Open minds open doors

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The beauty of working with a physics-based industry is that newly-forged rules can soon be reappraised - continually opening fresh avenues.

An your physics lessons you were probably taught the "laws" of light: light travels in a straight line; the farther you are from a light source, the dimmer the light; and the angle of incidence equals the angle of refraction. Like criminal and civil laws, these scientific laws are not unbreakable. But they can often feel that way: when was the last time you tried to deconstruct force = mass x acceleration?

When you factor in the commercial pressures to make the right technological decision, it can become irresistible to begin to accept a few commonly held rumours as scientific fact. A couple of current examples pertaining to our industry are that all-optical networking and data rates of 40Gbit/s and above are inevitable evolutionary paths. But it's time to think again.

Some of the contributors to this issue challenge these ideas that actually follow no scientific laws at all. Alan Taylor, a director at Juniper Networks says that, while many commentators purport that end-to-end optical networking is the future, paring down the network to a single layer can compromise its intelligence. He believes that a two-layer - IP and optical - architecture will drive next-generation networks.

Marc Sauter and Wolfgang Sitter from Siemens ICN are questioning the merits of switching to 40Gbit/s transmission. They believe that the current economic picture makes a complete switch to 40Gbit/s less sensible for a carrier than remaining at 10Gbit/s - unless the traffic requirements increase significantly.

To achieve the best solution, to improve performance or margin it is important to keep an open mind and think outside the box - especially if your business is based on boxes of tricks.

Reading more widely about a given subject can be very instructive. The trouble is that we don't have much time for background research when the deadline always seems to be yesterday. So, here are a couple of new scientific laws to help you reappraise where best practice in optical communications is headed.

Consider the non-reciprocal law of expectations. This explains that negative expectations yield negative results while positive expectations yield equally negative results. Or how about Etorre's observation, which simply and beautifully states "the other line moves faster" - a particularly apt axiom for the optical communications industries.

Whatever your mood, this industry never seems short of new ideas. They abound, this month, in the first installment of our coverage of ECOC 2002. The technology preview, on pages 28-30, will be followed over the next two issues by a comprehensive product preview in September and a conference and show review in October. Despite much of Europe seeming to have closed down for the summer, this issue also contains the good news - and the bad news. That's good if you happen to be banking on the European companies spending on optical networking (we're now leading the Americans), but not so good if you're surplus to requirements at Ericsson, Corning, Lucent, or Ciena (see page 10). But the best news must be for the ex-director of FibreCore Inc, who has been appointed as Vice President of Afghanistan.

Never give up: it could be you next time.

(with thanks to http://dbhs.wvusd.k12.ca.us)

Matthew PeachEditor in Chief, Lightwave Europe
matthewp@pennwell.com

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