MWC Q&A: Nick Walkden, Senior VP, Infinera

It’s not just about the cells.

In the flurry of handset and RAN-related announcements at Mobile World Congress each year, it can be easy to overlook the pioneering optical technology powering lightning-fast data transfer across the world’s core, long haul and subsea telecoms networks.

However, it’s difficult to overlook Infinera. The Californian optical networking vendor has been shipping WDM equipment to the telecoms industry for over 15 years. We recently spoke to Nick Walden, their Senior VP for EMEA to ask him what they’re showing customers at Mobile World Congress this week.

Can you give our readers an introduction to the Intelligent Transport Network?

Infinera was founded with the vision of enabling an infinite pool of intelligent bandwidth that the next communications infrastructure is built upon. Intelligent Transport Networks from Infinera deliver on this founding vision by enabling network operators to offer new services that address the increasing demand for bandwidth. Infinera provides an end-to-end portfolio of packet-optical solutions for long-haul, metro and cloud. Infinera Intelligent Transport Networks scale network bandwidth, accelerate service innovation and automate optical network operations.

 So for carriers, how does it speed up their journey to 5G?

The ability to evolve to future 5G requirements is a key factor in Infinera’s recently expanded Mobile Fronthaul and Backhaul Solutions. This month, Infinera introduced a new range of flexponders for mobile fronthaul and a new EMXP Access Unit for mobile backhaul to extend the capabilities of XTM Series-based solutions, providing investment protection and meeting stringent performance requirements for mobile operators as networks scale to 5G.

The new additions to Infinera’s portfolio have the high performance and openness required for 5G plus the flexibility needed to support evolving transport needs as networks migrate from 4G to 5G. The underlying benefit that these attributes bring to network operators is one of investment protection, as they can use the new capabilities to avoid a “rip and replace” scenario for their mobile transport networks, either fronthaul or backhaul, as they upgrade cell sites from 4G to 5G. This speeds up network operators’ journeys to 5G as they have the peace of mind that the transport network is ready now, so they can focus their attention on the challenges associated with the massive migration needed within the rest of the network.

Infinera’s Nick Walden

How important will Cloud RAN be in delivering 5G?

Cloud radio access networks (RAN) is a key part of 5G architecture, with new 5G infrastructure using a fronthaul/backhaul architecture that is combined into what is sometimes called crosshaul or Xhaul. Another key trend in the move to 5G is the shift toward network function virtualization (NFV), including the virtualization of the base band unit (BBU) into a virtual BBU (vBBU). This is coupled with a drive toward other initiatives such as Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and fog networking, leading to a “cloudification” of the whole mobile infrastructure in 5G. Infinera’s solutions are well suited to this environment and will play a leading role in supporting the transport layer that underpins this architecture shift.

Low latency is a term I’ve heard used for over 10 years when it comes to the network backbone, how far away are we from not even considering network latency, especially with the onset of IoT?

Low latency has always been critical in mobile networks and unfortunately, it is here to stay. While the Internet of Things (IoT) has a much lower latency requirement than many of today’s services, other new 5G services have very tight latency requirements, such as supporting autonomous vehicles and augmented reality. Actually, the overall 5G network latency requirements will drop from 10 milliseconds to just 1 millisecond. This will partially be achieved by moving some compute resources closer to the edge of the network through the cloudification of the network that we just discussed. But exactly what goes where will always be a balance between economics, network requirements and available space and power, etc., so a low latency network will always play a role in ensuring that the best possible user experience is achieved with the best possible network economics.

Your Cloud Xpress solution has just been implemented with a major German network carrier, what does that mean for optical transport across Germany?

Cloud networks continue to expand rapidly, driven by the exponential growth in cloud-based content and services, from streaming video to the Internet of Things. The Infinera Cloud Xpress Family is designed to deliver cloud-optimized wavelength-division multiplexing solutions to service providers, internet content providers, internet exchange (IX) service providers, enterprises and other large-scale data centre operators.

Cloud data centres are rapidly migrating to 25 gigabit Ethernet (GbE) server uplinks and 100 GbE fabrics between server racks, which is driving the need for scalable optical DCI to interconnect these data centres. Cloud Xpress 2 delivers simple, secure, efficient 100 GbE DCI scaling that enables internet content provider networks to keep up with these demands.

Infinera recently announced that ECIX, a leading provider of IX services in Europe, deployed the Infinera Cloud Xpress to interconnect data centers in Frankfurt, Germany. The Cloud Xpress enables ECIX to optically interconnect data centers with hyperscale density, operational simplicity and low power consumption to deliver scalable IX services to its customers. ECIX, the second largest German internet exchange point, delivers interconnection services in five markets.

In addition, Infinera announced in February that Core-Backbone, a leading Germany-based international carrier, deployed the Infinera Cloud Xpress to interconnect points of presence in Frankfurt, Munich and Nuremberg to expand capacity for its customers. Core-Backbone selected the Infinera Cloud Xpress to provide 100 gigabits per second (Gb/s) services across its major routes. Core-Backbone is an international carrier and service provider delivering internet protocol (IP) transit, Layer 2 connectivity and remote peering with secure, high-availability network connectivity to internet exchanges across Europe.

Trans-Atlantic bandwidth is forecast to grow at 40% each year to 2025, what is Infinera doing to support subsea networking?

Subsea operators need to maximize the fiber capacity of their cable plants and simultaneously optimize their networks to efficiently handle 100 Gb/s elephant flows and support smooth scale-out of capacity. This requires networks that are cloud scale, programmable, flexible and secure.

In January, Infinera announced new platforms within the award-winning DTN-X Family to power cloud scale subsea networks. Infinera introduced the XTS-3300 and XTS-3600 meshponders for subsea networks, and upgraded its DTN-X XTC Series to 12 terabits per second (Tb/s) of non-blocking Optical Transport Network (OTN) switching with a new 1.2 Tb/s subsea line card. The solution features dynamic spectral sharing and access to real-time subsea link performance. These new tools enhance Infinera’s open and programmable subsea network architecture, enabling operators to securely monetize their subsea spectrum.

In addition to introducing the new meshponders and DTN-X XTC Series upgrades, Infinera introduced new subsea software tools for open systems. Dynamic spectral sharing enhances Infinera’s open architecture, allowing subsea operators to partition and monetize valuable fiber spectrum so that it can be securely shared with multiple tenants, independent of both cable and submarine line terminal equipment suppliers. Mission-critical subsea link performance data is available in real time, on demand, via open software-defined network application programming interfaces. This enables subsea operators to monitor transmission health as well as identify opportunities for capacity adjustments. In addition to these new tools, Infinera’s Time-based Instant Bandwidth enables operators to instantly change network capacity as well as duration, facilitating a dynamic Intelligent Transport Network. Now operators can closely match traffic patterns to address bursty service demands from customers, match bandwidth to revenue, and instantly reroute bandwidth in the case of network disruptions.

What can attendees expect from meeting with Infinera this week at MWC?

At MWC 2017, Infinera will demonstrate our latest end-to-end packet-optical transport solutions, including some of its most recently announced mobile fronthaul and mobile backhaul solutions that are enabling the evolution to 5G. As in recent years, Infinera is hosting private meetings.

Request a meeting with Infinera or visit them in the Upper Walkway.