating costs.

What makes a future-proof network?

To support current and future needs, aggregation networks must be agile, scalable and able to deliver traffic to and from end-users – including business and residential users – to the data centre, offices, the internet, and other locations in the most cost-effective way possible.

Here are 6 key features of a truly future-proof converged Ethernet and IP network:

1) Built in IP protocols for efficient, converged service delivery - Historically, modular IP networks have been used to hand off traffic into their MPLS core networks. As new IP services are created, networking features have been added to support them, resulting in complex, costly architectures where only a fraction of the IP protocols and features are actually used.

To overcome this issue, the leading aggregation solutions blend the optimal mix of Ethernet and IP functionality. Using simpler, streamlined Adaptive IP TM to provide advanced L3 protocol support including Segment Routing, L2/L3VPN, and IPv6 – ensuring the best possible use of all network assets and investments, such as high-speed 10G and 100G router ports, and supporting multiple traffic types. This means that layer 2/3 business Ethernet services, mobile backhaul services, VNFs, residential broadband services and other key services can be delivered over the same, cost-effective Ethernet architecture.

One of the key benefits of this approach is that operators no longer have to pay for redundant IP protocols they have no intention of using. Additionally, the whole core, aggregation and access network can be managed using a common MPLS transport capability – which simplifies end-to-end provisioning. With the full range of services supported on one, converged network architecture, operators can gradually retire and replace static legacy networks with flexible architectures that maximise operational efficiency and profitability.

2) A simple, efficient, repeatable network architecture - Whether growing organically or through acquisition, many network operators now operate access, aggregation, and metro networks built on different architectures, with equipment from multiple vendors. To reduce complexity, forward-thinking operators are looking for ways to implement a simple, elegant Ethernet and IP architecture that can be easily replicated and deployed in multiple operating companies or geographies.

In this way, operators around the world are simplifying their network operations and lowering operating costs. With a tried-and-tested Ethernet aggregation architecture in place in one area of the business, operators can also quickly replace end-of-life equipment in other areas to reduce legacy network costs and reliability issues.

3) Network automation driven by smart orchestration software - To maximise network efficiency as traffic volumes explode, it is essential to automate service provisioning and other key tasks based on software-driven orchestration. This requires converged Ethernet and IP solutions that are seamlessly integrated with orchestration tools that support automated service provisioning across both multi-vendor and multi-domain infrastructures.

4) Support for ‘fibre-deep’ networking that brings bandwidth closer to users - With space in data centres at a premium, and a variety of legacy equipment in between the data centre and the street cabinet, all increasing the burden of maintenance, space and power costs, an increasing number of operators are looking to extend their networks into street cabinets and other locations close to end-users. To be truly effective, these kinds of solutions must support this ‘fibre-deep’ networking model, with climate and humidity-hardened devices and other key features required to keep equipment running reliably in street cabinets and other ‘non-conditioned’ environments.

Critically, converged Ethernet and IP solutions that support a fibre-deep approach allows more bandwidth to be delivered closer to users, resulting in significant improvements in service performance and end-user experiences.

5) Low-risk network deployment and ongoing technical and business support - Deploying a converged Ethernet and IP network implies significant technology change, whether replacing an aging infrastructure or expanding a network into new geographies. To minimise risks when delivering these kinds of initiatives, support from a trusted, knowledgeable partner with experience of delivering major network modernisation projects is extremely beneficial.

As well as supporting the deployment process, the right technology partner can also help to develop and launch new, revenue-generating services to monetise converged IP and Ethernet networks and to accelerate returns on investments. This requires in-depth collaboration to assess market opportunities, design and test new services, and support key go-to-market activities such as joint marketing campaigns and sales enablement training.

This level of support marks the difference between a vendor and a true partner who takes an active role to help maximise an operator’s commercial success.

6) Scalability on demand - To keep pace with fast-growing traffic demands, aggregation networks must be able to scale programmatically on-demand. The industry’s leading IP and Ethernet solutions offer this capability based on seamless integration with the optical transport layer, which allows 1G and 10G links to be upgraded to 100G, 200G and 400G connections in minutes or hours, rather than days or months.

The ability to scale the aggregation network programmatically means no additional hardware is required to ramp up available capacity or to deploy new services. As a result, real-estate, power, cooling, support and other costs associated with proliferating IP infrastructure can be reduced.

About Ciena and IP and Ethernet

Ciena is helping operators around the world deploy highly efficient, future-proof IP and Ethernet networks. In doing so, we are helping to decrease the size and variety of the access, aggregation, and metro network, increase efficiency and standardisation, and take massive traffic growth in stride. 

Key benefits of Ciena’s converged IP and Ethernet solutions include:

  • Maximising network investments – by complementing core IP/MPLS P & PE router network architectures, and optimising the network from performance, efficiency, and cost perspectives, operators can get the most out of their network investments.
  • Support for all service and traffic types - with IP protocols built into our Ethernet devices to support converged layer 2/3 business Ethernet services, mobile backhaul services, VNFs, and residential broadband services s on a single network architecture.
  • Increased network agility - with smart network orchestration for agile, low-touch service provisioning and management in multi-vendor and multi-domain networks.
  • Major equipment, real-estate, power and cooling savings - with a small number of scalable Ethernet nodes providing scalable connectivity between POPs and customer locations.
  • Support for fibre-deep networking - with Ethernet networks that can be extended to street cabinets to deliver vast bandwidth closer to customers.
  • Scalability on demand to 400G - based on seamless integration with the optical transport layer.
  • Reduced support costs - with simple network architectures that can be easily monitored and supported by generalist engineers (rather than costly networking specialists).
  • Partnership for business success - with Ciena providing end-to-end service design, deployment, and management support, as well as business support to help network operators launch and market new, revenue-generating services on their networks.

Network operators cannot continue building networks in the same traditional manner and be able to support new and emerging high-growth applications. Ciena’s Packet Networking portfolio will help accelerate the modernization of legacy IP networks to help operators roll out the converged IP and Ethernet network of the future.