New trends and rapid technological advances in IT and telecommunications are changing the way telecom networks are designed, deployed and managed. The list of innovations driving the continuously increasing demand for bandwidth is long. Mobile end-user devices are becoming smarter, rich media content such as video is commonly adopted for business and private consumption, applications are increasingly implemented in a network-based fashion and are pushed into the cloud, social media became part of our daily lives – and many more. Consequently, the architecture of the Internet has changed as well over the last years. Widely spread usage of e-mail, e-commerce, search engines, social networks and cloud computing are only a few examples driving this change.

Many of the new and trendy innovations have been enabled through migrating telecom networks from a static, circuit-switched infrastructure to a more flexible and scalable packet-based technology. The wide-scale adoption of Ethernet as a transport protocol and the increased usage of fiber in all parts of the network allowed operators to provide more bandwidth at significantly lower cost.

Software has started to play a much more dominant role in all layers of the network lately to increase flexibility, provide service awareness and to keep cost under control. Software Defined Networking promises to enable operators to implement innovative services more easily and much faster in all parts of their network. This includes fixed network infrastructure, wireless networks, data center networks and access networks for business and residential users. SDN also promises to enable a better control over the network and optimize the usage of the available resources according to the actual demand.

Software Defined Networking also plays a critical role in optical networks, especially when looking at transmission speeds beyond 100G – we refer to it as Software Defined Optics (SDO). Increased spectral efficiency comes at the expense of reach when going beyond 100G on a single wavelength. Higher-order modulation schemes provide better spectral efficiency but have a significant impact on the reach achievable. There clearly is no one-size-fits-all solution anymore.

In agile optical networks where communication routes are switched between different end points according to the actual demand, the concept of SDO enables network operators to flexibly adapt their network to actual requirements. They can utilize the same transponder hardware to transmit at lower capacity over longer distances or provide maximum capacity over a short distance. SDO increases the agility of a network by utilizing adaptive modulation schemes and software-driven error correction and equalization technology. And SDO allows reducing the energy consumption of a network by adapting available capacity to demand – an important characteristic for telecom and data center applications.

In other words: Software Defined Networking builds a robust foundation for future networking innovation.