After a busy few weeks of shows, briefings and meetings, I was able to spend some time over the weekend digesting what’s proven to be a whirlwind of new ideas, new technologies and ultimately new ways of networking. Throughout this time, I’ve had one phrase continually moving through my mind: optical reboot. Looking back, it’s clear that everything I’ve seen over the past few months has its genesis in this phrase. Indeed, I firmly believe that the first stage of this reboot is happening right now.

Andrew Schmitt from Infonetics Research coined the term ‘optical reboot’ in a recent report, using it to describe how carriers are currently preparing to rebuild their core networks using 40/100G, OTN and ROADM technologies. This represents the biggest upgrade to our global network infrastructure in the past decade. When complete, it will offer a flexible network that can easily accommodate today’s bandwidth demand and usher in a new wave of data-intensive applications that as of yet do not exist outside of test labs or even outside of our imaginations.

One need only look at the announcements at last week's OFC/NFOEC to see these solutions in action. Juniper Networks' Converged Supercore is one key example. This solution presents a radical new approach to core networking that isn’t simply based on throwing more routers at the problem. The notion of a converged supercore that combines the packet and optical layers of the network together is critical. Only through this method can networks can become truly responsive and flexible to today’s networking demands.

In addition to the figures announced by Infonetics Research and other research analysts, I can certainly see the trend towards a converged supercore from the industry itself. Spending on 100G coherent linecards, contentionless and gridless ROADMs, and control planes is growing significantly. Many of the discussions held this month, both at CeBIT and OFC/NFOEC, were driven by this topic. Carriers are now realising that the time to rebuild their networks is now. It’s no longer a question of if, but when.

If we look at this migration in a little more detail, we can see three clear drivers:

  • The demand to remain profitable. Carriers, like any other business, need to make money. Today’s networks are making it ever harder to do this. It’s time to pull out the legacy technology and build for the future
  • The technology to rebuild the network has now reached maturity and is competitively priced
  • The demand for bandwidth is only going to increase.
The latter is a particularly important motivation. At CeBIT, I was amazed at some of the innovation on display, especially in regards to video sharing, online gaming and other data-intensive apps. As we continue to build a globally connected world, this demand for bandwidth is only going to grow.

As someone driven by innovation, it’s incredible to see this game-changing technology unfold. We’re at the first stage of this rebuild and it’s tantalising to imagine what we’re going achieve. What do you think? Do you agree that the optical reboot is about to happen? What challenges do you see ahead? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Read more on this topic here: Agile Core Transport