Optical networking company Infinera (Nasdaq: INFI) announced that social-networking giant Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) has deployed its technology to build what it calls the “longest terrestrial optical network route,” which will cover 3,998 kilometers in Europe at a total capacity of eight terabits per second (Tbit/s), without optical generation.
The announcement of both the size and power of the network — and the client — will be perceived as big coups for Infinera. Its stock price was up $0.59 to $20 this morning, hitting a new 52-week high. (I do have one question, which is why the engineers couldn’t find a way to go the extra 2km to make it to 4,000km, but some may call that a nitpick.)
Optical networking players, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: LU), Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Cyan (Nasdaq: CYNI), have all been working hard on technology to win over the “Webscale” datacenter players such as Facebook. Much of the growth in network bandwidth is occurring with digital media being exchanged on social networks, as the world seeks more bits to swap their selfies and adorable cat photos.
The new Facebook European terrestrial network stretches from its Lulea, Sweden, datacenter across major cities in Europe. It will use Infinera’s Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC) technology, a proprietary custom chip design that can transmit 500 Gbit/s “super channels.” Infinera says it will support 1.2 Tbit/s channels in the future.
Last week, Infinera announced two new PICs, PIC-500 and oPIC-100. These PICs were designed for metro optical networks, where large webscale datacenters are being connected. Infinera says a big advantage of its PIC technology is it allows optical wavelengths to be peeled off or “sliced” so that smaller pieces of the bandwidth can be routed at the optical layer. This will also enable these networks to be more easily virtualized as Software Defined Networking (SDN) meets optical.
While other optical players are also playing up their own wavelength routing capabilities, Infinera remains the only player that builds its own PICs and owns its own chip fabs, or plants, while other optical vendors combine discrete components from suppliers. And so far, Infinera is the only optical company to announce a production network with 500 Gbit/s optical super-channels.
In the corporate press release, Niclas Comstedt, Director of Network Engineering at Facebook, said scaleability was key in the decision. “The Infinera Intelligent Transport Network makes it easy for us to rapidly grow network capacity while keeping operations simple,” said Comstedt in the statement. “Once the equipment is in place we are able to turn up as many terabits as we need.”
Facebook says it deployed the Infinera DTN-X platform to build the optical network, which is now in operation. It will support total capacity of 12 Tbit/s of non-blocking optical transport network switching.