200G: Beyond the Hype
200G Optical Announcements
In the run up to NGON 2017 in Nice, the hype machines from optical vendors have been spinning up in anticipation of one of the most reported shows in our industry. In particular, there have been several announcements around 200G recently – many touting “first” or “lowest power” or “best performance”. It is important that reporters, analysts, and customers understand what’s going on behind the hype.
When the industry moved from simple on-off-keyed 10G signals to coherent, multi-phase, multi-amplitude 100G signals, we entered a new era of optical communications. Now, technologists can work on improving the baud rate and modulation types of these signals to get ever better capacities and distances.
200G is not new. ECI (and others) have had 200G optics available for a while now, with our most recent deployment announcement in April. What has started to change in the 200G space is the physical packaging and the modulation types that are being used.
200G packaging has started moving from MSA-type on-board optics to ever-smaller pluggable optics. The most recent announcements (including ECI’s per-service-encryption hardware) have moved to a digital CFP2 format which is smaller, more interoperable, and more flexible than previous generations. 200G formats are now available or announced in both in the original 16QAM format, which can operate up to about 800km, and in the new 8QAM format that can operate over longer 1200km distances. Your performance may vary, as some vendors claim better performance than others, primarily due to improved software control of the devices. Also, some of the original, more proprietary 8QAM optics will require more than 50GHz spacing in the DWDM grid, requiring an upgrade to flexgrid networks. (ECI’s announced 200G 8QAM optics will fit into 50GHz.)
The dirty little secret in the industry, which is not really a secret but is still not known by some reporters and analysts, is that there is only one component vendor currently claiming to have a 200G digital CFP2 package with 8QAM support. A few vendors are developing some proprietary solutions (although not yet at the same performance and size), and new solutions have shown up on roadmaps from other suppliers, but the recent announcements have all had a single vendor at the core. With all of the recent announcements from equipment vendors being been based on the same component, claims of being “first” or “lower power” should be investigated closely. In this particular ocean, most of us are in the same boat, at least for the now.
What sets the implementations apart are an understanding of how the optics will be used. For example, while nearly everyone has some sort of 200G muxponder, ECI in January also introduced a 200G multiplexer with per-service encryption using 8QAM optics that is unique in the industry for those who do not want to abandon network security when they move to higher speeds. ECI also has integrated 200G into the industry-leading LightPULSE network monitoring solution that allows even operators who don’t quite understand all of the details of high speed optics to still have pro-active control over their network.
200G is an amazing innovation in the industry. For incremental cost over 100G, network operators can double their network capacity. Vendors can perhaps be forgiven for being a little overexcited about their own 200G solutions. The media, however, should be sure to dig just a little deeper.
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Topics: Optical Networking