A running joke among workers in the old communist states was, "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us." Given the dearth of new system builds in our industry, a cynic might quip, "We pretend to design new components, and OEMs pretend to use them."
The joke might strike a bit too close to home for struggling component makers, but the reality is that pretend—or simulated—design and testing of components does offer a tool for a new generation of economic and customized products. As Yuri Yudin at Confluent Photonics explains, the right software can give an engineer the ability to mix real prototype component performance data and simulated system behavior to provide a feedback loop that helps optimize the final device. Software companies are continuing to add such capabilities to their product lines, enabling them to support a more cost-effective design process for components, subsystems, and systems.
Improved design along with a deep understanding of materials and device characteristics is leading to a degree of integration often discussed but rarely achieved in new products. Sergey Frolov and Joe Shmulovich at Inplane Photonics elaborate on this thought in their article on erbium-doped waveguide amplifier arrays. These arrays realize some of the promise of integration by incorporating amplification, attenuation, filtering, and pump-sharing features, along with low loss characteristics. Such small devices should find multiple uses in metro markets.
The promising trends of simulation and integration reflect a maturing optical networking industry—one in which some of the early hype is giving way to sound design and engineering processes. At this rate, some of those early promises will prove real.
W. Conard Holton
Editor in Chief