Anticipating innovation

As you probably know by now, Lightwave will host its first major live conference and exhibition July 14-16 at the Austin Renaissance Hotel in Austin, TX.

As you probably know by now, Lightwave will host its first major live conference and exhibition July 14-16 at the Austin Renaissance Hotel in Austin, TX. The Lightwave Optical Innovation Summit will assemble members of the technology development and user communities to discuss where optical innovation is needed, what it should look like, and when we might expect to see it. We'll examine innovation in the context of two applications spaces, each via its own track: carrier networks and enterprise/data-center networks. If you haven't registered to attend yet, we could probably still squeeze you in; find out how at the event's website.

Since this is the first time we've held the event, it's tough to say exactly what to expect; heck, I organized the thing, and I'm just as curious as anyone else about what's going to be said. Of course, I have some idea, such as:

Expect a lot of talk about software-defined networking (SDN). SDN cuts across both applications spaces, so we have a panel on it in the Carrier Innovations Track and a paper about it in the Enterprise/Data Center Innovations track. But its influence will likely be felt in a wide range of contexts, as technology is challenged to evolve to more programmable forms.

The battle of the router layer vs. the optical layer will continue. While SDN promises to make these two combatants for control of carrier networks behave, there will continue to be proponents of optically focused approaches to signal transmission and others who suggest a more router-centric strategy. We may also hear debates about Ethernet versus IP/MPLS as the protocol of choice for metro networks.

Prepping for 100G in the data center remains a challenge. There's a significant difference between the needs of power data-center users such as Facebook (who will be represented on several panels) and your average enterprise. Still, the time to plan for jumping beyond 10 Gbps is now. Such planning involves not only making the proper connectivity decisions today, but also architecting the data center in a way that accommodates growth (including in power requirements). Suggestions will, of course, be offered.

How seriously should we take fiber in the enterprise? Yes, fiber is becoming more ubiquitous in risers. But many still view fiber as providing more bandwidth than your average user needs at a price your average network manager doesn't want to pay. I expect we'll hear a fair amount of discussion about how optical communications can be made more economical, particularly for campus environments.

Just where is all this new technology going to come from? I expect we'll hear a long list of requirements from the technology users who will speak in both tracks. And certainly the development community will be eager to describe how they plan to meet these requirements. But given the fact that not every technology developer is churning out cash - make that, few technology developers are churning out cash - how is the industry going to afford all this innovation?

We'll likely hear lots of other interesting conversations in the session rooms, hallways, and exhibit areas during the show. I'm excited to see how it will turn out. And I look forward to seeing you there.

stephenh@pennwell.com

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