With my predisposition to optics, I once felt that optical components such as lasers, amplifiers, and switches somehow dominate the physical infrastructure of the network—and that everything else is peripheral. I was therefore surprised to realize that most optical components—small things, really—lie buried in racks within a maze of electronics that drive, coordinate, time, or otherwise control them.
This fact is probably no surprise to most of our readers. Of our 35,000 subscribers, about 40% say they specify or buy electronics for optical components and subsystems. It's become clear that the ability to offer products with a high degree of optical and electrical integration will be critical to the survival of many companies. A recent market report from our research unit, Strategies Unlimited, makes the point that although sales of optical products will probably struggle through 2002 and 2003, the best competitive positions will belong to companies that have a strong grasp of both electronics and optics. System equipment companies are now buying line cards and shelves, not discrete components, so component and subsystems manufacturers must take a systems approach to design.
In his article on closed-loop IC design, Cadence's John Ardini gets right to the heart of this issue with his very specific discussion on designing electronic controls for MEMS switches. His approach has lessons for the control of many other optical components. Our other articles take up the more traditional focus on optics, with articles on optical testing of MEMS switches, hybrid passive components for amplifiers, thin-film filters for add/drop multiplexing, and measurement of dispersion in optical fiber. But you can be assured that we'll provide continual coverage of the critical electronics that make possible the transmission of photons through these optical elements.
W. Conard Holton
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief