2007 - Lightwave


The Lightwave editorial staff uses The Lightwave Blog to share their thoughts on optical communications and whatever else might be the current topic of conversation from cubicle to cubicle. Feel free to add your own opinions. If you'd like to become a guest blogger, contact Editorial Director Stephen Hardy at stephenh@pennwell.com

Archive for '2007'

    Meghan's Top Trends to Watch in 2008

    December 21, 2007 12:51 PM by Meghan Fuller Hanna
    Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

    While snowed in yesterday, I read the most recent issue of Time Magazine , which was chock full of end-of-the-year Top 10 Lists. (They even published a Top 10 List of Reasons Why We Love Top 10 Lists. I kid you not.)

    Here at Lightwave , we compile our own version of the Top 10 List. Okay, so it's actually a Top 5, and it's not really an end-of-year list. Instead, we publish our Top 5 systems vendors, component vendors, and companies and trends to watch to coincide with OFC/NFOEC, that annual bellwether of a conference that unofficially marks the end of one year in optical communications and the beginning of the next. (For a complete list of last year's rankings, click here ).

    I'm afraid you'll have to wait until the February OFC/NFOEC issue to see which companies made the list this year (in part because we have yet to finalize them!)

    But, this being the gift-giving season and all, I couldn't leave you empty handed.

    So without further adieu, here are my Top 5 Trends to Watch in 2008 (in no particular order):

    Packet optical network platforms (PONPs): When I first wrote about the PONP in our September issue (see "PONPs optimized for legacy and packet transport" ), there was still some debate about the class of equipment to which it belonged. Is it an MSPP? An MSTP? Does it belong in the category of next-gen SONET/SDH? Well, it seems the industry has decided it's a bona fide equipment category all on its own. We know this because the analysts have begun to chart its progress! Infonetics Research forecasts the worldwide PONP market to account for $1.7 billion in annual sales by 2010. Not a bad haul for such a nascent market.

    Silicon photonics : In its recent report, "New markets for telecom & datacom lasers: 2007 to 2012," CIR analysts argue that, "Silicon Photonics could be the single most important technology in the near term, gradually pushing short-wave optics and multimode fiber into niche oblivion." Luxtera , one of Lightwave 's Companies to Watch in '07, is now spearheading the OIDA's Silicon Photonics Alliance, which also includes Corning, Kotura, Molex, and US Conec. Look for additional coverage on this trend in Lightwave going forward.

    The North American cable multiple-systems operators (MSOs) : Oh, those cable MSOs. Look for them to continue their strong push into the business services market in '08, and keep a close eye on potential FTTH-like activity as well. My sources tell me the cable MSOs are moving beyond the tire-kicking phase and into serious lab trials with emerging cable-centric PON technologies. There's a reason why "RFOG" (RF over Glass) is one of the hottest acronyms in the optical communications space today.

    The European FTTH market : Some wonder whether the flurry of activity this year in and around the city of Paris will serve as a catalyst for the rest of the region. Competitive carrier Free jump-started the market with a sizeable investment in FTTH infrastructure around the city, prompting incumbent France Telecom to commit to its own FTTH plans. Alternative operator Neuf Cegetel also expanded its FTTH infrastructure in the city via the acquisitions of Erenis and Mediafibre. France's ARCEP is thus far the only European telecom regulator to champion FTTH, but will others follow? (See Kurt Ruderman's editorial, "Solving the infrastructure puzzle," in the Q4 2007 issue of Lightwave Europe .)

    Consolidation : At the risk of sounding like a broken record, to borrow a phrase from my mom, I'm putting consolidation on the list again this year. (It made our official Top 5 Trends to Watch list last year too. Come to think of it, I think it made the cut in '06 as well.) The last few years have seen consolidation at the top of the food chain, but everyone is waiting with bated breath for notable M&A activity among the component vendors. Thus far, any consolidation among the component guys has occurred on an opportunistic basis--and it's mostly involved profitable companies. Will '08 finally bring the consolidation many have predicted since the bubble burst?

    That's all you get for now. As I mentioned earlier, you'll have to wait until the February issue to learn which companies made our coveted Top 5 Lists this year.

    In the meantime, which trends will you be following over the next 12 months? Which companies impressed you this year, and who do you think seems poised to break out in '08? We'd love to hear from you!

    Night night FlexLight?

    December 18, 2007 3:36 PM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    Haaretz.com reported on December 6 that GPON pioneer FlexLight Networks has filed for bankruptcy. (See the story here .) Haaretz's Guy Griml quotes an unidentified FlexLight executive as suggesting the company came out with a product too early. However, the executive also blamed a lack of marketing and development focus.

    "At some point it became apparent that FlexLight would be sold or closed down. The investors were impatient, and the big players, Alcatel, Siemens, and Telrad, released similar GPON products," Griml quotes the executive as saying. "As far as I'm concerned, this company is a huge miss."

    POF: Still searching for a home?

    November 30, 2007 2:36 PM by Meghan Fuller Hanna
    By Meghan Fuller Hanna

    Yesterday, the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 3.0 Promoter Group announced that it is looking to enlist additional contributors for its first industry-wide specification review, to be held in Las Vegas on January 14-15, 2008 (See www.usb.org/usb30 ).

    Initially announced in September at the Intel Developers Forum, USB 3.0 is a 'superspeed' personal interconnect that promises to deliver a ten-fold increase in data transfer rates from the 480-Mbit/sec rate of USB 2.0 to 4.8 Gbits/sec from USB 3.0. This increased speed is accomplished via a fiber-optic link that will run alongside the traditional copper connection. (USB 3.0 will be backwards compatible with USB 2.0.)

    The USB 3.0 spec will target peripheral devices--including digital cameras, video cameras, and optical drives like DVD and Blu-Ray--to enable the more rapid transfer of digital content.

    While some believe that USB 3.0 could challenge the IEEE 1394 interconnect standard known as FireWire, from a Lightwave perspective, the more important implication is that all consumer devices will have some kind of fiber interface.

    I think that's worth repeating: All consumer devices will have some kind of fiber interface.

    And this makes me wonder: Have we finally found that 'killer app' for plastic optical fiber?

    Lightwave has covered plastic optical fiber (POF) from time to time (See Stephen's 2006 article, "Proponents hope home is where the plastic is" as an example), and it's always seemed to me like one of those perennially on-the-verge-but-never-quite-ready-yet technologies. Despite its potential usefulness as an alternative to existing in-home wiring, POF has yet to catch on with communications network architects (though it's doing fairly well in the automotive sector, from what I understand.)

    That said, the technology has made some impressive strides of late. This summer, Siemens' R&D arm, Siemens Corporate Technology, announced what it claimed was a significant milestone in the evolution of POF technology: Researchers successfully transmitted 1 Gbit/sec over a 100-meter-long test route in the company's laboratory--long enough for application in the home network environment and certainly long enough to interconnect peripheral devices to a PC, for example.

    The USB 3.0 specification is expected sometime next year, with commercial products appearing in late 2009, early 2010. With a bit more tweaking to increase its capacity, could POF finally find its way into the home networking space via the consumer electronics market?

    Google wants you (maybe)

    November 29, 2007 3:07 PM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    Here's a belated update to the last post on SFP+ optics for Google's DIY 10GbE switch. (No, I'm not going to link to it -- just scroll one item down!)

    As I mentioned in the post, I shot an email to Google to ask if the stories about the existence of the switch were accurate and, if so, what they could tell me about the optics. I didn't have a lot of hope of getting a response, particularly when my query, directed at the media relations department, elicited a canned email from the Help Desk in reply.

    However, lo and behold, I received an email from Google's Sonya Boralv (who is a frequently quoted Google media relations person) the very next day. Her response:

    We can't share details on our infrastructure but would encourage any interested engineers to check out our job listings at www.google.com/jobs. We currently have job openings for hardware and software engineers with networking backgrounds that might be of interest to your readers.

    So I've struck out so far on the optics story -- but I may be the gateway to your next career. 10% of your first paycheck there will do just fine as thanks.

    Google 10GbE switch optics

    November 20, 2007 2:18 PM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    As you've no doubt read elsewhere, Andrew Schmitt of Nyquist Capital broke a story on his blog (and if his blog isn't on your regular visit list, it should be) about Google building it's own 10GbE switch. (Read it here .)

    Andrew and I have been going back and forth over the past couple of days about his description of the optics used in the switch, which he says are nonstandard implementations of SFP+ transceivers:

    What is interesting about Google's approach is that it has eschewed traditional 10GBASE optical standards and instead adopted off-standard solutions that better suit its needs for time-to-market, power and port density, and cost. While Google makes use of the SFP+ cage format, it does not use the receive dispersion compensation (EDC) function typically associated with SFP+. Instead Google is looking to employ a combination of twinax cabling for short reach (<10m) intra-rack cabling and a motley 850nm SR-like standard. Off the shelf SR optical modules appear to work well up to 100m over without receive equalization. Ironically, Finisar (FNSR) proposed such a solution several years ago.

    It sounded to me that either the assumption is that Google is using SR transceivers with 62.5-micron cabling (which indeed would be nonstandard -- and curious) or that SFP+ has gotten a bit too closely associated with LRM, to the point that SR versions might be considered nonstandard. Andrew tells me that "(t)hey are using standard pre-emph/receive EQ but not the full LRM EDC spec," so that's not the explanation.

    Unfortunately, Andrew has been too busy to continue our discussion beyond that last bit of information. I have a query into Google on the subject, but while I was holding my breath and turning blue waiting for them to respond, I thought I'd throw the question out to you: What am I missing here?

    Take me in to the ballgame

    November 16, 2007 10:56 AM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    Motorola just announced the results of a survey that suggests less than a third of sports fans would rather watch a football game in person than see it at home in high-def. That compares to 45 percent who said they'd rather watch the contest on HDTV. (There must have been a fair amount of undecideds; you can check out details of the survey here .)

    In some quarters this news would elicit another round of lamentation about the increasing slothfulness of Americans. But not here. I agree that there are sporting events that are much better viewed on TV than in person. And as fiber-fed broadband services increase, so too will the reasons to stay home.

    The fact that the survey involved football games isn't surprising, because cold or otherwise inclement weather would be one factor that would routinely make people wish they were on the couch. I saw a playoff game at Gillette Stadium in 2004 where the Patriots beat the Titans with the wind chill at kickoff of -10 degrees. My buddy and I sort of dealt with it as a badge of honor -- but I wouldn't want to be a fan in Green Bay or some other northern climate (pro or college) and face such misery on a regular basis.

    Then there are sports like hockey, where it's almost impossible to follow the puck live, particularly if you wear glasses made from planetarium-strength telescope lenses like I do.

    Regardless of the sport, however, optically enabled improvements in broadband services will make staying at home even more tempting in the future. In particular, I eagerly await the day when broadcasters will give the home viewer access to the video feeds from all the cameras in the stadium. Can you imagine the remote-control wizardry you could perform once you got the hang of it, changing camera angles two or three times through the course of a play?

    The day this technology is first made available will be marked by two rounds of popping noises across America. Champagne corks will cause the first round. The second will erupt when our spouses' heads start exploding.

    All right, so maybe we should approach some broadband services with caution. But I'm getting my thumb in shape, just in case.

    Meghan's back -- and she has pictures!

    November 9, 2007 9:53 AM by Meghan Fuller Hanna

    Posted by Meghan Fuller Hanna

    Well, I'm back from my honeymoon, and I first want to thank all of you who called or sent email messages of congratulations. I know I have been talking about my wedding and the Red Sox ad nauseam lately (sometimes not even in that order), so I also wanted to say thanks to all who graciously endured my ceaseless chatter!

    I promised I would post a few photos from the big day, so here goes. The first is one of my favorites of the two of us, taken just before the reception. A few months before the wedding, Stephen's wife, Kristin Lewotsky, gave us a great piece of advice: Take a moment just for the two of you, just to be together and let it all sink in before the hoopla begins, she suggested, and we're very glad now that we took her advice.

    You'll no doubt recognize some folks in the second photo; the Lightwave sales and editorial staff was there en masse to cheer me on! From left to right, Lightwave's Editorial Director Stephen Hardy; National Account Manager Greg Goulski; our Publisher, Tim Pritchard; me (in the Sox hat) with my new husband, John; National Strategic Account Manager Kathleen Skelton; and Managing Editor Carrie Meadows.

    And finally, I have included a photo of our guest book. To commemorate the anniversary of the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 (little did we know they would do it again the next day!) John and I asked our guests to sign a Major League Baseball-issue home plate in lieu of the traditional guest book.

    So thanks again for indulging me over the past few months. I promise to once again turn my attention to fiber optics (although the Patriots are working on a record-breaking season, and the resurgent Celtics are 3-0 . . . . )

    --Mrs. Meghan Fuller Hanna

    Last train to FTTH

    November 5, 2007 3:32 PM by Stephen Hardy

    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    So I was killing time on the phone with Christy Batts, telecom marketing manager at the Clarksville Department of Energy, before the briefing on which today's FTTH story is based, when I said something like, "So, I suppose you get all kinds of 'last train' comments."

    And she said, "Yes, we do. And that's because Clarksville is the town in the song."

    For those of you totally clueless when it comes to the history of bubblegum pop (which puts you in the same company as Meghan and our managing editor, Carrie Meadows, when I brought this up in a meeting this morning), Clarksville was the inspiration for the Monkees' hit, "Last Train to Clarksville."

    Clarksville is, among other things, near Ft. Campbell (Home of the Screaming Eagles). Batts says the song is meant to tell the poignant story of a GI about to be shipped to Vietnam who is trying to hook up with his girlfriend one more time before he leaves.

    Alas, Batts says that the town has so far failed to erect a statue to the Prefab Four in recognition of their contribution to Clarksville's notoriety.

    She's getting married in the morning

    October 26, 2007 10:18 AM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    Tomorrow will be a sad day for single men everywhere. That's because Meghan Fuller is getting married. (Yes, that's right -- you blew your chance .)

    John Hanna is the lucky guy. (No, not that one .) He's an actuary. Believe it or not, they got to know each other while playing in a kickball league.

    The date of the wedding, October 27, was not selected at random. As every card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation knows (as well as the non-card carrying members who roll their eyes at yet another ploy to squeeze money out of the fan base ), October 27 is the date the Sawx beat the Cardinals to win the 2004 World Series . Meghan planned a morning wedding to avoid conflict with Game 3 of this year's Series, just in case.

    So with the Sox in the Series, Meghan was quite concerned Wednesday when the weather looked threatening for Game 1 in Boston. If they had to postpone the first game, would they move all the games back? I told her that would mean there wouldn't be a game on her wedding day, which would pose one less distraction for all concerned.

    "But what would I do after the wedding?" she asked.

    No, I'm not making that up.

    And, yes, I believe John knows what he's getting himself into.

    So raise a glass or a coffee mug or whatever to Meghan and John (and, of course, to the Red Sox), and feel free to post your best wishes in the comment area below. Also, feel free to vote on whether I should follow through on my threat to post a Bill Simmons-style running diary of tomorrow's festivities.

    Inside the numbers

    October 23, 2007 2:44 PM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    If you subscribe to the excellent newsletter from broadbandtrends.com or are a regular visitor to Telephony 's website, you're probably aware of the controversy surrounding the most recent North American FTTH subscriber numbers the North American FTTH Council released early this month at its conference in Orlando.

    For those new to the story, broadandtrends.com Principal Analyst Teresa Mastrangelo broke with the usual market research rules of decorum by calling the 21.4 million FTTH subscriber number derived by RVA LLC "too aggressive" and suggesting that RVA and/or its council client "continue to be evasive as to the actual data that makes up these numbers." (The statements were contained in broadbandtrends.com's October 18 newsletter, which you can find here .)

    As I point out in my editorial for the upcoming November issue of Lightwave , the implication that something slippery is going on is incendiary because of RVA's relationship with the North American arm of the FTTH Council, which uses the company as its primary source of market data. The council has repeatedly released studies conducted by RVA as if they were official FTTH Council data; as you'll notice, Mastrangelo attributed to the council a figure that she printed in her newsletter that I would guess RVA created.

    Clearly the potential controversy surrounding these market figures doesn't do the FTTH Council any good, since it implies that the council is promoting data that over-hypes the FTTH market. Certainly the last thing the optical communications space needs is another round of market hyperbole -- and the council doesn't need to have its credibility questioned, particularly as it tries to lobby Congress for more fiber-friendly policies.

    Mastrangelo caps her commentary by challenging the council and RVA to "show me the data" that backs up the 2.14 million number. And, lo and behold, Mike Render, the "R" in "RVA," has stepped up to the task. In a letter to Telephony (see it here ), Render outlines how he derived his figures and why his numbers might not match those collected by Mastrangelo and others.

    I applaud Render for speaking up -- not only was his credibility called into question, but so was that of his client, the FTTH Council. One can debate Render's assumptions, but the spotlight is now squarely on him and off the council.

    The FTTH Council is lucky Render stepped up. This episode points to an important aspect of using market research to advance your aims: Regardless of where research numbers come from, once data appears in public next to your name, those numbers are yours. Know where those numbers came from and how they were derived, and be prepared to discuss these points.

    Market research is opinion -- and everyone has a different opinion.

    Thoughts on 40/100G, posted by the bride-to-be

    October 18, 2007 3:28 PM by Meghan Fuller Hanna
    Posted by Meghan Fuller

    In his last post, Stephen talked about the mounting evidence to suggest that the 40G market is real and viable. I just finished an article about tunable optical dispersion compensation (TODC) for our November issue, and if ever there was a market that would reflect an upsurge of activity in 40G deployment, it's the TODC market. By all accounts, the market is more active today than it was just six months ago, and the vendors say they are readying, if not already shipping, their 40G devices.

    Guy Martin, vice president of technology and business development at Teraxion, told me that of the 2,000 TODC units Teraxion has shipped this year, 80% are being used for 40G applications.

    Civcom, meanwhile, has a single-channel 40G TODC device in the final stages of development. Yair Itzhar, Civcom's vice president of sales and marketing told me that the product has already been shipped to Tier 1 and Tier 2 customers for evaluation.

    ANDevices has a 40G TODC based on PLC technology, but Wenhua Lin, vice president of technology and new product development, noted that her company's customers are now making more stringent demands in terms of the tuning range. Two years ago, 200-300 psec/nm would have been sufficient, but today they are looking for something closer to 400 psec/nm and higher. Lin confirmed that ANDevices is now working on an AWG-based device with a wider pass band and dispersion window.

    From my perspective, this round of interviews yielded far more concrete answers to questions about 40G than a series of interviews on the same topic elicited back in March (See TODC vendors ready inline and integrated devices from our April issue), lending credence to Stephen's assertion that there will be a market for 40G.

    Incidentally, I also asked the TODC vendors about the market for 100G and was surprised to hear Giovanni Barbarossa, CTO of Avanex, admit that he does not see much activity in this realm. That's news to me, as I feel like four out of every five phone calls I field has something to do with 100-GbE. But as Barbarossa pointed out, there's a big difference between 100G speeds and 100G capacity . If, as most people believe, the first generation of 100-GbE uses a parallel architecture, then the highest bit rate would be either 10-, 20-, 40-, or possibly 50-Gbits/sec, multiplexed for an aggregate of 100 GbE. And, as Barbarossa reminded me, Chromatic Dispersion becomes more problematic as bit rates scale, not capacity.

    While that's probably an obvious distinction, I've been a little slow on the uptake lately. A few too many long nights spent watching the Red Sox come up with new and innovative ways to lose to the Indians? Perhaps. Or maybe--just maybe--I might be a little preoccupied because I'M GETTING MARRIED IN NINE DAYS.

    Speaking of which, Stephen has threatened to bring his laptop to the wedding to provide Lightwave readers with a running commentary on the festivities. He may or may not have been kidding, so stay tuned!


    There is a market for 40G -- really

    October 16, 2007 3:29 PM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    In light of today's announcement regarding the partnership between JDSU and Mintera , it's clear JDSU believes the 40G market is worth pursuing. This belief comes from the company's insight into the RFPs their system house customers are fielding, according to Director of Product Marketing Craig Iwata.

    "JDSU is involved in pretty much every transport RFP that's out there. And they're all coming through with requirements for 40-gig," he told me.

    While there's a difference between requiring 40G capability and actually fielding it, Iwata also told me that the market research community is backing this viewpoint as well. As part of the presentation he and Mintera's Niall Robinson delivered to me last week, Iwata said that when you look at the 40G line-side interface forecasts from CIR, Infonetics, and Ovum-RHK, the average unit CAGR for 2008 through 2011 is 100%, with their respective hockey sticks all taking a distinctly upward turn beginning in 2009.

    Neither Ovum-RHK nor Infonetics have much on the public parts of their websites covering their 40G forecasts. You can find a little bit about CIR's view here and here .

    As usual, the big issue will be cost, Daryl Innis of Ovum-RHK told me. "There's still a serious price problem. The cost of a 40-gig line card is something like five to six times the cost of a 10-gig line card. Until that cost comes down, that's going to limit the growth rate of 40-gig," he said.

    I think there's mounting evidence that there will indeed be a market for 40G technology, particularly in the long haul and ultra long haul. (Which probably translates into a "good" but not "great" market.) Certainly 100G will eventually overtake 40G in terms of popularity, but that's going to be a fairly long time coming. The standards have to be put in place first -- and if 40G technology currently is 5X to 6X your average 10G system, one can only imaging the price differentials of the first and even second generations of 100G platforms.

    The Lightwave Blog: True QAM

    October 10, 2007 5:07 PM by Stephen Hardy
    Posted by Stephen Hardy

    Yes, at long last, the Lightwave editors step into the 21st Century with the launch of The Lightwave Blog. Senior Editor Meghan Fuller and I plan to share this space, which we'll use as a forum to offer opinions, report on events, comment on trends, pass judgment on rumors, and maybe show a few sides of ourselves that don't come through in print.

    This being the Lightwave site, you can expect a lot of what we'll write about will pertain to optical communications. We'll likely report on the visits of company executives to the office, our experiences at trade shows, and maybe even our reaction to relevant television commercials, like the Verizon one referenced in this post's title. (Do they run the "20-dB hot" commercial with the Verizon technician and that scary-looking kid everywhere in the U.S., or just the Northeast?)

    But we also want to give you insight into what goes on behind the scenes here at the Lightwave offices. That means bringing you into some of the conversations that normally would never leave the cubicles here in our Nashua, NH, offices. So you can expect a few posts on truly important topics such as baseball (Red Sox fans to George Steinbrenner: Fire Joe Torre? Go ahead, make our day), pop culture, and the mystical properties of chocolate.

    Naturally, we're hoping to make this blog as interactive as possible, so we welcome your comments, including a heads up on any topics you'd like to see treated or any questions you'd like answered.

    Meghan and I think this blog is going to be a lot of fun. We hope you'll bookmark this page and check us out whenever you have a few minutes.

    -- Stephen

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Stephen Hardy

Stephen Hardy has covered fiber optics for more than 15 years, and communications and technology for more than 30 years. He is responsible for establishing and executing Lightwave's editorial strategy across its digital magazine, website, newsletters, research and other information products. He has won multiple awards for his writing.

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