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A Breath of Fresh Air - ICPs Driving Down 100G Costs

By Jim Theodoras, VP Global Business Development, ADVA Optical Networking


As OFC 2017 rapidly approaches, new technologies will be at the forefront of discussions. Much to the chagrin of optical fanbois everywhere and delight of those other guys on the wrong side of communication history, optical appears to be following in the footsteps of wireless in adding more and more complex modulation schemes to eke out more and more from the same amount of stuff – all the while, pretending to ignore the inevitable Shannon limit. Yes, wireless is to optical as Pepsi is to Coca-Cola or, dare I say, Dr. Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes. Scientists and engineers can be an amusing lot (myself included), arguing in hallways, on panels, and at session audience microphones about the pros and cons of this versus that technology.

100 Gigabit Ethernet has been a resounding success, despite many early predictions otherwise. "Who will use all the bandwidth?" they asked. "CD and PMD limit you to patch cable length distances!" they said. In fact, the optical components industry today is struggling to keep up with demand. It’s true, had optical communications been dependent solely on the telecommunication sector, growth would have been slower, if not steadier. So, yes, internet content providers (ICPs) have had a positive impact on our industry, to grossly understate their import.

You could make the chicken-and-egg argument of: Did the data center operators (DCOs) and ICPs drive the enormous 100GE demand we are seeing today, or did 100GE come about just in time to rescue them and allow them to scale to what they have become today? No matter which came first, there’s no arguing their impact today.
But DCOs and ICPs brought something else new to the table – a breath of fresh air. Sometimes, well established markets tend to get a bit stagnant, as the industry leaders resist any change that might impact their profits and/or margins. So as DCOs and ICPs started pushing technologies that drove down both prices and margin spreads, industry stalwarts started pushing back. Well, not really pushing back, more like stalling and delaying tactics. And when the old guard has been reluctant to support their needs, DCOs and ICPs have not been shy about not just going it alone, but driving the industry in the direction needed.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the rapid development of direct-detect PAM4 100G optical transceivers. (OK, mustering up my best Don LaFontaine voice) In a world, where coherent dominates the 100G scene, and the only alternative was LR4 clients, a single major ICP was able to propose and then push a better alternative between the two extremes. OFC played a major role as this melodrama (at times, a soap opera) played out. The need was presented and justified at OFC 2015; early prototypes and supporting amplifiers where demonstrated at OFC 2016. And now, at OFC 2017, there will be papers showing real world performance, data presented on panels, and production products from an entire optical ecosystem on the show floor. Truly only one of many examples where OFC has played a pivotal role in the direction of optical communications.
 
 

Posted: 10 March 2017 by Jim Theodoras, VP Global Business Development, ADVA Optical Networking | with 0 comments

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