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The business case for intelligent embedded DWDM over active DWDM

Several methods are available for data center connectivity in enterprise networks. Companies can run the network by themselves in a private network or have an operator run it for them through a managed service. Building a private network requires access to dark fiber, either owned or leased, between the sites. Various technology choices are possible depending on the total amount of traffic required throughout the lifetime of the network and the distance between sites. This article focuses on comparing two of them: intelligent distance-extending DWDM and active transponder-based DWDM.

Active telecom-grade DWDM systems

An active DWDM system, commonly referred to as a transponder-based system, is an alternative for data center connectivity that allows large amounts of data to be transported between sites. The transponder takes the output of the SAN or IP switch— usually in a short wave 850nm or long wave 1310nm format — and converts it through an optical-electrical-optical (OEO) DWDM conversion.

There is a clear demarcation point between the optical DWDM layer and the data layer (Ethernet of Fibre Channel protocols). This is important for two reasons. First, a DWDM signal can travel farther than a short-range signal, making it suitable for data center connectivity between geographically separated data centers. Second, many DWDM signals can be connected through a multiplexer and simultaneously transmitted over a dark fiber.

Intelligent distance-extending DWDM

Smartoptics has developed M-Series, a distance-extending DWDM multiplexer that combines the simplicity and cost effectiveness of an embedded DWDM approach with the long distance and management functionality of the traditional telecom-grade active DWDM systems. The result: a 1U platform that can simultaneously handle multiple traffic channels up to a distance of 200km. This is a blessing for campus and corporate data center connectivity, eliminating the usual amplification and signal conditioning user-tuning requirements and leaving the user with a plug-and-play solution for all current and future traffic protocols.

Telecom-grade DWDM system

Open-line networking DWDM system

  • Complex and inflexible networking
  • Telecom system not aimed at the enterprise
  • FC switch needs to be in R_Ready mode
  • R_Ready removes the FC proprietary functions
  • FEC in the FC switch needs to be disabled
  • 2 configurations required – switch and DWDM system
  • Open-line networking for datacom connectivity
  • Embedded DWDM transceivers and/or transponders
  • Layer 1 interoperability tested and approved by Brocade
  • Plug-and-play embedded DWDM approach
  • No special configuration required in the switch
  • Easily upgradeable – just add SFP for extra channels
  • Total control of network and bid process
  • Lower TCO and no hidden opex, more budget for other areas

Capex and opex over 3 years

8-channel 16Gbps M-Series system

Investment (first 3 years)
1 x M-Series intelligent DWDM System $85,0000
Capital expenditure (capex): $85,000

Continual operational costs (for 3 years)
Fiber leasing costs $36,000

Total cost (3 years): $121,000

8-channel 16Gbps active DWDM system

Investment (first 3 years)
1 x Active DWDM system $7114,600
Capital expenditure (capex):   $114,600

Continual operational costs (for 3 years)
Fiber leasing costs $36,000
SLA & SW licensing $36,000
Operational expenditure (opex): $72,000

Total cost (3 years): $186,600

Using a traditional DWDM system enables you to transport large amounts of data between customer sites but these systems are inherently complicated and can be overly expensive. In most cases, the platforms are built for telecom-grade networks and have features simply not required for corporate data center connectivity. They are often cumbersome to maneuver and complicated to design, install and configure. Enterprises aim to carry as much data over their fiber network as needed with no impact on quality of service. Their requirements simply differ from those of a telecom operator, who delivers individual circuits to multiple users.

Intelligent distance-extending DWDM using the Smartoptics M-Series platform offers the same capacity as an active transponder-based DWDM platform but in a much simpler way. There is only 1U of rack space required, and new services are quickly and conveniently added just by adding the required number of optical transceivers. M-Series comes prebuilt to manage longer distances — eliminating the need for additional amplifiers or signal conditioning units.

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