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OFC/NFOEC 2013: Coherent optical intelligence takes center stage

By Steve Alexander

One of the reasons I look forward to OFC/NFOEC each year is the event’s pure collection of networking talent and insight. Attend and you’re sure to come away with a new perspective on the future of optical networks and the services that run over them.

And with that in mind, I propose to you that the hot topic of discussion at OFC/NFOEC 2013 will be optical intelligence.

Yes, I said 2013.

At this year’s OFC/NFOEC event, be prepared to talk capacity. The age of 100G is here, as is the coherent modulation technology that enables 100G speeds, so be prepared to listen non-stop about 100G from vendors and service providers alike at this year’s event.

There are also likely to be some at this year’s event already talking about what’s next for optical capacity after 100G. Whether that’s 200G, 400G, or even Terabit, using coherent technology to take another step up in optical capacity that meets future bandwidth demand will be on the minds of many at the show. But listen closely at this year’s OFC/NFOEC and you’re likely to hear something more than just a capacity story in regards to the future of coherent optical technology. While increased capacity is obviously critical to the future of transport networks, I see an evolution in thinking on the horizon. Increasingly, network operators are evolving from a narrow mindset of raw capacity to one of intelligent capacity.

Leading edge service providers are already looking at integrating a new generation of intelligence into their optical networks enabled by coherent technology. This involves an evolution of optical switching technologies from the traditional electrical switching layer to the photonic layer, and is made possible by embedding intelligent coherent technology into the optical transceiver. These coherent transceivers, coupled with agile ROADMs, allow an automation of the setup and rearrangement of wavelengths purely in the photonic domain. This allows the network operator to rapidly respond to changing network demands and enables faster turn-up of new services.

Because of the common coherent technology enabler, the required move of optical transport networks to 100G and beyond presents a perfect opportunity for network operators to begin this evolution to a more intelligent optical infrastructure. And while all the talk about optical capacity at this year’s event may make it hard to concentrate on anything else, listen closely and you’ll be able to hear above the noise of 100G to the real future of optical networks. And by next year’s event, I believe the importance of combining optical intelligence with a network’s raw capacity will be impossible to ignore.

Steve Alexander, Chief Technology Officer, Ciena

Posted: 28 February 2012 by Steve Alexander | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.

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