Calient debuts high-density photonic switch for data centers

Pauline Rigby

Calient Technologies Inc. has revamped its all-optical switch, something it promised to do last year (see “CALIENT Technologies raises $19.4M for optical switching for enterprise, cloud computing markets”)

The new switch, introduced at OFC/NFOEC this week, has a smaller form factor, lower power consumption, and other features that the company claims makes it the first high-density photonic switch targeting data center applications. Called the S320, the 320-port switch can be used to create a flexible, scalable network fabric connecting top-of-rack switches with core routers.

One of the big attractions for using all-optical switches in the data center is that they’re transparent to data rate. As speeds go from 10 Gbps to 40 Gbps and then 100 Gbps, there’s no need to upgrade the switch. “We’re basically good to 100G and beyond,” said Daniel Tardent, director of marketing at Calient.

So what’s new?  Essentially the switch has been modernized to take advantage of the latest electronic control circuitry, says Tardent. As a result, the S320 is less than half the size and weight of its predecessor the FC320: it occupies between 4U and 7U in terms of 19” rack space (depending on configuration) compared to 17RU previously, and a fully loaded chassis weighs 38 lb rather than 84 lb. The power consumption has also been reduced to less than 30 W, a reduction of nearly 90%, the company claims.

The micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) technology – the tiny tilting mirrors – in the heart of the switch has remained fundamentally unchanged in the last 10 years, he notes. MEMS can deliver switching speeds of less than 25 ms – faster than the 50 ms figure that is so important for protection switching in optical networks.

Importantly, the switch now has a modular construction that will enable Calient to quickly build other variations of the product to suit customer needs. The vendor will have a 160-port version “fairly soon”, according to Tardent.

The optical monitoring module (OMM) has been built as a separate component from the MEMS switch module (MSM). Inside the OMM, a free-space scanning mirror optical power monitor provides feedback to the MSM control circuits in order to dynamically update all 320 connections to minimize optical power loss. In future, these modules will also be available to be repackaged as part of other OEM product offerings.  

Calient has also done some development work on larger port-count switches, although it doesn’t see the demand yet, it says.

The S320 is in beta release now, and will be generally available from May. The vendor has two or three customers for the product so far, although they can’t be named.

For more information on optical switches and suppliers, visit the Lightwave Buyer’s Guide.



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