Automation and optimisation: How POLATIS® optical circuit switching is enhancing network test laboratories

Written by 

Mike Utley

Senior Manager, Product Manager & Marketing

In today’s rapidly evolving business climate, the ability to automate test infrastructure and resources is essential. As networks migrate towards line rates of over 800 Gbps, and the number of connected devices required to meet the demands of modern services continues to grow, network test labs have become increasingly complex and expensive. Automation can bring increased utilisation and a reduction in operational costs, easing the growing pressure on vendors and operators to rapidly test and deliver enhanced network services. 

Traditional layer 2 or layer 3 infrastructure, used for interconnecting equipment test beds, generates unnecessary complexity and cost. Should traffic speeds change, operators need to be on-hand to update the existing equipment. Layer 2/3 switches also retime and retransmit packets, which makes them subject to latency and can lead to a potential distortion of test results.

To overcome these issues and achieve dynamic fiber layer management, optical circuit switching solutions are an operator’s best friend. In place of traditional interconnects, the integration of patented POLATIS optical circuit switching technology from HUBER+SUHNER provides a transparent, user-configurable fiber layer that remains fully independent of test traffic formats or bit rates. This enables network test beds to be reconfigured in a matter of seconds, rather than hours or even days. POLATIS optical circuit switching therefore enables efficient network test laboratory automation and quick turnaround cycle times.

Optimised lab infrastructure

Once considered a luxury, remote lab management is now an essential element in system test laboratory operations. By automating lab infrastructure, test processes can be operated remotely, enabling the provision of Lab-as-a-Service (LaaS) for round-the-clock test cycles. 

Any input port can connect to any output port through an optical circuit switch, enabling simplified connections and the configuration and conducting of remote testing in real time. This allows operators to use a remote workforce, saving on staffing and travel expenses and reducing cable installation times by up to 75%. Test environments can be quickly set up, modified and recalled without the need for manual intervention, reducing the likelihood of human error. 

By deploying optical circuit switching, expensive test and network equipment can be shared across a number of test environments, minimising repeated high-cost equipment purchases and making savings on power and rack space. As a result, CAPEX savings of 50% or more are easily achievable. Unlike packet switches, signals are not retimed in optical circuit switches, allowing users to mimic and troubleshoot real time network deployments in the lab, improving accuracy and reducing customer response time. As these switches are transparent to transmission wavelengths, direction, protocol and bit rate, they can be used for any media and speed up to 800 Gbps and beyond, meeting the future demands of the industry.

The clear leader in optical circuit switching

POLATIS optical circuit switching surpasses the capabilities of other all-optical (OOO) and optical-electrical-optical (OEO) switching solutions found in test lab applications. It offers the industry’s lowest optical loss and the broadest range of symmetric and asymmetric matrix switches. These are essential in supporting the evolving needs of network test labs, with modular scalability available to tens of thousands of fiber endpoints. The POLATIS optical circuit switching solution enables true dark fiber switching which means no light is required to make and hold connections. As a result, crucial tests with low power or intermittent signals can be carried out with increased efficiency as connections do not require repeated resetting.