Getting on the same wavelength with Open ROADMs: Industry’s first interoperable optical equipment up and running in Dallas area

December 09, 2016
By Andre Fuetsch

Back in March, I wrote about how we are redesigning a type of network switch called a ROADM. That’s short for Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexer.

These are the hardware devices that manage and route data traffic transported over high-capacity fiber optic lines.

We were pursuing 2 goals with these new ROADMs.

  1. Software control
  2. Open hardware specifications

Software control allows us to better manage and route each wavelength of laser light that comes into each switch. And we’ve already made a lot of progress on that front.

Open hardware specs let us mix and match ROADMs from different vendors in major metro areas. ROADMs manage the massive piles of data that move across entire cities.

Data traffic on our wireless network surged more than 150,000% between 2007 and 2015. ROADMs are one of the workhorses pulling that growing load. We need the efficiency, innovation and cost-savings that come from open ROADM specs to continue delivering the network performance our customers expect.

I’m thrilled to say our team pulled it off.

We recently implemented in the Dallas area a 100-gigabit per second optical wavelength in our production network using Open ROADM-compliant technology. Specifically, we connected 2 high capacity IP/MPLS routers with transponders and ROADMs provided by Ciena and Fujitsu.

This is an industry first: multi-vendor interoperability for optical transport equipment carrying live customer traffic. And these ROADMs support full software control according to the published Open ROADM specification.

Controlling and managing the optical network is done viathe NetConf/YANG APIs and information models defined in the Open ROADM Multi-Source Agreement standards. This is an industry-first demonstration of model-driven control and management of optical equipment. The 100G wavelength was provisioned using an SDN ROADM Controller developed by Fujitsu and integrated into the AT&T ECOMP architecture.

Learn more about the project and see the latest specs and project participants at OpenROADM.org. We welcome new suppliers and service providers to join our open ecosystem!

Tech-speak aside, what’s important here is that our vision announced in March is now a reality.

We expect to expand this capability across our AT&T network. And that means we can continue to support all the data-hungry applications our customers love – everything from the just-launched DIRECTV NOW to all the future apps and services that don’t even exist yet. 

Andre Fuetsch - President – AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer

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