May 3, 2004 Sunnyvale, CA -- Bucking the trend toward facilitating all-optical networks, Infinera Corp. has announced a new multiservice optical platform that it proudly describes as leveraging optical-to-electrical-to-optical (OEO) conversion. In fact, Infinera suggests that advances in silicon technology can reduce the cost of OEO conversion so significantly that tomorrow's networks will have more OEO conversion points, not fewer.
The DTN Digital Optical Network System offers add/drop, switching, and transport capability at a 10-Gbit/sec line rate. It supports a wide variety of interfaces and 10x10 Gbits/sec per card, 400 Gbits/sec in a half rack, and 800 Gbits/sec in a full rack. And Infinera is proud to tout its embrace of OEO conversion.
The problem with minimizing the number of OEO nodes in the network, according to Infinera's CEO and co-founder, Jagdeep Singh, and director of product marketing, Rick Dodd, is that you also reduce a carrier's ability to access the bits that make up the signal. Thus, while the services carriers offer have become increasingly digital, the infrastructure on which those services ride becomes more analog as photonic nodes replace OEO points.
The smart thing, say the Infinera spokesmen, is not to replace OEO conversion, but decrease its cost. The company believes it has done this through the development of two "photonic integrated circuits" (one for transmission, the other for reception) that between them use InP advances to provide the major functions of a 10-wavelength DWDM transponder ¿ including lasers, modulators, and a multiplexer in the transmitter chip and a photodiode and demultiplexer in the receiver chip.
The decrease in packaging complexity and increase in efficiency results in a 10:1 savings over the use of discrete devices, Singh and Dodd claim. The resultant low initial capex investment for the DTN makes it economical not only to install the system where a carrier currently has add/drop nodes or envisions their necessity, but at all amplifier and regeneration sites as well. The comparatively shorter distances between DTNs versus other optical transport systems enable the use of simpler, low-cost amplifiers and obviate the need for high-end signal management technology such as dispersion compensators and gain equalizers. Such links should also prove less complex to engineer, reducing opex.
Analysts who have seen the DTN believe Infinera has a compelling story. "I think over the last two or three years, it's probably the most impressive startup I've met," offers Scott Clavenna, president of market research and analysis firm PointEast Research LLC (San Francisco). "Assuming it all works and there's no fatal flaw in the chips, as far as I can see it's the most profound change in optical networking since the EDFA."
Maria Zeppetella, vice president of optical infrastructure markets at Probe Group LLC (Cedar Knolls, NJ) also gives the company high marks. "They sound like a really interesting company," she explains. "I think they have a good product, and I think they're looking at the market right. In these times, when there are so many startups that are just falling off the edge of the planet, I don't think this is going to be one of them. I think that they're going to go places."
Infinera should have systems ready for trials in the third quarter of this year. "Right now, their timing lines up just right with what we see in our forecasts," says Zeppetella. "We see buying decisions being made for carriers that have just taken their legacy equipment as far as they can go and they've got to upgrade. And that's going to happen in 2005 and 2006."
-- S. Hardy