Market Insight

Service providers diverge on optical disaggregation

January 22, 2018

Heidi Adams Heidi Adams Senior Research Director, Transport Networks
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Following is information and insight from IHS Markit about our latest Optical Network Strategies Service Provider Survey

Highlights

  • In a December 2017 IHS Markit survey of service providers using optical transmission and switching equipment, 47 percent of respondents indicated interest in the use of disaggregated optical equipment in their networks, up from 33 percent in 2016.
  • 27 percent of respondents indicated that they would not be pursuing disaggregation, up from 17 percent in 2016.
  • Among the service providers planning to introduce disaggregated optical systems, 44 percent plan to implement these systems by the end of 2018, rising to 69 percent by the end of 2019.

Our analysis

Disaggregation in terrestrial optical networks is starting to happen — we are already seeing the separation of transponders from line systems in data center interconnect (DCI) applications, and there is also a broader trend of separating software from the underlying hardware layer in metro and long-haul networks, with the introduction of transport software-defined networking (SDN) controllers and applications.

According to our December 2017 survey, the primary reasons for disaggregating optical networking systems included reducing reliance on individual vendors and maintaining the ability to further drive down network costs. Key challenges centered on integrating and operating a diverse range of equipment and software from different vendors.

Of particular note in this year’s study, 47 percent of respondents indicated an interest in disaggregated optical systems, up from 33 percent in 2016 and 24 percent in 2015. However, while there is clearly increasing interest in this path forward for optical network evolution, there is also a growing divergence of opinion about where to go from here. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of respondents indicated they would not pursue optical system disaggregation in the foreseeable future, up from 17 percent in 2016.

A significant 27 percent of respondents were undecided or not familiar with disaggregation in optical networks. This finding indicates there is still more education needed on this topic in 2018.

Among service providers implementing disaggregated optical systems, 44 percent expect to have some aspects of disaggregation deployed by the end of 2018, rising to 69 percent by the end of 2019.

Optical survey synopsis

The IHS Markit Optical Network Strategies Service Provider Survey analyzes the trends and assesses the needs of service providers using optical transmission and switching equipment. The study covers service provider plans for deploying the latest generations of wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) transport equipment, including time lines, must-have features costs, and more.  

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