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Wednesday at OFC/NFOEC 2013 – Cloudy with a chance of SDN

By Casimer DeCusatis, Ph.D.

My next day at OFC 2013 started off bright and early with a keynote talk on “Cloudonomics” (which I still don’t believe is a real word).   I learned that it refers to the changing economics brought about by cloud computing technology, and what this means for cloud data networks.  I got to hear about cloud computing from a business and financial perspective, which was a refreshing change from the steady stream of hard technical data I’ve been digesting for the past few days.  The variety provided by talks like these is just another great reason why OFC is one of the conferences that I make time to attend every year. 
Although I focus on data center applications, I also wanted to learn what’s happening in the carrier and telecom markets.  So I spent some time in a session on a topic outside my core field of expertise today.  The symposia on SDN Drivers for Carriers was very illuminating.  This session was sponsored by the Optical Internetworking Forum, who also ran several meetings yesterday.  The OIF includes some of the world’s largest networking carriers, so where could you find a better audience to debate the key requirements and building blocks for interoperable optical networking services ?  The desire for service aware transport networks (analogous to application or workload aware datacom networks) came across very clearly, although the network protocols and software used to realize these goals is very different from what the data centers are using.  OpenFlow, VXLAN, NVGRE, DOVE, and other data center protocols or overlays were not as well represented as some other protocols which the telecom industry has been using in their control plane for many years.  Perhaps the telecom market anticipated the need for programmability in the network, or perhaps we’re just repurposing legacy software to protect investments made in a market which changes much more slowly than the data center.  Either way, this session made for interesting listening! 
I spent some time over lunch with Avago hearing about their latest technical innovations, including a 25G CDR that runs over backplane interconnects, and a corresponding 12 channel, 25G parallel optical module with a reference design using their SerDes ASIC.  They also showcased interoperability on their QSFP and SFP+ products, as well as an extended reach QSFP which runs 550 meters over enhanced cables from Corning, Panduit, and Commscope.  They are collaborating with Amphenol on a new heat sink solution, and demonstrated a 100G CFP2 SR10 form factor module. 
I also met with Formerica to discuss their silicon optical bench technology, which enables low cost 12G active optical SAS cables (potentially cost competitive with copper cables at equivalent distances).  They also have the potential for multi-date rate transceivers which span 10G Ethernet through 16G Fibre Channel in a single component. 
There was a large exhibition today from The Ethernet Alliance, which is a global community of Ethernet end users, component vendors, and experts from industry, universities, and government.  This year, they hosted two panel discussions.  First, a review of trends in interconnects and integration talked about issues in high speed electrical to optical conversion.  This included topics such as the use of parallel optical fiber links, optical backplanes, and direct attach active optical cables.  We heard from network architects, CTOs, and government agencies who had an interest in using Ethernet for these applications.  A second session called The Need for Speed (hey, didn’t I use a title like that on one of my earlier OFC blogs?) discussed topics such as the adoption rate of 40/100G Ethernet, bandwidth growth, the next speed for Ethernet links, and ongoing work related to 400G CFI interfaces.  Industry analysts from Dell’Oro group, leading engineers from Juniper Networks, and others provided a great exchange of ideas for all involved.
I got to have a discussion with some of my company’s business partners at lunch, and with some universities that are working with my company during dinner.  Once again, this was a full day of stimulating technical discussions and meetings which broadened my horizons and was well worth the time.  Come back tomorrow for my final blog from OFC, and your last chance to tweet with me about what you like at the conference.

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

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