Introduction to IOWN Global Forum
As society continues to increasingly rely on the internet for work, trade, education, and entertainment, traffic demand, as well as the need for new advanced service capabilities, will continue to grow. In parallel, the environment is increasingly reminding us to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions as a mean to slow the impact of climate change.
These objectives, at first glance, are contradictory. An increase in traffic leads to additional equipment, which leads to increased energy consumption, resulting in an increased contribution to climate change. Simply said, with our current technology, we will not be able to meet both objectives and as we meet future traffic requirements, we will also continue to increase the industry’s carbon footprint.
This conclusion is shared by many industry participants. Many studies have shown that equipment vendors and carriers are claiming reduced energy consumption in terms of watts per bit. These reductions are real and not misleading. The latest generations of telecom equipment are more power efficient on a per bit basis, and sometimes by a lot. For example, Fujitsu’s latest transponder, 1FINITY™ T900, supports wavelengths up to 1.2Tbps and uses closed-loop liquid cooling technology. This product’s generation reduces power per bit by 60% compared to previous generations.
The fundamental issue is that traffic demand outpaces the community’s ability to reduce power consumption. The industry’s total carbon footprint continues to increase even as the equipment is becoming more power efficient. The Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) Global Forum was formed with the goal to solve these issues by proposing a completely new network architecture.
Executive leaders from NTT, SONY, and Intel created IOWN in 2019. Since then, the organization has grown to 132 members from around the world. These members represent various segments of the world’s economy: communications service providers, equipment vendors, semiconductors, computing, consumer electronics, software, and more.
The charter of IOWN is to define the fundamental architecture of the information processing and delivery infrastructure to be deployed by 2030. IOWN fosters collaboration between the members to accelerate progress towards a sustainable next-generation infrastructure that meets future needs and requirements. The ultimate goal is to provide a next-generation infrastructure that is simpler, more secure, integrated, transparent, consumes less power, and helps to improve the user’s experience. The organization has published a number of white papers, reference architecture documents, and use cases that focus on specific targets to be achieved by 2030.
An interesting aspect of IOWN is that this consortium is one of the few initiatives where every layer of the information delivery infrastructure is represented. Members representing the semiconductor, optical, wireless, switching, premise equipment, and consumer electronics sectors have an opportunity to work together on a common goal. This close collaboration by representatives of every layer of the traditional OSI stack provides a unique opportunity to simplify the historically layer segmented architecture and lead to an overall simplification with equipment reduction for increased integration.
The consortium has set aggressive goals in terms of network capacity, service latency, and power consumption. These are both defined as intermediate goals for 2025 as well as the end-goal tied to the target network architecture set for 2030.
IOWN reference architecture
The organization has introduced a number of white papers and documents to outline the reference architecture of the 2030 target network. This reference architecture is centered around an All-Photonic Network (APN) delivering services over a wavelength switching based connection-oriented network. This approach is similar to what is used today, but the difference is that the network is an Ultra-Wideband network using optical bands beyond today’s C+L bands.
Another difference is the objective to eliminate electrical switching at the core of the network. The intention is to greatly reduce our reliance on electrical switching within the core of the network and generate substantial power reductions. The large majority of the electrical traffic processing is performed at the edge of the network by entities labelled IOWN data hubs, which combine storage, computing, and geographical sharing of information between federated IOWN data hubs.
This all-optical reference architecture is complemented by a reliance on 5G/6G wireless technology as the preferred network access mechanism in order to reduce infrastructure cost and ease deployment at the edge of the network. Wireless technology plays a critical role in streamlining the access to this target ultra-wideband optical network.
This reference architecture is then completed by adding a security layer, specified as IOWN Security and an orchestration layer with various APIs to control the end-to-end service delivery architecture from a common management platform.
Need for new technology
Much remains to be done in order to realize the IOWN reference architecture. The forum has defined the target at a high level and many of the systems, components, and standards need to be realized. For instance, the various required APIs forming the control and monitoring infrastructure need to be defined and agreed between the members before they are implemented. Other core components such as security, the interaction between the devices operating at different layers, plus the interface between the APN and the next-generation 5G/6G wireless network need to be finalized.
This initiative also relies on the availability of fundamental technology that is still under development. A new generation of ASIC technology with tight electrical and optical integration will be required at the edge of the network in order to achieve the target power reduction. This reference architecture also requires the availability of optical technology, both at the switching and laser layers, operating in optical bands outside of the traditional C+L bands. Research is well underway for the availability of S-band technology, but commercial deployment of these products is still a few years away.
The long journey to the ideal architecture
One of the benefits of IOWN is to focus the industry on a common goal. The 2030’s version of the network will likely not match the reference architecture exactly and it might fall short of the improvement multipliers set by IOWN’s vision. These goals are extremely aggressive and progress towards these goals will be a long journey. These initiatives rarely meet every objective set forth at the beginning of the initiative. In my mind, the ultimate goal is not to exactly meet this architecture and these requirements by 2030.
The ultimate goal, and one of the benefits of this initiative, might lie in the gathering of over 100 industry participants who are working together to achieve dramatic improvements to the current infrastructure with the goal of increasing user experience, reducing their carbon footprint, and simplifying the infrastructure. The efforts through the IOWN Global Forum should lead to improvements and benefits for both the industry and its users.
For more information
Fujitsu is committed to making the world more sustainable by building trust in society through innovation. Our active participation in the IOWN consortium is a natural extension of this corporate goal. Fujitsu is committed to contributing to the realization of IOWN’s vision and objectives through a sustained collaboration with other IOWN members, our partners, and our customers.
Learn more about IOWN as well as Fujitsu’s contributions to the forum. The IOWN GLOBAL FORUM mark and IOWN GLOBAL FORUM & Design logo are trademarks of Innovative Optical and Wireless Network Global Forum, Inc. in the United States and other countries.