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The Lower the Better: Encrypting the Optical Layer

Published by Heavy Reading Product code 347437
Published Content info 14 Pages
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The Lower the Better: Encrypting the Optical Layer
Published: December 21, 2015 Content info: 14 Pages

It has always been somewhat difficult to have a business and technology discussion about encryption without also getting into a political debate; recent events have made it more difficult still. Since the terrorist attacks on Paris in November 2015, there has been renewed call for encryption technology to be fitted with so-called "back door" capability that theoretically would allow government authorities to keep better track of would-be terrorists and their communications.

Authorities argue that having a way to access transmissions that otherwise would be encrypted could help them foil terrorist plots and save lives. Those opposed to the back-door capability argue that it's just another way for government to violate the privacy of individual citizens; they also argue that such back doors only would make it easier for a broader variety of hackers, terrorists and other criminals to disrupt networks and business operations, as well as gain access to data, such as high-volume financial transactions, sensitive corporate and private data and even government and military secrets.

Use of encryption in telecom is by no means a new development, but it has been used somewhat sporadically, on a case-by-case basis, to protect specific services or individual transmissions between, for example, a data center and an enterprise customer that have been deemed highly sensitive by that customer. In terms of its application within the OSI stack, it most often has been used at Layer 3 and above.

For many reasons, the telecom industry has begun to expand on its previous thinking about when, where and how encryption should be used. Specifically, thinking has expanded to include encryption at Layer 1 of the network, the lowest physical optical layer in the OSI stack, where encrypting optical transport traffic before it moves through other layers offers some fairly practical and appealing benefits.

Though, in practice, Layer 1 encryption is still in its early days and far from comprehensive, it is evolving quickly, and several vendors, anticipating growing interest, have made moves in the last two years to support encryption capability in their core transport platforms. At least a few more are expected to provide further details on their Layer 1 encryption strategies and product plans in the coming year.

‘The Lower the Better: Encrypting the Optical Layer’ takes a closer look at some of the trends driving the market for optical layer encryption, the benefits it can provide, how a handful of vendors are addressing the growing need and, finally, how encryption technology and the market for this capability may continue to evolve.

Some optical equipment vendors have been quick to embrace the trend toward optical layer encryption, and a smaller number have been very aggressive to advertise their support for it. However, as this trend remains in its early stages, not all vendors appear to have the same sense of urgency, nor do they all offer the same level of support. The following excerpt shows some vendors' optical transport encryption support.

Excerpt: Optical Transport Vendors' Encryption Support

‘The Lower the Better: Encrypting the Optical Layer’ is published in PDF format.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


  • 1.1. Key Findings
  • 1.2. Companies Covered


  • 2.1. Why Layer 1 Encryption Makes Sense


  • 3.1. Demand for Optical Layer Encryption Emerges


  • 4.1. An Evolving Market



  • ADVA Optical Networking (ETR: ADV)
  • Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)
  • Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN)
  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)
  • Coriant GmbH
  • ECI Telecom Ltd.
  • Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN)
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