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Tuesday at OFC/NFOEC 2013 - Tutorials and Professional Society Partnerships

By Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D.

It’s the next day of my annual trip to OFC/NFOEC, and I’m excited to be giving another talk this afternoon, a tutorial on data center networking.  But first, there are a lot of good sessions that I want to attend, so it looks like another full day.  I’m finding the conference app on my iPad to be incredibly helpful.  This is the first week-long conference I’ve done with just my iPad, no clunky laptop to haul around, and it’s working out great.  I don’t have to worry about my presentation this afternoon, since I uploaded the charts to OFC’s presenter website before leaving home.  Even so, I have a backup plan – a converter cable that lets me connect the iPad directly to a projector, just in case.  
I start the day with a breakfast meeting and talking shop with some of my company’s key optics suppliers.  It’s convenient that they’re all gathered together in one place for this conference.  Then it’s on to the software defined networking session in the Expo TheatreIII, for a great series of speakers from Microsoft, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent, Infinera, Cisco, Ciena, and NTT.  Topics include the drivers for SDN in large scale service providers; SDN for cloud networking, automation, and VPNs; optical transport switching; and packet-optical network designs.  It’s clear that SDN means something different to the long distance telco and service provider markets than it does to the data center architects.  In the telco and cloud world, protocols like MPLS and BGP are being exploited to centralize and automate network management, and everyone’s talking about the emerging NFV proposal in the ETSI standards group.  
Another great benefit from attending OFC is the chance to interact with lots of other technical and professional societies; it’s almost like getting to attend multiple conferences at the same time.  For example, later this morning, there was another session on SDN sponsored by the Optical Internetworking Forum.  This group also held a demonstration of multi-vendor interoperability between 4 x 25G serdes, a key step toward insuring vendor compatibility for future 100G networks.
There were other professional societies represented at the conference, as well.  The IEEE held a seminar on advanced optical solutions for cloud computing, communications, and networking.  This included many of the hot topics I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, such as terabit networks, space division multiplexing, wavelength agile optical WDM networks, grid networks, converged optical and wireless systems, and high speed photonics with coherent detection.  This session was co-sponsored by the IEEE Communications Society, the IEEE Photonics Society, and the Optical Society of America.  
The panel on high speed optical networking was also held this afternoon.  There’s been high demand for data center connectivity using pluggable optical transceiver form factors such as CXP, CFP, CFP2, and CFP4,as well as much speculation about when 100G pluggable optics will become available and whether silicon photonics will play a role in this market.  This session looked at the current industry status and outlook for the next five years, and was a must-attend for anyone who either manufactures or buys optical components.  
Of course, one session that was a must-attend for me was my own tutorial presentation on optical for datacom and computer data centers.  I presented an overview of the modern data center, including positioning of Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and InfiniBand network protocols, and laid out five mega-trends shaping the computer networking industry.  These includes warehouse scale data centers, big data analytics, integrated pods of servers, networking, and storage, SDN for creating smatters, more open networks, and network virtualization.  As networking technology has matured, we find ourselves demanding more sophisticated features, including higher quality of service, faster provisioning, continuous monitoring, and application or service aware networks.  I reviewed some of the key technologies that are making this possible, and speculated on future developments.  Many thanks to everyone who Tweeted their comments to me after the presentation (@Dr_Casimer).  
Many OFC sessions ran late into the evening.  Today was no exception; after dinner, I caught a panel discussion at my OFC conference hotel called “silicon photonics – disruptive technology or research curiosity?”  Led by IBM T.J. Watson Research Center scientists and representatives from OpSiS, this lively discussion showed that the OFC conference experience extends well beyond the trade floor and formal daily symposia.  This discussion was an interactive, thought-provoking review of how far we’ve come with optical waveguides, VCSELs and other laser sources, and integrated optoelectronics over the years, and the role it may have to play in proposed photonics integrated architectures in the future.  
It’s been another exciting and exhausting day at OFC, and I think my brain is full now.  Time to get some rest and process everything I’ve learned today; I’ll be back tomorrow with another blog about my third day at OFC 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: 19 March 2013 by Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D. | with 0 comments

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