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Monday at OFC/NFOEC 2013 – Make New Friends & Keep the Old

By Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D.

It’s another beautiful day in Anaheim, California, where I’m eager to get started at the first full day of the 2013 OFC/NFOEC conference. Fortunately I remembered to download the OFC mobile app from Guidebook so I could keep track of everything that was going on, and keep my social media followers up to date at the same time. Here’s an update on my first day’s activities, and if there’s something you’d like me to address then drop me a line on Twitter (@Dr_Casimer).

Since I’m interested in data center networking and cloud computing, I made sure to visit the cloud/datacom page on the OFC website to find out when these topics were being covered. I also caught some of the video previews from OFC ahead of time, which helped narrow down the scope of what I wanted to see today. With a conference of this size, it’s simply not possible to attend every interesting session in person. While I suspect few people could fit everything they wanted to see into a single day, I did a pretty good job scheduling around the inevitable conflicts at a conference of this size.

For example, there were several sessions first thing this morning that caught my eye, all being run by networking companies who have endorsed the Open Datacenter Interoperable Network (ODIN) reference designs for data center networks. The question of whether access networks could afford to be wavelength agile was being addressed by Adva Optical Networking this morning. At the same time, Alcatel-Lucent and their co-authors were reviewing the paths to getting additional 3 dB capacity/performance, wondering how far we can go and is it worth the cost. Finally, Ciena was running two sessions, one on the transition to Metro Ethernet and one on coherent optical systems. It wasn’t easy to decide which of these parallel sessions to attend this morning; fortunately, I was able to make contact with authors from the other two sessions and arrange to track them down afterwards. And there was a second followup session on coherent optics with Ciena listed for the afternoon; since I’m somewhat familiar with this topic, I hoped to pick up something useful even if I missed the morning session. Then there was the session on SDN in backbone networks, hosted by Google and Cisco, which still conflicted with my morning plans; fortunately I know one of the speakers, and planned to see him later in the conference, so I could pick up his key points later. But with so many conflicts, I had to pass on the session discussing 40/100G Ethernet hosted by NTT.

Although I can track down speakers inside my own company, IBM, without too much trouble, I still hoped to squeeze in some time at their panels and workshops. IBM Researchers were features at a discussion on how optics can address bandwidth and latency bottlenecks in data centers. This workshop invited leading experts in the field to debate which optical networking concepts would have the greatest impact on next generation data centers. Current data center operators and system OEMs were on hand to discuss their major pain points in network architecture. Issues included the constantly increasing demand for bandwidth (especially in storage, which is outstripping Moore’s Law by a considerable amount). New east-west traffic patterns within data centers, and low latency distributed processing between data centers, can present conflicting requirements for different parts of the network. All this was discussed in the first half of the session; in the second half, optical technology developers talked about whether pluggable transceivers could meet bandwidth, density, power, and cost requirements at 100-400 Gbit/second data rates (this made an interesting contrast with yesterday’s OIDA workshop on data center metrics). As aggregate data center bandwidths routinely extend into the multi-terabit and petabit range, the need for fundamentally new architectures such as silicon photonics was heavily discussed. I had to agree with the organizers that in the era of cloud computing, data centers have become as important as manufacturing plants were to the industrial age.

This afternoon, that theme continued with a two-part symposium on enabling the cloud, including a session on network virtualization that ran until 6 PM. Afterwards, I caught up with some colleagues from Hitachi Cable that I hadn’t seen in a long time for some dinner conversation about the day’s events. I ran into a few other colleagues at the bar later this evening, who reminded me that the online job fair was open all week at OFC. While I’m not in the market for a new position, I can see why so many people want to be part of this fast-growing business.

On my first day at OFC, I had a chance to hear some world-class speakers on topics directly related to my daily job, catch up with some old acquaintances, and learned about a few new initiatives that hadn’t been on my radar before this symposium. Not a bad start, and the week is still young. Wondering what we’ll learn about tomorrow? Then stop back for another daily blog from OFC/NFOEC 2013.

Disclaimer: Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by IBM.

Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D. Distinguished Engineer IBM System Networking, CTO Strategic Alliances Member, IBM Academy of Technology IBM Corporation.

Posted: 18 March 2013 by Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D. | with 0 comments

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