July 22, 2021

Why the Future of Defense Capabilities Lies in 400G Networking

400g network modernization

In this blog, we discuss why network operators are turning to the adoption of 400G optical technologies as part of their network modernization strategy and what it means for the defense sector.

Science fiction – it’s actually happening, and a lot sooner than you think. Sure, holodecks and lightsabers have not yet become reality. When it comes to modern warfighting and defense, however, the development and application of new technologies has never been more intense. Now, those responsible for defense are looking to the optical networking industry to ensure that their networks are truly able to support a shift into technological applications once considered to be firmly within the realm of sci-fi.

The widespread use of mission critical, data-intensive services has accelerated, and the desire for cloud-ready network infrastructure to support modern battlespace requirements is growing. Seamless connectivity demands higher bandwidth capacity and lower latency. As a result, network operators are turning to the adoption of 400G optical technologies as part of their network modernization strategy. Here’s what this means for the defense sector.

A New Dawn of Battle Readiness

Recently, Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, Director of the Army Futures Command Network Cross-Functional Team said: “We are looking to be much more resilient in our network backbone and have much better capacity in our transport. We want to…accelerate the speed of decision making by integrating sensors…[and] leveraging cloud and edge computing optimization. Next generation combat vehicles and manned and unmanned platforms have to be interconnected with a network that allows them to leverage things like artificial intelligence algorithms.”

In one striking example of modernization, the Army recently released footage of their new Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B). Loaded with thermal imaging and augmented reality capabilities, it leverages technology from smartphones and gaming systems to improve upon traditional night-vision hardware. With humans and objects outlined in a glowing white light, at least one aspect of boots-on-the-ground warfare has now taken on qualities of a video-game-like experience. From an individual soldier’s equipment all the way to comprehensive air and missile defense platforms, governments and militaries are increasingly interested in intelligent, multi-domain command and control capabilities, giving their troops an edge on the field. All this, however, requires resilient wireline optical networks with significant upgrades to current speeds and capacities.

Moving to 400G: Opportunities and Challenges

When it comes to network upgrades, network operators around the world are already leapfrogging from 100G to 400G, often bypassing 200G completely. The economic case for this boils down to scalability. Simply put, 400G provides the potential to accommodate future jumps to 800G data rates and beyond. From a defense perspective, this move gives network engineers breathing room when accommodating spikes and longer-term growth in bandwidth demands from the application of new, data-intensive technologies. The higher data rate also helps with latency issues, ensuring war fighters remain combat-ready and that military command and control platforms can incorporate both real-time information with artificial intelligence to make decisions and coordinate maneuvers.  

In a previous blog, we talked about managing digital coherent optics (DCO) in a mixed-vendor environment. Specifically, we examined 400G ZR and Open ZR+, two standards for pluggable, coherent 400G DWDM optics that offer multi-vendor interoperability. The 400ZR standard concentrates on shorter metro links of up to 120km while the Open ZR+ standard allows for longer-haul transport of up to 400km. Mixing coherent interfaces from differing vendors within existing networks creates significant challenges, however. 

An industry-wide shift away from vendor lock is ultimately a good thing because it enables network operators to pick and choose vendor partners that can align with their technology paths. On the other hand, integrating new hardware from differing vendors into a network can quickly become complicated. Should things go wrong during deployment, for example, identifying the issue and acquiring troubleshooting support can be tricky, especially if any vendor attempts to shift blame to others in the supply chain. As well, vendor-specific modules often come with vendor-specific network management systems. This can result in information overload and lost opportunities to optimize the network. Having a reliable partner that not only manufactures and delivers high quality optical equipment, but also offers deep-seated expertise around network design, implementation and management is crucial to avoid these challenges.

How To Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities and challenges of migrating to 400G, check out the SIGNAL webinar series we are doing on July 27 at 2 pm ET. Titled “400G: Network Modernization Strategies and Considerations,” Pol Torres Compta, Field Application Engineer, and Keith Habberfield, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, will discuss the operational and interoperability complexities that every network operator must consider before deploying – and how to solve them. 

Topics that will be covered include:

  • Network modernization strategies 
  • The emergence/deployment of 400G digital coherent optics (DCO) and the new dynamic of multi-vendor interoperability 
  • Considerations of 400G network upgrades with supply chain constraints 
  • 400G breakout architectures
  • Deployment complexities in a mixed vendor environment
  • And much more…

To sign up for the webinar click here!

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