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800G: An Inflection Point for Optical Networks

By Samuel Liu, Senior Director, Product Line Management, Marvell

Digital technology has what you could call a real estate problem. Hyperscale data centers now regularly exceed 100,000 square feet in size. Cloud service providers plan to build 50 to 100 edge data centers a year and distributed applications like ChatGPT are further fueling a growth of data traffic between facilities. Similarly, this explosive surge in traffic also means telecommunications carriers need to upgrade their wired and wireless networks, a complex and costly undertaking that will involve new equipment deployment in cities all over the world.

Weaving all of these geographically dispersed facilities into a fast, efficient, scalable and economical infrastructure is now one of the dominant issues for our industry.

Pluggable modules based on coherent digital signal processors (CDSPs) debuted in the last decade to replace transponders and other equipment used to generate DWDM compatible optical signals. These initial modular products didn’t offer the same performance as the incumbent solutions, and could only be deployed in limited use cases. These early modules, with their large form factors, had performance limitations and did not support the required high-density data transmission. Over time, advances in technology optimized the performance of pluggable modules, and CDSP speeds grew from 100 to 200 and 400 Gbps. Continued innovation, and the development of an open ecosystem, helped expand the potential applications.

Orion, Marvell’s latest CDSP, represents a pivotal moment in the module evolution. Delivering up to 800 Gbps of bandwidth, Orion provides the performance that will effectively allow coherent pluggable modules to be used across most—if not all—optical spans in today’s telecommunications networks. Orion-based modules will also provide data centers the much-needed bandwidth boost for AI. In the near future, pluggable modules are expected to surpass traditional coherent line cards in number of ports, with the lead continuing to grow over the next decade.

Here are five of the ways you’ll see longer distance communications changed:

Empowering Data Centers with 800G DCI Solution: The OIF’s 800G ZR Standard

The explosion of big data and cloud-based services has propelled data centers into uncharted territory, demanding substantial bandwidth capabilities. In addition, generative artificial intelligence (AI) enabled by cloud infrastructure is expected to grow exponentially, making the need for higher data transfer rates critical. In response, the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) has specified the 800G ZR standard, a milestone in data transmission. This standardized solution for 800G ZR pluggable modules, powered by coherent DSP technology, allows data centers to achieve unprecedented data transmission speeds over distances up to 120 kilometers, eliminating the need for costly and complex DWDM systems.

With interoperability ensured through the OIF’s standardization, data centers and network operators can seamlessly integrate 800G ZR pluggable modules from different manufacturers, promoting healthy competition and enabling rapid and massive deployments. As the industry’s first coherent DSP supporting this standard, Orion-based modules can enable data center interconnects to scale network capacity quickly and economically.

Global Carriers’ Transition to 400G Long Haul Transport

With the surge in data transmission, the long-haul transport infrastructure faces significant challenges. Coherent DSP technology, in conjunction with the CFP2 module form factor, empowers global carriers to upgrade their long-haul transport to 400G speeds. This transformative shift not only enhances data transmission capacity but also ensures stability and reliability for mission-critical applications. Keeping the data rate end-to-end for 400G becomes crucial to minimize overall network cost, avoiding bottlenecks and costly upgrades. The Marvell Orion CDSP is the first to enable data transmission at 2000 km distance using standard pluggable modules.

From 100G to 400G: The Once a Decade Router Upgrade and the Evolution of IPoDWDM Architecture

The backbone of the internet relies on robust routers to manage the vast amount of network traffic efficiently. As data demands surge, the transition from 100G to 400G becomes a critical milestone. Coherent DSP technology plays a pivotal role in this transformation, facilitating the evolution and adoption of IP over DWDM (IPoDWDM) architecture. Orion-based modules will also pave the way for greater adoption of IPoDWDM by enabling 400G interconnect at up to 2000km. Major carriers are all in the midst of once-in-a-decade upgrade of their core network routers—which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and occupy multiple racks—from 100 Gbps to 400 Gbps. Coupled with Orion-based modules, IPoDWDM architectures utilizing 400 Gbps routers can match the performance of existing equipment at a far lower cost.

The latest OpenZR+ MSA specification 3.0 has defined a 400G IPoDWDM solution beyond the initial metro distance, leveraging a unique QAM8 modulation mode. Additionally, the industry is pushing boundaries further by defining 400G QPSK for long haul use cases. As the industry continues to innovate, advancements with OpenZR+ specifications, such as 400G QPSK, promise longer distance data transmission, further optimizing global connectivity.

Enhancing Regional Connectivity with Efficient 400G Pluggable Modules

Coherent DSPs like Marvell’s 400G Canopus™, 400G Deneb™ and now 800G Orion enable transformative 400G pluggable modules for metro and regional use cases, outperforming traditional line card solutions. These pluggable solutions boast superior spectral efficiency, lower power consumption, excellent performance, and reduced costs. With a “pay as you grow” option using pluggable modules, network operators can effortlessly scale their regional networks without significant upfront investments, replacing bulky and power-hungry line card solutions. The seamless integration of coherent DSP technology ensures high data rates end-to-end, optimizing overall network costs and maximizing bandwidth efficiency.

Advancing Towards the Future: The 800G LR Standard

The evolution of data transmission has witnessed remarkable strides, from the early days of 1G to the present era of 400G LR. With data demands showing no signs of slowing down, the industry is continually seeking higher data rates to meet the ever-expanding needs of the digital world. The recent IEEE adoption, based on the OIF’s initial definition, is a significant breakthrough that sets the stage for the 800G LR standard, which is a critical step towards revolutionizing global telecom carriers’ network infrastructure. This standardized solution ensures seamless interoperability, enabling network operators to quickly adopt 800G LR pluggable modules. The introduction of 800G routers for very large network nodes becomes a reality, paving the way for massive data transmission with unparalleled efficiency and reliability.

Coherent DSP technology, together with industry standards like the OIF’s 800G ZR, has revolutionized data transmission, empowering data centers and global carriers with cutting-edge solutions. As the industry embraces the power of coherent DSP, three remarkable advancements stand out: the transition to 400G long haul transport, the better solution of 400G for regional use cases, and the revolutionary 400G IPoDWDM architecture.

With the recent IEEE approval for the 800G LR standard, the industry paves the way for massive data transmission across very large network nodes, advancing towards a fully interconnected world. Embracing these transformative technologies unlocks boundless possibilities for the digital world, meeting the ever-expanding demands of data-intensive applications and reshaping the way we connect and communicate in the digital age. With coherent DSP leading the way, the future of data transmission promises to be a seamless, efficient, and interconnected network that unlocks boundless possibilities for the digital world.

This blog contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements include, without limitation, any statement that may predict, forecast, indicate or imply future events or achievements. Actual events or results may differ materially from those contemplated in this blog. Forward-looking statements are only predictions and are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict, including those described in the “Risk Factors” section of our Annual Reports on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and other documents filed by us from time to time with the SEC. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date they are made. Readers are cautioned not to put undue reliance on forward-looking statements, and no person assumes any obligation to update or revise any such forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. 

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