Huawei Analyst Summit 2017: The IP and Optical Core Network Go Cloud – It’s About Time

Glen Hunt – Principal Analyst, Transport and Routing Infrastructure

Summary Bullets:
• The telco cloud requires an IP and optical core that can handle massive traffic growth and data center interconnection requirements. Huawei’s Network Cloud Engine (NCE) solution brings a cloud operational model to the network core.

• Huawei’s NetEngine 9000 (NE9000) IP core router delivers leading capacity to address massive 100G-centric connectivity requirements, from drivers such as 4K video.

This year, at Huawei’s 14th Annual Analyst Summit, affectionately referred to as HAS2017, we found a strong focus on the infrastructure layers of the network – specifically the IP core and optical core. The attention given these network layers has historically been sporadic, driven by necessary upgrades in link and/or switching capacity to keep up with growing traffic demands, a cycle that has occurred in four to eight year cycles, and further paced by technological breakthroughs. Recent industry discussion related to telco cloud seemed to be focused on network functions virtualization (NFV) in an effort to create an environment capable of supporting traditional carrier connectivity businesses and counter the threat from OTT players. However, with the arrival of web-scale providers and moves by operators to adopt a more flexible data center-centric architecture, attention is now focused on optimizing the core layers of the network.

With respect to SDN, the IP and optical domains have evolved separately, each having developed software to enable programmable control and management for the elements in their respective domains. To establish a common solution platform, Huawei introduced its Network Cloud Engine (NCE) to provide an integrated end-to-end solution for each domain, as well as provide the ability to combine multiple domains and multiple layers. In addition to the IP and optical domains, NCE includes additional solutions designed to address the access, metro and other network layers (to be covered in separate reports and blogs). Huawei has also expanded its flagship Network Engine 9000 (NE9000) core router portfolio and provided an update on its progress and new capabilities. The idea of providing a common control and management model for a multi-layer multi-level core infrastructure is not new, competitors are also pursuing similar approached to optimize the performance and efficiency of their core infrastructures.

CloudBackbone: The IP core layer, under Huawei’s NCE architecture, is controlled by the CloudBackbone solution, which includes the company’s Agile controller for IP, network service orchestration and a suite of common management functions. CloudBackbone provides support to address services such as HD video and features like automated service provisioning and network security. Also included is the ability to optimize traffic across the optical layer, which promises to deliver significantly greater bandwidth efficiency, support traffic on demand and improve provisioning efficiency.

CloudOptiX: The optical layer, under Huawei’s NCE architecture, is controlled by the CloudOptiX solution, which provides the equivalent management for the core optical transport layer as CloudBackbone does for the IP layer. CloudOptiX leverages Huawei’s Agile TSDN controller as well as common management functions and orchestration. By integrating IP + Optical, Huawei projects a 40% TCO savings through multi-layer planning and improvements in reliability with multi-layer restoration.

IP Core Advances: Along with Huawei’s NCE launch, the vendor provided an update on its flagship NetEngine 9000 (NE9000) IP core router portfolio which addresses massively scalable data center-centric interconnection (DCI) requirements, as well as traditional and emerging IP core routing functionality. The NE9000 (initially launched at HAS2015 in a 20-slot version) now includes a smaller 8-slot version, targeted to smaller core applications. Both models provide massive low latency 100G connectivity with port densities up to 400/160 per chassis, respectively. The design provides improved power/space efficiency through the use of advanced thermal techniques and expanded network programmability via Huawei’s programmable “Solar 5.0” silicon. Huawei further noted that the NE9000 is now deployed in ten service provider networks, and the NE9000-8 model will be commercially available in October 2017, along with 4 Tbps per slot line cards, to further increase capacity and density. The ability to support network slicing is also included, which enables operators to leverage one platform to support fixed, mobile and enterprise core applications.

The NCS and new NE9000 routing capacities highlighted at HAS2017, help us to remember that behind the software, is a highly capable data plane to deliver on the promise of next generation services. Capabilities such as Huawei’s NCE are well timed to support carrier transition to a DCI to cope with increased east – west traffic patterns, expected to grow >30% CAGR; support the adoption of fewer, but larger data centers, located outside of populated areas to address factors such as facility cost and power consumption; and adopt a more cloud-based operational model to automate provisioning and improve time to service. The noted capabilities also support the notion that carriers will want to manage their networks and cloud environments together, not as independent silos.

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