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February 4, 2022updated 07 Feb 2022 11:22am

From core transport to the Edge: OTN’s expanding role in future networks

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The needs of new network services and applications (5G, high-capacity home and enterprise broadband services, private lines, and edge cloud) are important factors driving CSP network transformation. Alongside these drivers, operators also need to consider architectures and technologies allowing them to provide optimal support for developing service and application portfolio, and keep the operational expenses, and network complexity under control. Extending OTN network capacity, and integrating it with edge OTN implementation, under a common operational framework, can help operators achieve significant service capability expansion, without burdening their OPEX budgets, and increasing network complexity.

Summary Bullets

  • Evolving set of service requirements continues to drive CSP network transformation in the direction of greater integration, convergence, and automation, with future networks required to serve high-bandwidth connections with high determinism, precise timing and synchronization, and granular QoS.
  • One architectural approach capable of achieving these service requirements, and at the same time offering increased operational efficiency, is extending OTN networks all the way to the network edge and creating homogeneous edge-to-core OTN environments.
  • In addition to satisfying evolving service requirements and improving efficiency, end-to-end OTN architecture can also ensure smooth network convergence, with one transport network underlying residential and enterprise service portfolios and serving as a foundation for legacy service transformation.

With increased bandwidth consumption, network cloudification, and evolving service landscape, CSPs are quickly becoming aware of the need to satisfy sometimes controversial sets of demands as they proceed with their transport network transformation. When it comes to bandwidth, 5G and cloud services are bringing a steep increase in bandwidth consumption per user, along with increasing focus on connection quality, with lowering latency budgets, and more precise timing and synchronization requirements. At the same time, enterprise private line service demands are evolving, and the changing nature of the workplace has brought a new set of demands stemming from decentralized workplaces, and work-from-home scenarios. Finally, operators are constantly under pressure to support this increasingly complex service environment with greater efficiency, and with higher service and operation velocity.

This expanding set of requirements creates these three primary axes of network transformation:

  • Capacity Considerations: Diverging service requirements often mean that operators will need to provide higher or lower bandwidth services – often from single Mbps to multiple Gbps. Current approach of using several network technologies to provide different service types will become untenable in the future – especially when considering that capacity and quality requirements for the services do not need to correlate. Instead, being able to offer high granularity of capacity services, along with ability to manipulate other service parameters, will become necessary in the future telco environment.
  • Connection Quality and Traffic Isolation: Current disbalance in telco service portfolios, which usually require customers to choose between different service parameters when choosing their connectivity, often present a serious complication for both residential and enterprise customers and will become a serious obstacle once latency-sensitive services and applications become more prominent in operator networks. Operators need to be able to control and administrate highly variable set of service attributes, including latency, synchronization, determinism, and traffic isolation, to be able to support increasing number of network use cases and evolving applications. This ability will directly determine operators’ capability to increase their services relevance to residential and business users, and subsequently generate new revenues from increased QoS control capabilities.
  • Evolving Operational Demands: This increasing network versatility may create challenges in network operations, if operators deploy the new service portfolios and capabilities using legacy operations, administration and maintenance software and processes. Instead, operators are quickly realizing that expanding their service capabilities requires the evolution of their operational environments, often by using cloud-native software, automation, and next-generation service and network orchestration capabilities.

The above set of operational and service requirements defines the characteristics of the network architecture evolution for CSPs. An optimal way of solving many of the challenges posed by the evolving and growing traffic and service demand is building a common transport network as a convergence and evolution platform, serving different traffic types, and additionally replacing legacy network infrastructures, for greater CAPEX and OPEX efficiency. Advantages that OTN offers in this scenario can be summarized along the following focus points:

  • OTN at the Edge: Utilizing OTN as the transport technology from the edge deeper into the network (and encompassing both CO and data center locations) offers operators an opportunity to achieve several of their network transformation goals at once. High-capacity OTN network elements can be used to provide several different types of client interfaces, and thus serve as a convergence platform, reducing network complexity, while supporting high-bandwidth, low latency and precise timing and synchronization. These advantages are most evident in operator environments supporting converged services strategy, and in those where operators are seeking to replace legacy services (like SDH private lines) with new breed of services without compromising on security and QoS.
  • Next-Gen OTN: Recent advancements in OTN technology allow operators to deploy end -user OTN based services with high granularity, without compromising on QoS or network isolation characteristics. Additionally, OTN features high degree of deterministic network behavior, making it suitable for demanding use cases, such as data center interconnect and cloud connect services, high-quality and high-capacity private lines in the enterprise segment, and as a transport mechanism carrying 5G traffic, and premium residential and SME connectivity services.
  • Operational Efficiency: Deploying OTN from the transport backbone to the edge of the network allows operators to significantly simplify their operations, administration, and maintenance (OAM) functions. Additionally, these end-to-end OTN networks can be operated under common advanced management environments, allowing operators automated service and network lifecycle management. Deploying advanced OTN equipment along with new generation of network management software and associated network applications also allows deep insight into network performance and health, enabling automated maintenance and troubleshooting, including predictive maintenance. This approach not only increases network uptime, but also optimizes the use of network management resources, leading to greater efficiency.

These advanced capabilities therefore make OTN technology more versatile, and capable of playing a significant role in network transformation towards enhanced service capabilities. Recent extensions to the technology allow operators to use OTN’s traditional advantages – high determinism, low latency, and traffic isolation – in a much wider set of scenarios, including enterprise use cases, and support for various types of client-facing services, such as residential broadband, or 5G transport. The resulting set of capabilities makes OTN fully capable of supporting operators’ service evolution and capacity growth well into the future.

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