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The Critical Lowdown Podcast Episode 28

Unleashing the Power of 400G: Revolutionizing Data Center Connectivity - Part 1

Listen to Part 2 Here

As data centers continue to be the backbone of our increasingly digital world, the demand for faster, more efficient interconnectivity is paramount. The advent of 400G ZR+ technology is a testament to the open networking industry's relentless pursuit of these needs. 400G ZR+ is setting new standards for data center interconnects, offering unprecedented bandwidth and performance that meet the insatiable demand for data intensive applications.

To kick off season 3 of The Critical Lowdown, and to coincide with the launch of our 400G product bundle, we have brought together the industry experts in 400G for a two part series.

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John K Lynch - EPS Global

John Lynch
Director Sales, EMEA, EPS Global

Gert Sarlet - Coherent

Gert Sarlet
Director of Product Management, Coherent

Nanda Ravindran - Edgecore

Nanda Ravindran
VP of Product Management, Edgecore Networks

Victor Khen - IP Infusion

Victor Khen
Marketing Manager for Partners, IP Infusion

If you have any questions about or need advice or tech support for your upcoming project, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Or check out our 400G ZR+ Hardware Bundle here.

Transcript of Podcast

John: Welcome to our podcast today. EPS Global is the world's leading provider of Open Networking solutions, partnering with top hardware and software vendors to offer a comprehensive one-stop shop for Open Networking needs. Today, I'm excited to discuss the launch of our new 400G ZR+ networking bundle, which includes a switch, a 400G ZR+ optic, and an operating system. Joining us are representatives from our esteemed vendor partners.

From Edgecore Networks, we have Nanda Ravindran, VP of Product Management, who will share insights on Edgecore's offerings in the 400 Gigabit space.

Gert Sarlet, Director of Product Management at Coherent, will discuss the new 400 Gigabit Coherent products. It's important to note the distinction between Coherent, the company, and coherent technology, the principle.

Lastly, Victor Khen from IP Infusion, Marketing Manager for Partners, will talk about the latest version of OcNOS, the network OS that integrates this bundle. You can find our previous podcasts on www.epsglobal.com, but this is the first episode featuring Edgecore, Coherent, and IP Infusion together, providing a unique opportunity to address customer questions about these combined products.

Gert: Certainly, I'm pleased to discuss the impact of 400G ZR and ZR+ optics on optical networking. A few years back, network architecture typically comprised three main components. First, there was the switch or router, which managed data at the digital level. Next came the transponder or muxponder, responsible for converting digital data into an analog optical signal suitable for long-haul transmission. This signal is usually 'colored,' meaning it's assigned a specific wavelength, allowing multiple wavelengths to be combined on a single fiber to optimize the fiber's capacity. The final component was the optical layer itself, which included the fiber, any necessary inline amplification to sustain signal levels over distances, and the devices managing signals at the wavelength level, such as multiplexers, demultiplexers, and reconfigurable optical add-drop multiplexers.

What's happening now with the advent of these new pluggable optics is the elimination of the transponder or muxponder layer. This functionality is being integrated into optical transceivers that can be directly plugged into switches or routers. This integration has been made possible by several technological advancements.

A critical component in long-distance communication transceivers is the digital signal processor (DSP). Historically, DSPs consumed a significant amount of power, ranging from tens to hundreds of watts, which was too high for small form factor transceivers. However, advancements in CMOS technology have dramatically reduced power consumption.

Another significant effort has been the industry's push to standardize optical specifications. This ensures that transceivers from different vendors can interoperate on the same optical link, allowing for a mix of transceivers from various sources to be used with the same switch or router.

Lastly, standardization of the management interface is crucial. It's vital that all equipment and transceivers use a common language to enable management software, such as IP Infusion's, to handle transceivers from Coherent and other vendors seamlessly. This standardization is something Victor is likely very interested in, as it directly affects the manageability and interoperability of network components.


John: Thank you, Kurt. Victor, could you explain what the 400G solution entails from IP Infusion's perspective?

Victor: Certainly, John. As our partners are aware, qualifying transceivers is an intensive process, both in time and resources. This is particularly true for ZR+ transceivers, which require sophisticated equipment for testing. We assess not only performance and stability but also the quality of signal transmission over extended distances. Additionally, as Kurt pointed out, we integrate various management mechanisms for transceiver tuning, adding to the complexity and cost. However, IP Infusion conducts thorough testing to ensure all components work seamlessly together. We're fortunate to have partners like Edgecore and Coherent who provide real-time support, allowing us to execute a meticulous validation process. This ensures the transceivers' reliability and robust data transmission. Consequently, we can offer comprehensive support for these critical network components.

John: Thank you, Victor. Nanda, could you discuss the design considerations Edgecore Networks has implemented in their switches and routers to leverage the capabilities of 400G optics?

Nanda: Thank you, John, for having me and Edgecore. Regarding the design considerations for switches and routers to support ZR and ZR+ transceivers, particularly the 400G ones, it's a fundamental aspect of our design criteria. Power consumption is a primary concern, as these transceivers require more power. Additionally, the thermal design of the hardware is crucial. We meticulously design the power plant and power supply units (PSUs) to accommodate the high power demands based on the number of ports that will support these transceivers.

The 400G ZR+ transceivers not only consume significant power but also dissipate considerable heat, making thermal management a critical factor. The selection of fan modules and the layout of the board are carefully considered from both thermal and power perspectives. Our designers pay close attention to these details.

From a customer's standpoint, these transceivers represent a substantial investment, often exceeding the cost of the switch or router itself. Therefore, we have incorporated protective measures to safeguard these expensive components. Special circuitry within the hardware is designed to cut power in the event of an issue, ensuring transceiver protection.

We also consider scenarios where a wrong transceiver might be inserted or a transceiver could malfunction, taking steps to protect adjacent transceivers. With the integration and testing we've conducted, customers deploying coherent transceivers can be confident in the functionality, performance, and efficiency of their investment.

John: Thank you, Nanda. Gert, considering the numerous optical transceiver options available, what advancements in 400G coherent optics distinguish your solutions from others in the market? Could you discuss aspects such as reach, power consumption, or signal integrity? This is your chance to highlight your offerings.

Gert: Thank you for the opportunity, John. The revolution in network hardware began with the OIF 400ZR project, initiated by hyperscalers, particularly Microsoft, who sought a solution for high-capacity point-to-point links over distances up to 100-120 kilometers. The industry's response was a solution specifically tailored for this application. However, it had a significant disadvantage when compared to the traditional construction of optical networks. The transceivers developed had low output power, around minus 10 dBm, which was not compatible with the typical carrier networks' optical layers that include muxes, demuxes, and rodems. These elements were designed to work with traditional line-side optics that have a high transmit output power, approximately zero dBm.

Our focus when developing the ZR and ZR+ transceivers at Coherent was to achieve higher launch powers, ensuring backward compatibility with the existing equipment in optical networks. This approach allowed us to extend the technology, originally intended for a specific application, to a broader range of applications. High output power is crucial for this reason.

Another key aspect is the transmit optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR). To achieve high output power, it's necessary to integrate an optical amplifier within the module. While amplification provides a power boost, it also introduces additional noise. Our design took special care to optimize this, leveraging our ability to monolithically integrate the amplifier with our modulator using indium phosphide technology. This resulted in a very high transmit OSNR, which is particularly important in colorless network architectures where multiple signals are combined without optical filters. In such setups, noise from different sources accumulates, so starting with a lower noise level from the transmitter is advantageous.By beginning with a lower noise level, our transceivers have greater tolerance for noise introduced later in the link through a series of optical amplifiers. Consequently, our solution typically allows for a longer reach compared to competing solutions.

John: Thank you, Gert, for your input. Victor, following up on that, when using Gert's 400G optics in Nanda's switches equipped with OcNOS, does IP Infusion's OcNOS provide an option to tune those transceivers?

Victor: Thank you, John. As Gert mentioned, we're witnessing significant advancements in coherent technologies. We're seeing more capable and cost-effective transceivers enter the market. Our offerings now go beyond plug-and-play; we provide deeper integration as transceiver management has become a standard feature, especially among ZR+ transceivers. Given the wide variety, ensuring interoperability is crucial.

Fine-tuning these transceivers allows us to optimize signal quality, transmission distance, compatibility with existing optical networks, and even extend the laser element's lifespan for each specific application. We can adjust four key elements: laser tuning and frequency grid tuning for wavelengths, output power tuning, and modulation and forward error correction adjustments.

We provide access to these adjustments through our CLI. Partners can reach out for the CLI and perform fine-tuning independently or with the assistance of our optical partners. Additionally, we offer monitoring and diagnostics capabilities. These smart transceivers enable us to gather extensive data, including general performance monitoring and various alarms. They can also perform self-diagnostics, such as loopback tests or binary sequence checks like PRBS. Furthermore, users can set their own thresholds.

A range of management and performance control tools are now available, enhancing the functionality and value of our network hardware solutions.

Glossary of Terms

  • 400G DCI ZR+: A type of optical transceiver designed for Data Center Interconnect (DCI) applications, capable of transmitting data at 400 gigabits per second over long distances using advanced modulation techniques. "ZR+" indicates an extended reach beyond the standard ZR specification.
  • Open Networking: A networking approach that allows for the use of open-source software on a variety of hardware platforms, providing flexibility and reducing vendor lock-in.
  • Network Operating System (NOS): The software that supports a computer's basic functions and manages hardware and software resources. In networking, it refers to the network operating system that manages network resources and traffic.
  • OcNOS: Open Compute Network Operating System, a network operating system developed by IP Infusion for data center and enterprise networking.
  • Transponder/Muxponder: A device that receives, amplifies, and retransmits a signal on a different frequency for transmission over optical fibers.
  • Digital Signal Processor (DSP): A specialized microprocessor used for the fast processing of digital signals, such as those in optical transceivers.
  • CMOS Technology: Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor technology used in the fabrication of integrated circuits, including those in DSPs.
  • Management Interface: The interface used by network administrators to manage and configure network devices and their functions.

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