The Prospect of Inter-Data-Center Optical Networks


Mega data centers and their interconnection networks have drawn great attention in recent years because of the rapid public adoption of cloud-based services. The unprecedented amount of data that needs to be communicated between data centers imposes new requirements and challenges to inter-data-center optical networks. In this article, we discuss the traffic growth trends and capacity demands of Google’s inter-data-center network, and how they drive the network architectures and technologies to scale capacities and operational ease on existing fiber plants. We extensively review recent research findings and emerging technologies, such as digital coherent detection and the flexgrid dense wavelength-division multiplexed channel plan, and propose practical implementations, such as C+L-band transmission, packet and optical layer integration, and a software-defined networking enabled network architecture for both capacity and operational scaling. In addition, we point out a few critical areas that require more attention and research to improve efficiency and flexibility of an inter-data-center optical network: optical regeneration, data rate mismatch between Ethernet and optical transport, and real-time optical performance monitoring.