27 February 2012 10:52:33 AM
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The first time I ever stepped onto an OFC exhibits floor it was a kind of wonderland experience. It was right after the keynotes many years ago and there is always a rush of energy as the exhibits area opens for the first time. Here were companies I had been writing about and all were present and available to talk, explain themselves, put their best foot forward, and provide insights into where the industry and technology we shared were going.
While working at Ciena and helping to man the booth at OFC, I was even given a crash course in booth etiquette. Representatives of competing companies were to be stopped at the fringes of the booth as much as possible, while of course potential customers were taken all the way into the inner sanctum to speak with our highest up VIPs.
One thing I learned while being on the industry side at Ciena was the amount of work that was required to set up a booth properly. Some of the WDM equipment bays were literally in test mode weeks before the conference to get out the bugs, as were preparations such as who would be serving on what shifts and of course what the core message would be.
The set up team usually arrived the weekend before the show and it took several days to get all the equipment in place, working, looking nice and presentable. There was an enormous amount of work from all levels of employees.
Today, there will undoubtedly still be that wonderland feel for me as the exhibits open although the hall has become much more than just exhibits.
In Expo Theater I , there is the Market Watch segment, which spans the three days the exhibits are open. This plumbs exciting, non-technical areas such as passive optical networks, mobile backhaul and integrated photonics.
There is also the popular service provider summit, this year keynoted by Verizon's Stu Elby. Poster sessions round out the activties in Expo Theater I.
Exciting topics addressed in Expo Theater II include Lighting Up The Data Center, the Ethernet Alliance Forum, and a workshop on photonic startups.
In Expo Theater Three, topics including ROADMs, optical switches and plastic optical fibers are being addressed.
Other activities include the Industry Leaders Networking Event and FTTX Resource Center.
But most of all it is the hundreds of exhibitors unveiling new products and offering their insights into where the industry is going that makes the exhibit area such a special place.
This is very literally the cutting edge of optical transport and components being revealed. It does not take a genius to go from booth to booth and see who is leading the industry with what products.
As always, there is a cornucopia of new products, with a growing number focused around 100 G.
“I’m sure we’ll continue to see more and more 100G from all of the bigger players on the components side; but that’s been the case the last few years,” says OSA’s Melissa Russell, who directs the exhibits area. “We’re also seeing a much larger interest from exhibitors in promoting products related to the Enterprise IT and DataCenter Markets.”
There actually has been growth on the systems side in the last several years and Russell says this is highlighted by a new very large booth from Ericsson this year. They join the growing line-up of Systems companies who are exhibiting and sponsoring large events at OFC, including Cisco, Ciena, Infinera, Huawei, Nokia Siemans, and Alcatel/Lucent.
“Because of the increased participation on the Systems level, we're now getting increased interest from groups like Ethernet Alliance and OIF to host larger scale demos that now include Systems as opposed to just components,” says Russell “This in turn drives increased interest from the SP/Carriers and Enterprise folks to attend the show. Some new International pavilions have joined the show this year including one organized by IDA Ireland and one from Japan. We continue to see growth from last year in our pavilions from Germany, China and Korea as well.”
Russell says there look to be more than 500 exhibitors in all, in fact very close to 550. “We are also going to have about a 10 percent larger show floor compared to last year which was 20 percent larger than the year before in terms of overall square footage.
Exhibitors are using more video than ever before, says Russell. “If you walk around the show floor this year, you're likely to see more and more video taping sessions than ever before. While booth size has grown overall, over the past two years, exhibitors are paying much more attention to ensure the best possible ROI for their spend at any show. It's a testatment to the recovery of the telecom market and their successes at OFC/NFOEC that we are seeing growth when many many tradeshows are closing their doors.”
Of interest may be the fact that Google fiber is exhibiting for the first time, says Russell.
One notable event, which I know will be happening on the show floor is a very important product announcement by Ciena. Their CEO, Gary Smith, is going to be making the announcement in a live web-cast from their booth and there is a "lead-up" campaign to this event.
C. David Chaffee, Founder and CEO, Chaffee Fiber Optics.