LightTrends Newsletter

First deployments of IP over DWDM in Europe: the first and the last?

July 2022

LightCounting reflects on discussions at NGON 2022

The evolution of DWDM transport equipment from proprietary “black box” systems to all-open “white boxes” has taken a detour along a scenic route, as illustrated in Figure 1. The priorities of service providers attending NGON 2022 (the Next Generation Optical Networks conference) were very colorful. Automation and all-optical networks were at the top of the event agenda. Service providers still largely count on their trusted suppliers to develop equipment and software they need, rather than relying on white box solutions. The advent of open line systems, pluggable optics and software APIs has made the market a bit more competitive, and it seems to be good enough for now.

Progress in network automation is discussed in our report titled “Telecom Network Transformation”, released in the end of June 2022. It captures the latest announcements from NGON 2022.

IP over DWDM was also debated at the event. Colt reported its first deployments of 400ZR and ZR+ optics in their IP network in Europe and received the ‘most innovative service provider’ award at the show. The use of IP over DWDM was not the only innovation at Colt, but it is certainly the most unique.

Colt operates networks in 50 metro areas and interconnects more than 900 data centers. The company can be categorized as a wholesale service provider since it offers optical transport as a service to cloud companies and enterprises. Many of these customers are asking for 100GbE and 400GbE lines and it makes a lot of sense for Colt to add DWDM optics directly on the routers: the network is simple, and the distances are relatively short, so the 400ZR/ZR+ combination is a perfect match. Each new DWDM port is installed directly into a router, as customers order more bandwidth, and service is delivered over the IP layer. Having a separate optical layer would make the transaction less “transparent”.

There will be other cases benefiting from IP over DWDM, but it is unlikely to emerge as a mainstream solution among service providers. At least not in Europe, where service providers plan to maintain separate IP and optical layers in their networks.

The full text of the research note is available to LightCounting subscribers by logging into their accounts.

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