The ECOC blog

by Stephen M. Hardy

Regular readers of this space may recall that I touted back in August the imminent debut of a blog feature on the Lightwave web site. If you’ve checked the web site since then, you’ll have noticed that the blog remains imminent. (Don’t get me started…) Blogs are great for a lot of things, including show coverage. Had the blog been operational during last month’s European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communications (ECOC), held in Berlin, here’s some of what you would have read:

• Judging by the overall tenure of this year’s event, happier days are here for the European optical communications market. Several exhibitors touted the show, which ran September 16-20, as the best ECOC they had attended in years. While the exhibit floor layout was somewhat reminiscent of an airport terminal, with halls radiating out from hubs, exhibitors called it a significant improvement from the venue at last year’s show in Cannes, which they described as a low-ceilinged parking garage. A member of the firm handling public relations for ECOC told me on the last day of the exhibition that the show organizers were hoping attendee figures would match those of 2000. A week after the show, the organizers announced that “nearly 6,000 visitors” attended the event.

• The number of new and/or emerging companies on the show floor also was a good sign. These included IntexyS Photonics (founded in France, now headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA), which has leveraged last year’s €5 million Series A funding round to get its highly integrated parallel optics technology into production. They are being aided by silicon technology from IPtronics A/S, which also unveiled its product line at ECOC. The Danish company specializes in silicon for parallel optical interconnects for server, computing, backplane, and board-to-board applications. IPtronics currently offers a quad VCSEL driver and a quad TIA/LIA. Meanwhile, those of you who like to play “where are they now” will be interested to learn that Giorgio Anania, ex-head of Bookham, was at the show in his role as board member for startup PhotonIC Corp., which is integrating photonics, electronics, and passive elements for interconnect and sensor applications via its own wafer fab in Honolulu. Dr. Birendra Dutt is CEO and president; he tentatively agreed to an interview, then turned shy.

• Not surprisingly, the main themes on the exhibit floor were fiber to the home, integrated optoelectronics, high-speed

networking, and extended reach communications. As IntexyS and IPtronics illustrated, there was also a fair amount of talk about parallel optics, mainly for data center and InfiniBand applications. Active cables, in which parallel optic transceivers are factory-attached to a ribbon fiber cable, are an emerging product trend for the 10-Gbit/sec InfiniBand space. However, active cables could be used in other applications, and they don’t have to involve parallel optics-at least according to engineers at Finisar. The company used the show to gather feedback on the second generation of an active cable that uses 10-Gbit/sec serial optics for rack-to-rack links. The transceiver features a non-standard connector, however; whether this would be a significant drawback to market adoption was a point of much discussion.

• Nokia Siemens draped the corridor leading to the main exhibit entrance with a banner touting, among other things, the green aspects of optical communications. Coincidentally, we’ll post an article on our web site this month from BroadLight that makes an eco-friendly pitch for PONs versus DSL and other access technologies. One wonders whether Al Gore’s “inconvenient truth” could prove quite convenient for optical communications’ prospects.

• If you’re like me, then just about everything you think you know about Berlin you’ve learned through the eyes of John le Carré’s characters. Of course, le Carré writes fiction, which turned out to be an apt description of the image of Berlin as a dull place that I held in my head upon my arrival in the city. True, a lot of it was destroyed during World War II; the communists also did a fine job of leveling most of the more picturesque buildings that had survived on the eastern side of the city. Still, there are plenty of trees, parks, museums, and interesting restaurants to see and visit. The public transportation system isn’t half bad, either.

• And, yes, you can pretty much get a beer anywhere at any time. As well as bratwursts, which are frequently two feet long and served on a hamburger bun. I don’t know-maybe the idea is to give you something with which to hold the sausage while you gnaw on it from the well-exposed ends.

Of course, blogs aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a more conventional take on the show, you’ll find a series of articles on the Lightwave web site at www.lightwaveonline.com.

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