Ciena offers Liquid Spectrum for software-reconfigurable optical layer

Ciena(NYSE: CIEN) has unveiled its latest step toward fully automated fiber-optic network capabilities. Liquid Spectrum combines its previously announced programmable optical layer capabilities, the flexible capacity and telemetry data collection features of its WaveLogic AI coherent DSP, its Blue Planet Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) software platform, and a new series of apps to enable network planners to quickly adapt to changing customer demands or network outages without having to architect their networks for worse case scenarios.

Liquid Spectrum brings operators closer to fully automated, open, and flexible optical network construction, assert Joe Cumello, vice president and head of global marketing, and Helen Xenos, director of portfolio marketing at Ciena. The programmable capabilities of systems such as the 6500 packet-optical transport platform, as well as the WaveLogic AI chip, enable operators to use the Blue Planet MCP, the new apps, or their own or third-party apps to rapidly provision or adjust route capacity as needed, the Ciena spokespeople said. For example, optical transport systems equipped with the WaveLogic AI can support a variety of tunable transmission rates; operators could enable greater bandwidth pools for short-term network events, then throttle that capacity back to its original level when the event ends with a greater level of automation via Liquid Spectrum, they explained.

The software-enabled networking capability also can leverage the telemetry the WaveLopic AI collects to ensure the most efficient use of spectrum given the characteristics of a particular link, including optical margins and overall spectrum management. The new Ciena-supplied apps leverage such capabilities and include:

  • Performance Meter, designed to enable operators to ensure optimal system performance by providing access to real-time, accurate planning data for both the existing hardware and new planned services.
  • Bandwidth Optimizer, which uses customer-defined service policies to suggests the ideal capacity, hardware configuration, and spectral placement for any channel across any network path.
  • Liquid Restoration, which can adjust deployed coherent optical capacity to route services affected by route failures across any available path in the network.
  • Wave-Line Synchronizer, which aims to speed service provisioning, reduce manual provisioning steps, and eliminate human error in multi-vendor optical deployments.

As these descriptions imply, while these apps provide significant automation, human involvement remains a prerequisite to take full advantage of the capabilities of the apps suite. Xenos said that operators are still getting comfortable with the increasing levels of automation the new generation of optical transport systems provide. Thus, it may be a few years before network operators fully embrace automation, she believes.

Nevertheless, Liquid Spectrum provides a healthy start down that path, according to Heidi Adams, senior research director, transport networks, at IHS Markit. “With Liquid Spectrum, Ciena brings together optical hardware enhancements with an expanded Blue Planet portfolio. The result is a strategic framework for how network operators can evolve toward more streamlined operations and start on the path towards autonomous optical networks,” she said via a Ciena press release.

Liquid Spectrum will roll out throughout the course of the year. The WaveLogic AI DSP and Blue Planet MCP platform will achieve general availability in the second quarter of this year, while the rest of the Liquid Spectrum capabilities, including the apps, will be ready by the end of the year. Nevertheless, customer interest is high in the capability, Xenos said, with at least one Tier 1 service provider having gotten in line for the upcoming apps.

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