What's on the menu

March 1, 2013
If it's March, it must be time for OFC/NFOEC. The optical communications community will once again descend on Southern California (this time, Anaheim) to see ...

If it's March, it must be time for OFC/NFOEC. The optical communications community will once again descend on Southern California (this time, Anaheim) to see what's new now and catch a glimpse of what may be coming in the future. Here's what I expect will be among the more salient topics of conversation, at least as far as near term technology and trends are concerned.

The new shape of 100G. Not every systems vendor has 100-Gbps capabilities – it just seems that way. So we'll see the laggards discussing when they plan to arrive at the party. Meanwhile, I expect a few module vendors to have their 4×25-Gbps metro-centric offerings more or less ready for sampling. The question is how much of a demand there will be for such technology. While coherent versus direct detect offered a topic of significant debate at this time last year, several platform vendors appear to have selected coherent as their preferred approach. In fact, I can think of only two systems houses – ADVA Optical Networking and ECI Telecom – that have publicly committed to offering a 4×25G option for their systems. Whether that's because other platform companies are waiting to see what kind of economics the module vendors will be able to support or because there's not much customer interest in anything that isn't coherent-enabled should be apparent soon.

And speaking of "the shape of 100G," we should see a few CFP2 modules reaching production readiness as well.

And then, of course, there's 400G. Alcatel-Lucent is the first out of the gate with a 400G deployment – and we can expect other systems developers, particularly Ciena and Huawei, to tell us how close they are to catching up. (Infinera, of course, will say that any of their DTN-X customers are already 500-Gbps-enabled. But I don't think any of their customers are fully using that capability.) Of course, 400 Gbps implies superchannels, and superchannels imply flexible-grid ROADMs and wavelength-selective switches. So I expect to have several conversations about these topics in Anaheim. And you can't discuss ROADMs without touching on colorless, directionless, and contentionless feature sets, so let's count on those, too.

Tunable SFP+ transceivers. Remember how innovative we thought tunable XFPs were a few years ago? Now tunable devices are taken for granted, to the point that JDSU's work on tunable SFP+ optical transceivers has almost been forgotten. The company showed off the device at ECOC last September and has delivered samples. What's the competition doing?

Software-defined networking (SDN). This is going to be the 100G of 2013 – it will be important, and people are going to talk about it until you're tired of listening. SDN holds significant promise to make networks more flexible and able to roll out new services more quickly than before. It also might enable the dream of converging the IP and optical layers – or at least getting them to work together more harmoniously through an SDN controller.

These will be just the most salient topics in Anaheim March 17–21. I'm sure there will be a few surprises as well. I hope to see you there – stop me and say hello. I'll be the frazzled looking guy in glasses.

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