Sowing in fallow ground
W. Conard Holton
Optical engineers don`t grow on trees. In fact, workers with the right skills and experience don`t seem to be available outside a few select locales. This problem has been a source of tremendous frustration for companies trying to meet the market demand for optical networks. It has led to widely publicized attempts to transplant talent from regions that have it to those that don`t.
Optical networking engineers are frequently tempted by VC funding and IPO promises to leave the few regions where they are plentiful. Northern New Jersey, home of AT&T and Lucent Technologies, and the Ottawa region, with Nortel Networks and the Canadian National Research Council, have been the most fertile land for network engineering talent. Areas of new growth in North America now include Boston, northern Virginia, Richardson, TX, and Silicon Valley.
The picture for WDM component makers is less clear. Certainly there are many component manufacturers in these optical networking centers, but the location of component manufacture is more diversified. JDS Uniphase, for example, has its leadership in Silicon Valley and Ontario, but its recently acquired manufacturing capability is scattered in sites around the world. The authors of this issue`s cover story on EDFAs come from JDS Uniphase manufacturing sites in Freehold, NJ; Zurich, Switzerland; and Eindhoven, the Netherlands. JDS Uniphase maintains such far-flung operations because that`s where the talent and manufacturing capability exist.
As traditional optics and laser companies refocus themselves on the telecom market, they continue to spread the growth around. The result so far has been new centers of manufacture in places like Rochester, NY; Tucson, AZ; and Orlando, FL. So it turns out there is engineering talent all across the continent, at least for the WDM component industry, and this means new growth in some underutilized soil, along with the continuing rejuvenation of companies and products.
Speaking of spreading and growing, this issue follows its predecessor by only two months-a sure sign that WDM Solutions has met with a warm response from our readers and advertisers. I`m happy to say we`ll be publishing four more issues in 2000: in June, August, October, and November. And we`re going to expand our coverage. This issue includes a new R&D Notes section in which we step back from practical engineering matters and look at what`s coming out of the corporate and academic labs.
This R&D Notes highlights important technical advances described at OFC 2000-news exciting enough to contradict Merrill Lynch`s characterization of the conference as more of an investment bankers` circus than a scientific meeting. The analysts who made that judgment even suggested that the Armani-clothed crowd might make it hard for working stiffs to get near the exhibit booths. We`ll see about that.