Staying ahead of test requirements a bigger stretch than ever

By Stephen Hardy


Rapidly shifting technology and deployment trends, plus demands for lower cost, continue to challenge the test and measurement market.

Test, measurement, and management provide the foundation for fiber optics (or any other communications medium, for that matter). Particularly in the lab instrument niche, test and measurement equipment suppliers have to remain at least one step ahead of designers’ requirements. Therefore, as the rapidly developing trends highlighted in our other forecast articles illustrate, test, measurement, and monitoring vendors will have their work cut out for them in 2010.

The test of high speed

As our two test-related feature articles in this issue highlight, high-speed networking technology has taken a front burner position for both instrumentation suppliers and their customers (see “Optical constellation analyzers tackle complex measurements” on page 10 and “Meeting the testing challenges of 100-Gigabit Ethernet” on page 28). Clearly, test advances must continue on both the optical and electronic planes.

In addition to the points regarding optical modulation analyzers raised in our Tech Trends department, one can expect product differentiation discussion of the all-optical sampling approach EXFO Electro-Optical Engineering ( favors and the real-time, electrically based technology of competitors such as Agilent ( and Optametra (www.opta The ability to stretch in speed beyond 100 Gbps and breadth in terms of a wider variety of modulation formats will be central themes in such debates.

Stretching capabilities will remain one of the dominant trends within the lab test niche. Instrument suppliers will emphasize the variety of tests that each instrument can perform—an important aspect of selling 100G modulation analyzers, given their cost. Test equipment developers will increase modularity not only for 100G but for most applications. Modularity enables users to maximize test investment through acquiring only the capabilities they need as well as expanding those capabilities as their requirements expand and customizing their instruments.

Keep it simple

Test equipment for field network use will also see current trends renewed in 2010. As in the lab environment, that means the ability to perform multiple tests with the same instrument in such applications. Simplicity will also prove a significant watchword, to avoid expensive and complex training of field personnel as well as speeding deployment.

Network convergence promises to simplify test equipment challenges in some areas but amplify them in others. The number of protocols that must be supported will shrink over time. But the accuracy and variety of services Ethernet and IP-based service testing must support will increase.

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