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Data Center Technology Accelerates with Huge Presence at OFC

By Alan Weckel, Founder and Technology Analyst at 650 Group


Cutting edge data center technology was highlighted throughout OFC last week. The industry did a good job of showcasing its progress towards 400 Gbps as well as the technologies behind it. We were also able to see what is happening next with a bright future towards 800 Gbps, 1.6 Tbps and other high-speed offerings as the industry gears up to support the incredible demand of bandwidth that will come from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). There was excitement and buzz throughout and to the very end of the show, which indicates that OFC 2019 was a huge success in answering the biggest challenges in data center networking.

ZR and ZR+ are going to change the market

There was a show-wide theme and slew of introductions on long-reach pluggable technology. The market will likely see early volume of this technology in 2020, which will coincide with second-generation 400 Gbps switch silicon. The ability to reach longer distances is critical to allow the Cloud to grow and scale. In addition to connecting data centers, high-speed pluggables may also serve the metro market; both are tremendous opportunities and for many vendors each represents growth in their current addressable market.

The journey towards photonics is becoming real

We saw multiple vendors expand or announce offerings in this space. While the industry is still several years out from fiber running directly to the switch ASIC, we saw many announcements to move the industry in that direction. The scale of the cloud hyperscalers is in many ways demanding photonics; at the OFC show, we saw demonstrations and heard tales of significant feats that overcame very challenging engineering problems. The benefit to the industry will be significant as announcements this year will help to enable lower cost and lower power 100 Gbps and 400 Gbps products. We also saw several vendors use photonics as a way to increase their addressable markets.

112 Gbps SERDES moved closer to production

Hints of 25.6 and 51.2 Tbps Ethernet switching platforms were prevalent at OFC this year, and demonstrations of the next generation SERDES technology show a lot of different possibilities, especially with so-called chiplets. 2019 will see a host of announcements on next generation 112 Gbit/s SerDes shipments. There will be a lot of design and integration effort in 2019 underway to enable the market to move quickly to 112 Gbit/s SerDes. 

Cloud and Enterprise DC Switching markets diverging

While much of the show was about higher speeds, vendors expended some effort to showcase how 100 Gbps technology in the cloud is making its way into enterprises. With volumes already driving down the cost, 100 Gbps optics will become popular in the enterprise market. 100 Gbps will not only be popular for data centers, but it will work its way into the aggregation layer of campus switching in the future, as well.

Posted: 18 April 2019 by Alan Weckel, Founder and Technology Analyst at 650 Group | with 0 comments

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