Taking measure


A discussion with Werner Huettemann of Agilent Technologies

Conard Holton

Werner Huettemann is vice president and general manager of the Communications Network Solutions business unit at Agilent Technologies. He has performed a variety of management functions in the Hewlett-Packard/Agilent organization, including general manager of the Boeblingen Instrument Division, and he holds a master's degree in communication technology from the University of Aachen, Germany.

WDM: Where has your business unit, Communication Network Solutions, focused its energies? Is it primary in test, measurement, and monitoring equipment?

Huettemann: Our focus is test and measurement equipment specifically for R&D and manufacturing of next-generation wireline infrastructure components and network elements. That includes providing the means of testing the optical layer, protocols, and control, along with optical and electrical components, subsystems, switches, routers, and servers.

WDM: What test and measurement tools are key to manufacturing optical-networking components?

Huettemann: The key current generation of test equipment includes tunable laser sources, power meters, attenuators, optical-spectrum analyzers, and wavemeters. In the next generation, network components will integrate optical functions so we must test optical pins, vias, and connections. We'll also need equipment to test planar and semiconductor devices, which will be replacing fiber-based components.

WDM: How fast and how realistic is the industry's drive toward automation in manufacturing?

Huettemann: The optical-component manufacturing industry must adapt to the demands of making the current generation of WDM components while driving the development of new components that integrate functions and reduce cost. This drive will be strong since it is a matter of survival. The current pace of improvement, which includes auto-alignment and reducing the number of steps in the process, is vital, but reducing costs by a factor of 10 or even 100 is only the start in designing the second generation. We are positioning ourselves to enable the automation of the first generation as well as helping design the second. When it comes to real mass production, we'll be applying our expertise in semiconductor chip testing to the optical-components industry.

WDM: Specifically, is standardization of components and of test and measurement processes actually happening and is this helping manufacturing?

Huettemann: Standardization is happening and is demanded by the carriers. To be locked into proprietary standards of large component and equipment manufacturers is not a long-term option. Some of the new equipment manufacturers are seeing this as a big opportunity for themselves.

I believe that standardization of equipment and components follows interoperability, which in turn follows the purchasing power of the big legacy carriers. This scenario is actually the big question: will the challengers be able to unbundle the proprietary systems that now exist?

I believe that, at the end of the day, this will happen. It's more a question of how fast it will happen. My guess is three to four generations of systems—maybe seven to twelve years. But any market is open for surprises, as the invention of the EDFA showed.

Test and measurement processes follow and very often anticipate these changes, since we need to have our equipment ready when our customers place their design bets. A significant role in standard setting also comes from the component industry in the form of MSA [multisource agreement] packages and the like.

WDM: What role does testing software play?

Huettemann: Software plays a significant role in the overall drive to reduce test costs significantly. When cycle times move from days to hours and finally to minutes, test time cannot stay where it is today. As cycle time decreases, complexity and integration increase. Test coverage, test time, test cost, and footprint are the buzzwords. As manufacturing steps have to be drastically reduced and yields of each step have to go up, testing moves into the actual manufacturing process and becomes integrated with inspection.

This requires multifunctional test equipment that is both integrated into the manufacturers' physical and virtual manufacturing processes, giving software an important role. In the semiconductor industry this is a well-established trend; the optical and optoelectronic customers need to reinvent this capability.

In addition, as manufacturing automation starts in R&D, it is important to support innovation with test equipment of extra breadth and depth. Agilent tries to answer the famous Friday-afternoon question of the design engineer, "Is it my design or the test setup?"

WDM: What special equipment or processes will be necessary to support 40-Gbit/s technology?

Huettemann: 40 Gbit/s is seen as the driver to lower the cost per managed bit in the core network by a factor of four. In the WDM part of the transmission, the saving comes from running fewer, fatter pipes in the same capacity or running more pipes at the same cost for higher capacity. It supports the paradigm of the Bandwidth Law, which says that bandwidth doubles—at the same cost—every nine months.

Test equipment for 40 Gbit/s is basically the same as that used today, but with much more emphasis on amplification, dispersion, and optical crosstalk. Raman gain blocks and dynamic gain equalizers, as well as dynamic dispersion compensators play a key role here. Our roadmap supports this move to higher speed with significant investment in all-optical product classes. For example, our Lightwave Measurement System is the industry standard. With the Photonic Foundation Libraries and many more modules to come, we expand this system to the building block for design stations.

Other instruments needed are optical component analyzer, WDM channel testers or multiwave meters, and optical spectrum analyzers. The connection point of TDM and IP equipment to the WDM core or metro is the edge. Here we need test equipment for transmitters, receivers, multiplexers, linecards, and switches, routers, and TDM systems. The equipment includes sampling scopes, digital communication analyzers, lightwave component analyzers, simple bit-error-rate testers [BERTs], and omniBERTs, which can test multiple protocols such as SONET, SDH, and Gigabit Ethernet.

WDM: What are the key long-term trends you see for your instrumentation?

Huettemann: First, we'll need equipment aimed at R&D to test the next-generation designs. These must be innovation-driven, requiring basically the same revolution that took place in digital and microwave technologies.

Manufacturing equipment that can test the optical, digital, and electro-optical parts and network elements is already moving toward commodity production. This equipment should speed the evolution—or revolution—in manufacturing processes. We're also going to need test equipment that is integrated into the manufacturing flow, almost like IC testing, but with innovative elements aimed at optical components. Finally, we need to embed measurement capabilities into components and network elements in the same way that probes detect SONET transmission errors and reroute calls while repair teams are dispatched.

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