• Technical Conference:  30 March – 03 April 2025
  • Exhibition: 01 – 03 April 2025
  • Moscone Center, San Francisco, California, USA

A Year of Innovations in 3 Days at OFC

By Casimer deCusatis

Did you know that someday soon, a “fiberless” technology backed by industry heavyweights such as LinkedIn and HP (Open 19 Foundation) might enable up to 400 GB of raw bandwidth to the cloud without the need to run fibers to each individual server? Or that the new 8K ultra-high definition televisions (UHDTV) are using plastic optical fiber? How about that new 16 nm technology for silicon CMOS devices at 600 GB/s; could it be related to machine learning networks, or perhaps the ON2020 roadmaps

If you didn’t recognize many of these topics but would like to learn more, then you’re in luck; these and many more will be on tap in one convenient place, the OFC 2018 Technical Conference and Exhibition, this coming March 11-15. Keeping up with the increasingly rapid pace of photonics technology advancement continues to be a challenge for all of us, as well as a necessity to stay relevant and motivated in a changing global marketplace.  More than ever, OFC gives you the chance to catch up on the past years’ worth of innovations in just three days.  And admission is free with Exhibit Pass Plus Registration. To get a feeling for what you’ll be missing if you don’t attend this year’s OFC conference, download the brochure for a complete overview of everything happening on the OFC exhibit hall. Meanwhile, let’s take a quick look at the breadth of exciting technologies that are on the schedule.

5G, Next-gen optical transport, Multi-layer optical internetworking, open transport hardware/ software and disaggregation

With 5G networks slowly becoming a reality it’s no surprise that OFC will bring you a host of requirements for 5G fiber infrastructure, as well as bearer requirements for front haul and back haul networks. Expect companies like Nokia, AT&T, Verizon, China Telecom, and others to show off their future plans. Next generation optical transport networks (both packet and optical) are expected to continue deploying software defined networks, and a surge of new white box designs is anticipated for the coming year. Multi-layer optical internetworking architectures, at both the physical and management planes, are expected to receive increased attention. At the same time, look for discussions of so-called “open transport” hardware and software, and a discussion on the role of disaggregation in optical networks (these presentations will feature perspectives from Microsoft, Google, Facebook, JP Morgan Chase, and many others). With recent surveys showing that just about half of the major service providers are considering open transport deployments, this technology may have reached its tipping point in 2018. All of these topics will be covered in Market Watch and the Network Operator Summit on the show floor.  

Data Center
Within the data center, switches are scaling upwards of 3 – 6 Tbit/second, with switching chips as fast as 25 Tbit/second on the horizon. This has driven requirements for a new generation of pluggable optical transceivers, with sophisticated on-board digital signal processing and electrical bus rates approaching 65 GBaud. While the industry struggles with various form factor options, coherent vs direct detection systems, and increasingly difficult constraints on packaging and electromagnetic shielding, some companies continue to develop alternatives including silicon photonics or optics-on-card solutions. The Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO) continues to propose novel solutions to this problem. During OFC, their members (including Cisco, Intel, Juniper, and Mellanox) will discuss plans for wider market adoption of optics under the covers. And speaking of standards bodies, don’t miss the Ethernet Alliance latest industry roadmaps, and the justification for choosing data rates such as 25, 50, and 400 Gbit/s for different applications. And if you are interested in 400G and what is happening with standards there is also a session on this topic. All of this will be covered at this year’s OFC Data Center Summit and other show floor programs
Training Courses at OFC
If all this sounds a bit overwhelming, perhaps you’d like to sign up for an industry expert to give you a concise overview of key topics in just half a day. OFC Short Courses are a great way to find out what’s going on in your field, or catch up on a related area of interest. This year, there are seven brand new courses adding to the list of over 50 popular topics, including digital coherent optical system performance, high-capacity data center interconnects, pluggable optics, optical transport SDN, transmission fiber cables, and SDN inside and in between data centers. Many short courses involve hands-on experience in areas such as silicon photonics component design or fiber optic handling, measurements, and component testing. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about microwave photonics, high speed laser modulation, or what makes a ROADM colorless, contentionless, and directionless, then there’s a short course to fit your interests, too. Short Course registration includes admission to the plenary session, exhibit hall, Market Watch, Network Operator Summit, the OFC Career Zone, workshops, poster sessions and OFC 2018 Buyers’ Guide, and there’s even a special rate for student members. But these courses have limited seating, and last year 85% of them sold out before OFC started, so be sure to sign up early. 

With all of these potential opportunities together in one place, this year promises to be the biggest and most exciting OFC conference yet. And don’t forget that you still have until February 27 to submit a postdeadline paper. Nearly 15,000 technical professionals from over 65 countries will be attending OFC; shouldn’t you be one of them? Once you make your reservations, drop me a line on Twitter (@Dr_Casimer), and maybe we can meet up during the conference.

Posted: 5 February 2018 by Casimer deCusatis | 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.