Cisco gears up Telia Carrier for 400-Gig backbone

Telia Carrier is using Cisco's NCS5500 series routers and new 400 Gigabit Ethernet line cards to provision its 400-Gig backbone. (Cisco)

Telia Carrier is in the final stages of launching a 400-Gigabit Ethernet backbone network that is powered by Cisco's NCS5500 series routers.

While Telia Carrier is one of the world's largest internet backbones, it's faced with increasing amounts of bandwidth-intensive applications and services, such as streaming video and online gaming. In order to better provision the increasing amounts of bandwidth across the more than 120 countries it serves, Telia Carrier is making the move to 400-Gig.

"So they're really interested in moving to higher speeds and more cost effective technologies and 400-Gig is going allow them to get much higher bandwidth in these devices," said Cisco's Kevin Wollenweber, vice president of networking, service provider business. "So when you advertise that bandwidth across the cost of the systems, the cost per bit of these technologies is going to come down pretty quickly. It's about driving towards the cutting edge technology to allow them to transmit more bits at a lower cost across their infrastructure."

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Wollenweber said that Telia Carrier had already purchased large numbers of Cisco's NCS5500 series routers, which were first launched five years ago. Telia Carrier was the first service provider to buy Cisco's new 400GbE line cards to add to their 5500 routers.

"So they were an early adopter of the first 5500 technologies, and what this launch is about is their adoption of the 400-Gig variants of these," Wollenweber said. "We started talking about these variants last year, but we just made them order-able and started shipping the 400-Gig line cards in the 5500 based system."

Wollenweber said he didn't know the exact date that Telia Carrier will go live with 400-Gig, but the operator has bought all of the necessary components, including upgraded fabrics that connect all of the line cards together and the new line cards. He said Telia Carrier is in the process of certifying the software release for the deployment, and that it "takes a provider some of amount of time to integrate with their IT systems and get into their automation environments."

"The cards that we're shipping today have 400-Gig QSFP-DD 56 plug holes, which is the optics technology that we've been talking about for a while now," he said. "So the ports that are on these NCS 5500 devices can deploy 400-Gig technologies today. More in the short reach and connecting to other routers and applications, and then, as the technologies become available, for longer coherent and longer reach like metro and long-haul coherent connectivity."

Wollenweber said one of the big reasons Cisco adopted the QSFP-56 DD optic is that it's the same form factor as the existing 100-Gig QSFP28.

"So we'll see a lot of customers that are deploying 400-Gig capable line cards and they'll either be putting short reach optics, or even 100-Gig optics, in them today and then the migration to 400 Gig is just changing out the plugs and not the line cards themselves," he said. "They'll deploy those in the same devices. They don't need to replace the devices they have. They just need the 400-Gig plugs and they'll plug them into the existing devices."

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While Cisco announced a new 8000 series router in December as part of its Internet of the Future platform, Wollenweber said the 5500 series routers aren't going away any time soon. In fact, the NCS5500 routers will be able to take advantage of the ZR/ZR plus pluggable optics, which were part of Cisco's deal last year to buy coherent optics company Acacia, and Cisco's new IOS XR7 operating system for improved programmability and simplified network management.

"A customer like Telia that has a large number of 5500s deployed, they can migrate to these modern technologies on their existing infrastructure," he said. "They don't have to rip it out and replace it."

Using ZR/ZR plus pluggable optics allows service providers to eliminate transponders in the their WDM wavelength-division multiplexing) networks.

400-Gig: The state of play

Wollenweber said it's inevitable that large hyperscale providers and service providers will move to 400G. While there was hope for some 400G lift-off this year, it's looking like large-scale deployments won't take place until next year.

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Wollenweber said service providers can deploy 400G today in shorter-reach connections and before coherent DSP optics become more widely available early next year.

"So we're seeing the first 400-Gig deployments in what I'll call short-reach optics come to the market now," he said. "But that's kind of anything below 10 kilometers or two kilometers.

"You'll see service providers start to adopt 400-Gig capable devices and start migrating some connections to 400G where it makes sense. But those coherent or metro, regional or even longer type optics are a little later than we would have liked if you would have asked me a year ago."

Once all of the elements are in place, 400G will take off at a faster rate than the migrations from 1G to 10G and 10G to 100G.

"If you go back and look at the 10-Gig to 100-Gig transition, the technologies didn't really line up well to drive rapid adoption," Wollenweber said. "We went through four or five different optic form factors before we got to the one that everybody is using today that drives volume. This time is the technologies are better lined up to drive rapid adoption."

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