PDA software evolves with user needs
Photonic design automation (PDA) software is used to design, model, and simulate optical networks and equipment. While there are only a handful of vendors in the space, they believe they can be as important to the optics industry as vendors like Cadence, Synopsys, and Mentor Graphics are to the electronics industry.
The telecommunications sector may be just beginning its return to normal levels of activity, but the PDA vendors are busy nonetheless. "The market today looks attractive in terms of having a new set of design challenges facing a lot of the photonics companies, both in the module and component space as well as in the general equipment space," contends Velko Tzolov, vice president of marketing and business development at Optiwave (Ottawa, Ontario).
Among the key trends in the PDA software sector is integration. Many component vendors are now offering modules rather than basic components, and this shift requires software that combines both component- and system-level design capabilities. Moreover, vendors are also integrating passive and active functions on the same piece of silicon, which requires an integrated design suite that addresses the passive and active aspects of the IC. PDA software providers like Optiwave, RSoft Design Group (Ossining, NY), and VPIphotonics (a division of VPIsystems, Holmdel, NJ) are working to improve the interfaces between various members of their software families to enable these more complex designs or in some cases to develop new software that provides the requisite functionality.
"Optimization" has been a key buzzword in the PDA space as well. Component vendors are looking to improve their yields to deliver better and cheaper components. To do that, they need more intelligent software with more complicated algorithms to handle batch processing—but these algorithms often generate huge amounts of data that the component designer doesn't need. Today's software tools enable users to customize their designs to extract only the necessary parameters. "This makes the software ideal not only for purely R&D projects," says Tzolov, "but also for product development and even business development products."
System vendors and network operators also require PDA tools "to make more efficient use of the existing equipment to meet new demands" on the system side, reports Rsoft Design chief executive Robert Scarmozzino. During the optical boom years, carriers built optical networks based on legacy technologies like SONET. "We're seeing a trend now where people are trying to adapt [legacy] networks to a new type of network—one that includes MSPPs [multiservice provisioning platforms]," explains Zhengyu Huang, RSoft's vice president of sales and business development. "The issue is not how to design new networks, but how to adapt [legacy] networks to the new platform. It's a migration design need."
In the same vein, VPIphotonics now offers an installation planning software tool called VPIdeploymentMaster, used to automate after-sales engineering tasks to eliminate errors and accelerate deployment of network equipment. The software generates all the plans required to install the equipment in the field, including network plans, station plans, floor layout, engineering instructions, and network management system parameters. VPIdeploymentMaster enables users to analyze equipment down to the card, port, and pin level on a computer-aided design engine.
Among the software's users is Siemens ICN, which conducted an evaluation and trial at its Munich, Germany, headquarters and determined that the software achieves a cost reduction of at least 30% compared to conventional planning methods. Siemens representatives say they expect millions of dollars in savings once the software is deployed worldwide.
While PDA software vendors must be reactive to their customers' current needs, they must also be proactive about anticipating their future requirements. Both Optiwave and RSoft have developed software to design and model photonic integrated circuits (PICs), for example. RSoft's new DiffractMOD software is a general design tool for diffractive optical structures such as photonic bandgap (PGB) crystals, wavelength filters, and optical interconnects. It allows users to calculate structures in two or three dimensions and can be fully parameterized, enabling batch simulations that simplify the modeling process. According to RSoft representatives, work is underway to develop software for studying large, complicated PBG-based PICs and modeling photonic-crystal fibers.
In a paper delivered at Photonics West in January, Optiwave unveiled software for the design of PICs that enables the use of more than one numerical technique on the same optical circuit. While there are several proven numerical techniques for the analysis of photonic devices, it may not be sufficient to characterize larger photonic circuits using just one method. Optiwave's software breaks the PIC into smaller parts, enabling users to design and model devices that may have been too cumbersome or even prohibitive in the past, say company representatives.
On the system side, PDA software vendors report an increased interest among cable multiple-system operators looking to replace their coaxial cables with fiber or deploy a combination of the two. Software optimized for cable TV systems requires the simulation of both analog and digital signals. Optiwave's OptiSystem 3.1, RSoft's OptSim 4.0, and VPIphotonics' recently released VPItransmissionMaker 5.5 all incorporate cable TV network design and simulation capabilities. According to RSoft's Huang, PDA software vendors are seeing an uptick in the number of vendors asking about passive optical networking-based systems for fiber to the premises applications as well.