The Optical Networking and Communication
Conference & Exhibition

San Diego Convention Center,
San Diego, California, USA

OFC Day 3 - Tuesday, March 11 - Plenaries, Posters, & Exhibits, oh my!

By Casimer DeCusatis Ph.D

Another full day of events at OFC…today I’ll be checking out the plenary sessions, wandering through the posters & vendor exhibits, and taking in a few interactive sessions as well.
Today’s seminar on a “reality check” for energy efficient telecom networks was particularly interesting. Over the past year, there have been many reports on power consumption issues for service providers and certain types of cloud computing data centers. For some users, power consumption is the limiting factor in building out new data centers, rather than capital expense or floor space. Others have noted that with careful design, modern telecom centers can achieve a power usage efficiency (PUE) close to unity, which implies a highly efficient use of energy.  With the increased use of virtualization, for example, the amount of electricity consumed per unit of compute power is actually declining in some cases. For the past decade, the use of virtualization in the data center has been steadily increasing, making its way from high-end mainframe servers into commodity x86-based servers. This reduces the number of physical servers, switches, and storage devices, and lowers overall power consumption. We might expect that network virtualization would yield similar efficiencies. Moore’s Law doesn’t apply to power and cooling, but there are efficiencies to be had in the optical network. Selecting the proper approach to re-designing the telecom network to optimize for energy efficiency is an ongoing discussion which is sure to continue long after OFC.
Today’s interactive “rump session” dealt with another key issue for long distance networks, namely whether faster than exponential traffic growth will break the Internet.   If anything, current growth rates for Internet traffic bandwidth seem to be outpacing industry projections from only a few years ago. For example, as I’ve discussed in previous blogs, back in 2007 most people thought that 40G Ethernet wouldn’t be a significant market force until 2017, and perhaps by 2020 we’d begin to see 100G links in reasonable volumes. Today, we have 40G enabled switches within the data center, even if most of these links are being used for inter-switch stacking and 100G is in early deployment now for large carriers. The accelerated interest in higher data rates can be attributed to a number of factors, including the demands of warehouse-scale cloud data centers (which need to use optical links at these data rates to cover hundreds of meters or more). For instance, there are vendor proprietary high speed links within modern data centers (), and 100G is established in the metropolitan area network (example one  and  example two ). When used between buildings at long distances, 100G links are optimized for distance and performance (which makes sense in an environment where fiber is scarce and relatively expensive). Designers spend more effort on the link endpoints, in an effort to maximize the spectral efficiency of long distance wavelength multiplexed optical links (hence the recent interest in coherent transmission improvements). This lively session included a lot of audience participation and several strong opinions on the best ways to keep the Internet operating smoothly well into the future.   
The conference schedule allowed some time today for poster presentations. This gives attendees a chance to interact one-on-one with technical authors, and ask questions that might not be possible in a large lecture hall. It’s a much more intimate environment, where you can wander the aisles looking for your favorite topics or just stop whenever you see something particularly interesting. I’ve often found that you can learn a lot just from hanging around an interesting poster and listening to the presenter describe their work to others, but don’t be shy about getting involved yourself. In my experience, everyone at the poster sessions has been very approachable, and often excited to have a chance to describe their research to you.
The conference reception this evening was another highlight. This mixer provides a great opportunity to renew old acquaintances and make new ones, over a light snack and some adult beverages.
You’ve had three days so far to figure out the theme in my blog post titles – I didn’t make it that hard !  You know the answer, so tweet me (@Dr_Casimer) and get your well deserved acknowledgment in the eyes of the world. Only one day left, so hurry back tomorrow as we continue daily posts from OFC.

Posted: 12 March 2014 by Casimer DeCusatis Ph.D | 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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