26 September 2014 4:46:29 PM
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Some funny things happened while the Internet was minding its own business and incessantly growing into every corner of our lives. Not that we didn’t see it coming. When I was giving presentations at optics conferences in the late 1990s, I recall a quote from a major industry trade magazine predicting that the data center of the future would be “software and a network”. As the Internet of Things (IoT) begins to take shape, this prediction is coming true in ways that nobody ever imagined. And optical networking is positioned to play a major role in the IoT.
The emergence of networking as a utility has revolutionized our lives
The emergence of networking as a utility – always available on demand, with a pay-as-you-go model – has already revolutionized the way we do business, travel, find good restaurants, save for retirement, and educate our children. Even something as simple as attending OFC is made easier and more efficient with a handy mobile app (http://www.ofcconference.org/home/about/mobile-app ). Network accessibility is also one of the fundamental components which defines cloud computing (http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf), which I’ve discussed at length in previous blogs. In a world of warehouse-scale cloud data centers and ubiquitous networking, it was only a matter of time until everything was connected to everything else, and most of the network traffic consists of conversations between computers, with no humans involved. Consumer applications for the IoT include smart cars that can find their own parking space (and perhaps park themselves (http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/safety-regulatory-devices/self-parking-car.htm), kitchen appliances that you can control remotely with your cell phone (no more forgetting to turn off the oven when you leave the house), wearable electronics, and much more. There are already multiple efforts within the IEEE 802.3 committees to define 100 Mbit/s to 10 Gbit/s Ethernet solutions for cards, just to take one example. Industry analyst Gartner Group has predicted that the IoT will drive 212 billion network ports by the end of 2020 (http://www.zdnet.com/internet-of-things-8-9-trillion-market-in-2020-212-billion-connected-things-7000021516/ ). I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of IoT in this blog, just to outline the vast scope of possibilities.
The IoT will drive a massive build-out of supporting optical infrastructure.
Making IoT a reality depends on many things, including reliable, high bandwidth wireless communications. But for every wireless access point, you need a backhaul network to collect and funnel all that data. It’s been suggested that passive optical networks (PONs) will play an important role in consumer networks, and you’ll certainly hear more about that during OFC. But we’ll also need more optical fiber with active switches and routers, and an expansion of the core network architecture. Like an iceberg which only shows a small fraction of its bulk above the surface, the IoT will drive a massive build-out of supporting optical infrastructure.