Vodafone Puts Voyager Optical Switches to the Test

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By: Michael Vizard

Vodafone and Cumulus Networks this week revealed they have successfully deployed a pilot implementation of a packet-optical transport system based on the open source Voyager technologies created by Facebook.

Voyager is an implementation of wavelength division multiplexing that combines packet and dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology to create a metro or long-haul fiber optic transport network. The development of Voyager is now being overseen by Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an open-source project.

The Vodafone test was conducted with the help of ADVA Optical Networking, a provider of switches and services, on a live network in Spain. It combined Voyager switches with a network operating system provided by Cumulus Networks and a NetOS Software Defined Network (SDN) orchestration software from Zeetta Networks.

The Voyager optical switch was able to achieve network throughput rates of 800 Gigabits per second (GBPS) per rack. Just as importantly, this instance of Voyager showed that traffic moving across the network could be modulated as the type of network traffic being sent changed, says Cumulus Networks CTO JR Rivers.

“They injected a lot of noise into the network to test the ability to modulate the media,” says Rivers.

In contrast to other types of trials that occur in a laboratory setting, Vodafone insisted any tests conducted needed to occur on a live network because Rivers notes Vodafone is committed to delivering network services based on Voyager.

The tests prove the biggest challenge with making the transition to SDNs and open source networking technologies at this point is not the underlying technology, says Rivers. Rather, the primary issue is inertia surrounding the internal IT culture as it pertains to biases associated with how many IT professionals still think enterprise networks should be managed.

The primary thing that will break that logjam is when cloud service providers start embracing these emerging network technologies to provide over-the-top networking services in competition with traditional carriers, adds Rivers.

It may take a while for the transition to optical networks based on SDN technologies to fully play out. But with each successful trial, it’s becoming apparent that transition is now all but inevitable.