Liquid OTN paves the way for next-generation optical transmission technologies. It provides fine-grained, on-demand bandwidth resources for premium private lines by using flexible small-granularity containers. It adapts to market requirements with flexibility, efficiency, and simplicity, supporting the digital transformation of government and enterprise services. In addition to ensuring a superb experience, it also lowers the price of premium private lines, making them more accessible to users.
By Du Kun & Gao Hongjun, Transmission & Access Product Line of Huawei
As 5G develops, the digital transformation of industries accelerates, bringing together the balanced development of the ICT industry and the digital economy. Enterprises in industries such as finance, government, healthcare, and education are reshaping their operation and business models. Such customers, particularly big companies and government customers that operate sensitive services and mission-critical applications, have increasing demands for private lines. This encourages network operators around the world to expand their presence in the 2B market.
Private Line Requirements Vary Across Industries
The following table lists the private line requirements across typical scenarios based on market surveys and the application requirements, deployment costs, and technologies of each industry.
The table shows that enterprise customers prioritize the quality of private lines and require differentiated SLAs, stable and secure networks, flexible service packages, lower costs, and faster services. For example, security and reliability are most important for government customers and those in the finance and securities industries. Some customers clearly require physical isolation and hard pipes. Securities trading firms highly value low latency and are willing to pay for high quality. For example, in order to reduce the latency from 4.6 ms to 0.63 ms, futures trading firms are willing to pay Shanghai Telecom a price eight times of the normal price. In contrast, a large number of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more sensitive to price. In summary, fast provisioning (within 1 to 2 days), elastic bandwidth, and an online self-service function are common demands of all enterprises.
Calling for the Next-Generation Optical Transmission Technologies
Existing private line transmission technologies suffer from limitations.
- MSTP/SDH technology: The MSTP/SDH technology is mature and reliable, but the bandwidth ranges only from 2 Mbit/s to 622 Mbit/s, meaning the capacity is insufficient and difficult to expand.
- PON technology: PON is a low-cost private line access technology. Its drawbacks are that bandwidth is low and it is not an E2E transmission technology. It needs to collaborate with other technologies on the metro and backbone networks to complete the transmission of private line services.
- L2/L3 VPN technology: This technology does not support exclusive bandwidth for private line services. It is acceptable for organizations, such as SMEs, internet companies, and some government agencies that do not operate delay-sensitive services.
- OTN technology: This technology features high bandwidth and reliability. It uses ODUk private line transmission technology, and is designed for large-granularity services (GE or higher). Therefore, it is suited for large companies, such as OTT vendors and IDCs.
- WDM technology: This technology provides high bandwidth, large capacity, transparent transmission, and ultra-low latency. It transmits private line services at wavelength level, which are isolated from each other and can be scaled up separately. This is suitable for high-bandwidth high-quality private lines.
These technologies vary in service granularities and port types, resulting in complex network architecture, difficult network interworking, and inefficient O&M. Furthermore, the high cost of premium OTN/WDM private lines dampens the market demand, particularly the demand for bandwidth of 100 Mbit/s or higher. However, the potential demand for premium private lines featuring hard pipes, low latency, high availability, and high security is huge, especially among government and finance customers as well as big enterprise customers. Additionally, SMEs also need to increase their bandwidth, but eventually choose private line solutions of smaller granularities due to the high costs. Optical networks, as a core part of bearer networks, are evolving from infrastructure networks to service transmission networks, and they need upgrading to meet the demand of enterprise customers.
Huawei's Liquid OTN Promotes the Popularity of OTN Premium Private Lines
As an important global partner, Huawei is committed to building a world-leading all-optical network solution and working with upstream and downstream players to promote the prosperity of the optical network industry. For this purpose, Huawei launched the next-generation Liquid OTN solution, which inherits the advantages of OTN/WDM hard pipes and defines smaller bandwidth granularities to meet the market demand for small-bandwidth, high-quality, and affordable private lines. This will bring private lines to more customers in more industries.
- Simplified architecture: A new flexible and elastic container (OSUflex) is defined. Bandwidth can be increased at a granularity of 2 Mbit/s instead of the traditional 1.25 Gbit/s (ODU0). Therefore, Liquid OTN can adapt to almost all service granularities such as SDH, PDH, ETH, and storage. By using the Quark switching architecture, liquid OTN can replace multiple transmission technologies, reducing footprint by 70% and energy consumption by 50%, while also simplifying the network architecture. It achieves optimal per-bit cost while ensuring service quality.
- Ubiquitous full-fiber connectivity: The AI-based timeslot slice management enables pipes of 2 Mbit/s bandwidth or its multiples. A 100G wavelength can support 1000 service connections, and a single fiber can implement 480,000 hard slices, increasing the maximum service connections by 12.5 times to enable ubiquitous optical connectivity and build a solid all-optical base for a fully connected, intelligent world.
- Ultra-low latency: The timeslot coloring technology is used to implement precise addressing. This simplifies the mapping mechanism, reduces processing layers, provides differentiated latency levels, and reduces per-site latency by 70%. Therefore, Liquid OTN supports delay-sensitive scenarios, such as financial transactions, autonomous driving, intelligent manufacturing, and collaborative computing in large data centers. The iMaster NCE latency map makes latency visual, manageable, controllable, and guaranteed, allowing network operators to provide service packages of different latency levels.
- Hitless bandwidth adjustment: The built-in enhanced Σ-Δ algorithm supports lossless bandwidth adjustment from 2 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s to meet different needs, shortens the E2E adjustment duration to within 10 seconds, and brings network resources into full play. Furthermore, the "pay as you grow" business model offers great flexibility and refined bandwidth control, saving customers every penny.
Bringing a Quality Experience to Every Industry and Accelerating Business Innovation for Liquid OTN
As the cornerstone of the global digital economy, all-optical networks will extend to more and more industries. As a key technology, Liquid OTN is gaining wide recognition in the industry. In December 2019, the China Communications Standards Association (CCSA) approved investment of this next-generation OTN standard. In February 2020, China Mobile and Huawei successfully completed the industry's first Liquid OTN pilot project on the metro network in Qingdao, Shandong.
- In the video transmission field: The combination of increasing speeds, lower prices, and growing prevalence of gigabit broadband will drive the wide scale commercial application of immersive and interactive video services, such as cloud VR. To ensure a good user experience, Huawei has developed the OLT+OTN all-optical transmission and access solution. By using Liquid OTN, the solution provides exclusive cloud channels for VR users, and its high bandwidth, low latency, and zero packet loss support the wide commercial application of cloud VR.
- In the 5G transmission field: Commercial 5G networks have been deployed worldwide. Compared with 4G, 5G offers ultra-high speeds, massive connections, and ultra-low latency, facilitating a fully connected world. Huawei's IP+optical transmission solution uses Liquid OTN to perform slicing at both optical and electrical layers. The hard and soft pipes adapt to different service types and granularities and support differentiated SLAs, driving the innovation and development of 5G services.
In the future, Huawei will continue to build world-leading solutions, accelerate innovation of Liquid OTN, and bring affordable premium private lines to every industry to help operators maximize their business values and promote the development of all-optical network ecosystem.