The plenary session at this year's OFC conference featured three industry experts who spoke on the future of transport networks, the underappreciated role that undersea fiber optic cables play in connecting our modern world, and the potential dangers of entrusting activities traditionally performed by humans to increasingly inscrutable algorithms.
Pradeep Sindhu, vice chairman and chief technology officer for Juniper Networks, spoke about the role that he saw optoelectronics playing in the future of transport networks. Sindhu predicted that within the next five years, the bulk of future networks will rely on a single element that incorporates routing, electro-optics and optics functionality, all integrated into a single chassis. “IP, packet and optical transport networks will cease to exist as separate networks,” Sindhu said. “And this will result in dramatic cost improvements for network providers.”
He also forecast that the current trend of building centralized data centers will continue due to its proven benefits for functions such as data and service orchestration. A major challenge, however, will be finding a balance between centralization and the potential danger of creating single points of failure.
Neal Bergano, vice president, R&D and chief technology officer of TE Connectivity SubCom, began his talk by asking the audience to think about what happens when they snap a photo on their smartphone and send it to a friend. “These days, do you even think about or even care where that person is in the world,” he asked. “That person might be halfway around the world in the Milan train station in Italy. That picture arrives like magic.”
The technology that makes that magic possible is fiber optics, and much of the data sent through fiber optics today is routed through undersea cables that crisscross the ocean floor and connect continents. “Anybody who surfs the web on different continents, makes phone calls or simply sends text messages or tweets uses undersea cables,” Bergano said.
Today's undersea cables can support up to 100Tb/s, but with today's explosion of digital content, Bergano said he predicts transmission capacity will need to increase four to eight-fold in the coming years.
Kevin Slavin, an assistant professor of media arts and sciences at MIT Media Labs, spoke about the increasing importance that algorithms play in our everyday lives. Everything from Google search engine queries to the stock market and even the determination of what movie scripts might become the next summer blockbuster are now influenced or controlled by algorithms. But while algorithms are helping make tasks easier and faster, there is a danger that humans are creating things they do not understand and cannot control, Slavin said.
He gave several examples of how algorithm glitches, or in some cases planned attacks, led to drastic fluctuations in stock prices or stock market crashes and recoveries that all happen within minutes. To this day, Slavin said, experts still do not understand how some of those events happened.
“AT MIT, there are people who are adding computers to whatever field they're involved in,” Slavin said. “The thing that is so strange is that you add computers to biology, and you unlock the genome; you add them to physics, and you get the Higgs boson. But you add them to finance, and it's not obvious that we’ve produced a stronger or more resilient market.”
Posted: 24 March 2015 by
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