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Insights Unlocked

4 Posts authored by: Nicole Faubert Employee

One common trait of many engineers is that we are naturally curious and enjoy exercising our brains. Take math for example, I always found solving math problems on par with solving a puzzle, and might even go as far to say, ‘math is fun’. This was in direct contrast to my younger sister who loathed everything math related and went on to become a university professor in English literature. Mastering language was her idea of fun.

 

As I transitioned in my career from highly technical systems engineering for optical networks 20 years ago, to now marketing data center solutions at Keysight, I have gained a profound new respect for language. Surrounded by colleagues with PhDs in physics and engineering, I have come to realize that they sometimes speak a language of their own filled with abbreviations and acronyms that not everyone understands.  

 

Abbreviations and acronyms have been around since the beginning of written language. In our efforts to communicate more quickly with one another, we instinctively use abbreviations and acronyms out of convenience. It seems that every industry has its own language filled with commonly used terms. As I write white papers and content for Data Center Infrastructure solutions, I pay close attention to spell out the first instance of any acronyms used and to define them wherever possible. Over time, I have compiled 14 pages of data center infrastructure related terms and their definitions. No matter how technically savvy you are, I think you will find this document handy. Download your copy and let me know if I missed any important terms?

 

For those of you who still enjoy puzzles, here is a fun word search of a dozen common terms I use almost every day related to data center infrastructure solutions. See if you can find them in the puzzle below and look them up in the Data Center Infrastructure Glossary of Terms if you want to learn how we define them here at Keysight.

 

400GE, DCI, FEC, NFV, PAM, QSFP, BERT, DDR, IEEE, NRZ, PCIe, SDN

 

Next generation optical transceivers are expected to use less power per gigabit, be less expensive per gigabit, and operate at four times the speed of 100GE transceivers. It is rather puzzling how 400GE transceivers will meet all these expectations. In fact, the move from 100GE to 400GE in the data center is revolutionary, not evolutionary.

 

It took 15 years for data centers to evolve from 10GE to 100GE. Data centers began implementing 100GE in 2014, yet full build-outs only became cost-effective over the last couple of years thanks to the availability of more affordable optical transceiver modules. Emerging technologies enabled by fifth generation wireless (5G), such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous vehicles, will generate explosive amounts of data in the network. Current 100GE speeds available in data centers will not be able to support the speeds and data processing requirements needed by these technologies. As a result, data center operators are looking to evolve their networks from 100GE to 400GE.

 

There are three key challenges that need to be addressed to make the transition from 100GE to 400GE as smooth as possible:

 

Challenge 1: Increase Channel Capacity

According to the Shannon Hartley theorem, there is a theoretical maximum amount of error-free data over a specified channel bandwidth in the presence of noise. Therefore, either the channel bandwidth or the number of signal levels must be increased to improve the data rate or channel capacity to reach 400GE speeds.

 

Challenge 2: Guarantee Quality & Interoperability

As new 400GE transceiver designs transition from simulation to first prototype hardware, engineers face the challenging task of developing a thorough, yet efficient, test plan. Once deployed in data centers, marginally performing transceivers can bring down the network link, lowering the overall efficiency of the data center as the switches and routers need to re-route the faulty link. The cost associated with failed transceivers once deployed in the data center is enormous. Since large hyperscale data centers can house more than 100,000 transceivers, even a small one-tenth of one percent failure rate would equate to 100 faulty links.

 

Challenge 3: Reduce Test Time, Reduce Cost

Keeping the cost of the optical transceivers low is a high priority for data center operators. To be competitive, transceiver manufacturers must find ways to drive down production costs. Like most new technologies, the price of next-generation optical transceivers tends to drop sharply after introduction to the market, and development costs amortize as volume ramps. Test time contributes significantly to overall transceiver cost. Therefore, more efficient testing of the broad range of transceiver data rates accelerates innovation and lowers cost.

 

The Next Test Challenge

Many data center operators are moving to virtualized networks using software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). They need full network test of Layers 2-7, including SDN/NFV validation and traffic loading, to ensure that traffic flows through the virtualized network as expected. This is the next challenge data center operators will need to overcome.

 

400GE in data centers will soon become a reality.  Find the solutions to address these 400GE transceiver test challenges here.

In April 2017, one year ago to date, Keysight announced the closing of the acquisition of Ixia. It was positioned as a perfect complement for testing and monitoring next generation networking technologies. As an engineer and marketer for Keysight’s data center and infrastructure solutions, no one is happier than me (well, besides our customers) in this integration. Let me explain why.


Keysight is a recognized leader worldwide in the test & measurement industry for its Physical Layer 1 test solutions. Ixia tests what are typically referred to as the Networking Protocols (Layers 2/3) and what is typically called the Application Layers (4-7). Before I go into more details, this might be a good time for a quick review of the Open System Interconnect (OSI) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP)/Internet Protocol (IP) models. They are the two most widely used models for communication networks, let’s do a quick review of them.

OSI and TCP/IP models

OSI and TCP/IP Models

 

As you can see, the OSI model is comprised of seven layers, whereas the TCP/IP model has four. In simple terms, regardless of the model data sent to the network flows from the top Application layer downward through each layer. Since I mentioned earlier that Keysight’s expertise is in Physical Layer 1 test, I’ll use the OSI model to explain a very simple example of how data flows through the network.


For example, when you request to browse a web page from your computer, data is sent to the Application Layer of the network. It is then passed downward through the layers, with each one performing a specific function and encapsulating the data before passing it on to the next layer. Physical Layer 1 is aptly named since it manages the point-to-point connection and physically transmits it over the network to its intended destination. There are several hardware devices that operate at Layer 1, but the most influential and the most expensive, is the transceiver.


Keysight provides the hardware and software solutions to test transceiver performance and compliance to industry standards, ensuring the very heart of every network. IHS Markit forecasts that the number of devices connected to the Internet will reach 125 billion by 2030. That is a big number, each making their demands on those transceivers. Can you imagine how many requests will be sent to and from the network with that many devices? As I wrote about in my blog last week, 400GE Innovations at OFC 2018 – Enabling 5G and IoT, we work closely with industry innovators to help them bring to market the next generation of transceivers needed to support these network demands.


Now that you understand what part of the network that Keysight tests, it is time to explain the importance of Ixia’s contribution. Ixia provides network test solutions for all the other network layers from 2-7, including validating Software Defined Networking (SDN), and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) functionality and traffic loading. Each of these topics alone are worthy of a much more detailed explanation in a future blog article, but I’ll give you a short story here.

 

Remember all the billions of devices I mentioned above that will connect to the network? Well, this is really pushing the limits of existing network infrastructures that have remained virtually unchanged in the last several years. Therefore, enterprises and service providers need to find new ways to design and operate their networks and are shifting to virtualized networks using SDN and NFV. Once they have made that shift, they need to make sure that data flows through their virtualized networks as they designed them to, and that they can withstand the kind of traffic that billions of devices will generate. This is what Ixia’s network test solutions are designed to do.


Together Keysight and Ixia offer the widest array of test solutions across all network layers, from Physical Layer 1 test to full network test of Layers 2-7 including SDN/NFV validation and traffic loading. It is a powerful combination to ensure actual data center infrastructure works as promised.

 

Learn more about Keysight’s transceiver test solutions here and Ixia’s network test solutions here.

Emerging technologies such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality(AR)/(VR) and autonomous vehicles are driving big data and traffic explosion beyond 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) speeds in data centers. A key theme at the Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition (OFC) 2018, the largest global conference and exposition in optical communications and networking, that I attended last month in San Diego was around next-gen transceiver development to support these new services and the ever-increasing demand for network bandwidth.

100G paves the way for 400G in the data center
As 100G technology reaches maturity in 2018, innovations such as single-lambda 100G will continue to drive down costs of next generation 100GE links, as well as enable faster transition to 400GE in the data center. Single-lambda 100G uses four-level pulse amplitude modulation (PAM4) to transmit 100G over a single fiber, as opposed to four lanes running at 25Gbps. Since single-lambda 100G requires only a single set of optical components per module, the costs of 100GE connectivity are significantly reduced and next generation 400GE becomes viable.

400GE industry-first demonstrations at OFC 2018
At OFC each year the industry has a close eye on who is innovating at the fastest pace. By working closely with the market makers, we know what the industry needs to meet market timing and ramp requirements for optical components, modules and systems. Test solutions are not only instrumental to enabling new technologies, but often the only way for our customers to showcase their new product introductions.

At this year’s show, Keysight’s solutions were an integral part of more than twenty customer demonstrations including many 400GE industry firsts, such as new 100G single-lambda modules from Accelink Technologies and Applied Optoelectronics, 400 Gbps transceivers from Innolight, as well as 400 Gbps transceiver chipsets from MaxLinear.

 

At the Ethernet Alliance (EA) booth, Keysight Ixia’s K400 QSFP-DD-400GE load module sent and received live, full line rate, 400GE traffic to and from Juniper 400G transport technology using LR8 QSFP-DD optics provided by Finisar and Source Photonics. This was the first public demonstration of 400GE traffic over QSFP-DD optics, which will help to accelerate the development of new IEEE 802.3bs-compliant 400GE network equipment and systems. The K400 load module also won the 2018 Lightwave Innovation Review award for the category of Field Test Equipment.

 

A lot has changed in the span of one year since OFC 2017, where 100G and its production ramp were all the focus, and 400G seemed in the distant future. With PAM4 enabling single lambda to cost-effectively carry 100Gb/s of data, 400Gbps in the data #center is right around the corner and production of 400G optical modules is expected to start later this year.

 

It was amazing to see first-hand how Keysight’s optical test solutions have accelerated and helped bring to life so many new 400GE innovations that will enable exciting new services such as 5G and IoT.  Find out more about our K400 load module here and our 400GE transceiver test solutions here.