It is no longer a question of if people want a new way to build their IP networks, but how. Ciena’s Joe Marsella explains how the innovations Ciena has made to deliver open, automated, and lean IP benefit our customers and have influenced how the industry is thinking about the evolution to next-generation metro and edge networks.

Network operators have been looking to disrupt how IP networks are built to better support the next generation of communication services and applications. But what's the urgency now?

Well, three key areas are driving the need for more modern IP networks:

  1. 5G mass rollouts
  2. Increasing demands on residential broadband access networks
  3. Multi-layer convergence in the metro to support the shift to distributed cloud apps

Legacy IP approaches simply can't scale or react quickly enough to accommodate the new demands these trends are putting on the network.

In fact, the need to do IP differently has been building for some time. Operators worldwide have made it clear that innovation is needed so that IP networks can be built differently to meet the needs of tomorrow – not yesterday. They asked for an open, automated, and lean approach to IP – exactly what Ciena has been focused on delivering.

Over the last few years, we have been imagining Ciena’s Routing and Switching portfolio to deliver a new generation of platforms for access, edge and metro networks. Underpinned by our Adaptive IPTM approach, our portfolio has ushered in a new way of thinking about IP networks. During the last 15 months alone, we introduced seven new platforms, closed two acquisitions (Vyatta and Benu Networks), announced that we have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Tibit and signed a strategic partnership agreement with Samsung.

Ciena Adaptive IP Diagram

From a software perspective, we have been investing in technologies aimed at increasing network scale, simplifying operations, and increasing flexibility, all key aspects in the evolution of metro networks. Focusing our investment on forward-looking technologies like EVPN, Segment Routing, and continual BGP evolution gives us the technologies to help operators drive network transformation as more intelligence and applications get pushed closer to the edge.

Early support of technologies like SRv6 establishes Ciena as a leading option for operators looking to evolve to a more flexible, programmable network. Our disaggregated software architecture further provides the ability to easily integrate new technologies while also enabling a strong level of integration with our Adaptive IP Applications through a highly programmable model-based infrastructure built around standard northbound interfaces, robust OAM/SLA monitoring, and rich telemetry.

The result? We're providing our customers with modern IP solutions that simplify their networks while preparing for ‘what’s next’.

Meeting the demands of 5G

Let's start with 5G. As the industry continues to march towards converged xHaul transport capabilities, network operators are challenged with preparing their networks to optimize performance so that end-users can take advantage of 5G capable devices, while also minimizing costs and unlocking new revenue streams. Each operator needs to de-risk their unique 4G to 5G journey by selecting the right platforms and software to evolve their architectures. Not an easy task when you consider the burden of manual and legacy IP traffic engineering and steering and the need to adapt for newer silicon's advanced features, like soft and hard slicing.

In response, we've strengthened our ability to support our customers' evolution from 4G to 5G with a combination of technology introductions and strategic moves that provide choice to our customers.

In 2020 we launched Ciena’s xHaul portfolio with the introduction of a trio of 800G purpose-built xHaul platforms - specifically the 5164, 5166, and 5168 to converge 4G/5G fronthaul, mid-haul, and backhaul (xHaul) networks onto a common, multi-purpose infrastructure while also enabling a new generation of wholesale connectivity. These high-scale platforms were perfect for urban and dense locations, but more granularity was needed. So in 2021, we extended the family with the 5130 and 5131 to cover a mid-range of both indoor and outdoor tower requirements at 360G. But we weren't done. Earlier this year, we further enhanced the portfolio by introducing the 3984 and 3985 advanced edge router platforms for smaller capacity indoor and outdoor locations requiring up to 80G of capacity.

The outcome? We now offer an advanced family of small, medium, and large Adaptive IP-based platforms delivering high-accuracy synchronization and network slicing functionality at just the right amount of scale.

Residential broadband - reimagined

Residential broadband operators are now challenged with evolving their networks to meet growing demand and bridge the digital divide. If the goal is to deliver sustainable residential broadband while also meeting your business' financial objectives, then you can't simply maintain the status quo. Traditional GPON solutions operating at 1G or 2.5G simply don’t have the capacity to be competitive in today's market, where service rates have been skyrocketing since the pandemic. The age of 10G PON has arrived, and a new way of delivering PON is required to scale the network to meet your customer's demands cost-effectively.

At Ciena, we have been working to help our customers increase the scale of Residential Broadband networks to 10G while laying the foundation for the future – be it 25G, 50G or 100G. Our PON architecture is built upon our Universal Aggregation solution, which enables an innovative per-port pluggable uOLT model putting the operator in control and allowing a single platform to offer PON, Ethernet, or IP/MPLS services. All simply by the plug that is put into the slot. It’s no wonder we added over 25 new global customer wins in broadband over the past 12 months, including one of the largest Tier 1 service providers in the United States.

And to build on this momentum, we have just announced our intent to acquire Tibit Communications, Inc. and have closed on our acquisition of Benu Networks. The combination of both Tibit and Benu will enhance Ciena's existing portfolio to support a broader range of broadband access use cases, including residential, enterprise, and fixed-wireless access.

Quote from Cherry Capital CEO Tim Maylone

Metro network convergence

The increased bandwidth demand from 5G, broadband, and cloud use cases also challenges our customers to rethink how to architect their metro networks. There is a surge of new services, content, and applications being created and consumed at the network edge by both business and residential customers. This is driving new and unpredictable traffic patterns across both access and aggregation networks—highlighting the fact that metro networks must be ready.

With this in mind, we see customers evaluating options to build converged and coordinated multi-layer metro networks that are extensible and sustainable by design. An architecture that can provide step-level design improvements without adding management complexity.

This explains why we are rapidly expanding our coherent aggregation routing capabilities and now have five platforms in our 8100 Family, which has extended our Routing and Switching portfolio’s reach well into the high-scale aggregation and metro space. The need for such platforms is real. In fact, during the first half of 2022, we reached a milestone of over 50 customers using our 8100 platforms.

In addition to scaling metro networks, operators are also looking for increased network efficiencies from IP/Optical convergence. Ciena’s recently announced Coherent Routing is designed to help easily manage converged networks and optimize performance across a multi-vendor infrastructure, while at the same time fast-track operators' sustainability goals by achieving a converged metro network that requires less equipment footprint and power.

And we are gaining ground. Growing adoption of our coherent aggregation routers and early wins in coherent routing indicates a market looking to evolve its metro and realize the benefits of IP/Optical convergence.

Quote from William Todd of PFN

So, where do we go from here?

We have covered a lot of ground here, and that’s because Ciena’s Routing and Switching portfolio, underpinned by our Adaptive IP approach, has come a long way in a very short time. I’m sure you can tell – we are excited about what we have achieved so far and the possibilities our ongoing investments will enable. But just like escalating bandwidth demands or the rampant pace of new cloud-based applications - the industry isn't slowing down, and neither are we!

At Ciena, 2023 and beyond is about realizing our vision for the next-gen metro by enabling our customers to deliver IP differently and deploy the architectures of the future.

Stay tuned…. when it comes to doing IP differently, we're just getting started.