A year after finally going back to a focus on live attendance post-COVID, OFC returns to San Diego March 5-9, 2023, with the expectation of increased attendance, in-person learning, and networking. And while much of what will be found in the convention center will prove familiar to returning attendees, there are a few new wrinkles that show co-producers Optica, IEEE Communications Society, and IEEE Photonics Society hope will appeal to even the most veteran conference participants and exhibition visitors. The additions include new conference topics as well as an advanced communications network capability in the exhibition hall designed to give engineers, researchers, and academics even more reason to visit the show floor.
Optical communications is in session(s)
Responsibility for this year’s conference program again rested in the hands of three general chairs: Ramon Casellas of Spain’s CTTC, Chris Cole of Coherent Corp., and Ming-Jun Li of Corning Inc. Each took responsibility for one of the conference’s three main tracks:
- Track D: Devices, Components and Fibers (Li)
- Track N: Networks and Services (Casellas)
- Track S: Subsystems and Systems (Cole).
Speaking to Lightwave this past January, Casellas and Li cited the hard work of program chairs Nick Fontaine of Nokia Bell Labs, Fotini Karinou of Microsoft Research Ltd., and Elaine Wong of the University of Melbourne, Australia, as essential to the assembly of the program, which the two general chairs said will reflect the following hot topics:
- Quantum computing and communications; this topic is so big that a subcommittee was created to focus on the subject
- The application of artificial intelligence and machine learning for optical networks, particularly as an enabler of disaggregated infrastructures
- Next-generation PON, including coherent-enabled approaches
- Pluggable coherent transceivers for data center networking requirements
- Low-power, high-performance VCSELs
- Multi-core fiber, particularly in support of space-division multiplexing
- Opto-electronic integration
- The role of optical communications in sustainability and the improvement of everyday life.
Casellas and Li said that attendees will see these topics reflected in a wide range of sessions, symposia, and tutorials. Such themes certainly are evident in the list of symposia and special session topics. The symposia include:
- Quantum Information and Optical Communication Networks: Emerging Research Areas, Challenges and Opportunities, Monday, March 6, 2:00 to 6:30 PM
- The Crucial Role of Photonics in Achieving the UN Sustainability Development Goals: Learnings and Opportunities, Tuesday, March 7, 2:00 to 6:30 PM
- Beyond the Hype of Network Analytics: Use Cases, Feasibility, and Barriers, Wednesday, March 8, 2:00 to 6:30 PM.
Meanwhile, the special sessions will be held on Monday and Wednesday:
- Ultra-Stable Frequency Sources and Their Future Applications in Telecom, Monday, March 6, 8:00 to 10:00 AM
- High Performance Networks for Future Data Center and Computing Applications, Monday, March 6, 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM
- Photonics for Visible Wavelengths, Wednesday, March 8, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Elsewhere, the Rump Session on Tuesday, March 7, from 7:30 to 9:30 PM will entertain attendees looking for a lively debate on the topic of “Is the Silicon Photonics Platform about to be Standardized, Diversified or Supplanted?” Moderators Daniel Kuchta from the IBM TJ Watson Research Center and Michael Hochberg of Luminous Computing will stir the pot with the help of a scheduled 12 “provocateurs” from around the world.
The big picture view
Of course, the opening plenary session Tuesday, March 7, from 08:00 to 10:00 AM, will again set the tone for the conference as well as provide context for discussion. The three plenary speakers were selected with diversity in mind as well as their ability to deliver thought-provoking and inspiring commentary, said Casellas and Li. They include:
- Patricia Obo-Nai, CEO, Vodafone Ghana, who will speak on “Harnessing Digitalization for Effective Social Change”
- Jayshree V. Ullal, president and CEO, Arista Networks, who will discuss “The Road to Petascale Cloud Networking”
- Wendell P. Weeks, chairman and CEO, Corning Inc., who will address photonics’ “Capacity to Transform.”
The three general chairs worked in partnership to determine the plenary lineup. But each chair has an affinity for a different speaker. “I thought, why don't we look for someone who can give a talk about how technology can improve lives,” recalled Casellas of Vodafone Ghana’s Obo-Nai.
“As for every OFC, we looked for speakers who will present leading-edge technical content,” commented Cole in an email about Ullal. “This year, we also looked for compelling personal stories, especially ones that would motivate young OFC attendees, including those in communities underrepresented in our industry. Jayshree’s accomplishments have been extraordinary and widely recognized. She was named one of Barron’s ‘World’s Best CEOs’ in 2018 and one of Fortune’s ‘Top 20 Business Persons’ in 2019.”
As for Li, the selection of Weeks meant more than just seeing his boss take a bow. “Two years ago, we celebrated 50 years of the first low-loss optical fiber. And last year was the Year of Glass,” he explained, noting the United Nation’s celebration of photonic technologies and their impact on society. “I think it is a good opportunity to talk about glass fiber components, glass for mobile phones, and information display applications.”
High ceiling for the floor
The hot topics won’t be restricted to the conference rooms. Most of the technologies that underpin the subjects the chairs cited are in commercialization or nearly so, meaning the exhibition hall will serve as a forum for seeing such technologies in action. To assist toward this goal, show organizers will debut OFCnet, a high-speed networking infrastructure. Not only will OFCnet aid companies and organizations on the show floor illustrate their latest offerings and/or standards work, but it also will provide a foundation for proof-of-concept demonstrations, experiments, and other activities that should provide conference attendees with additional incentive to swing on by the hall. (See sidebar “Powerful OFCnet debuts in 2023” for more information.)
And those who seek additional content will find it in the now traditional Market Watch show floor symposium that will run all three days of the exhibits (March 7-9), alongside its sibling Network Operator Summit on Wednesday, March 8, from 10:15 AM to 2:30 PM. For those with an interest in data center networking, the Data Center Summit will be a must-attend event on Tuesday afternoon, March 7, from noon to 3:45 PM. In between, the three exhibit hall theaters will host a variety of presentations and panels on a wide range of topics, from network infrastructure to access networks, standards, and optical systems and components.
Of course, the companies on the show floor hope that attendees find the time to stop in and see the various technologies on display in between symposia-and-summit hopping. After all, the point of all the research discussed within the conference is to provide the building blocks for today’s and tomorrow’s optical networks. So it would be well worth the average attendee’s time to view the fruits of the industry’s labors.
STEPHEN HARDY is editorial director of Lightwave.
Optica hosts Executive Forum on March 6
Optica will again offer its day-long Executive Forum on Monday, March 6, at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. As always, the event will assemble a variety of C-level panelists and keynoters – plus a brand-new rapid-fire startup panel – who will discuss the major business trends in optical communications.
Mischa Dohler, vice president, emerging technologies at Ericsson Inc., will kick off the day with a keynote address, “5G/6G, XR and the Metaverse – A Silicon Valley View.” The remaining program includes:
- Where and What is the Coherent Edge?
- Game Changer? New Fiber Types for New Applications
- The previously mentioned Lightning Startup Round, in which attendees will be introduced to six startups, some of whom will be coming out of stealth mode at OFC 2023
- Inside the Data Center: AI/Machine Learning and the Role of Photonics
- Business Fireside Chat: How Are We Going to Perform in Uncertainty?
More information and registration details are available from the Events section of the Optica website.
Powerful OFCnet debuts in 2023
OFC 2023 will mark the debut of OFCnet, a high-capacity fiber network that will connect the show floor (and the booths residing there, should they choose) to local and national research and education networks (RENs) and facilities. The infrastructure is designed to raise the technical value of the exhibits, enable demonstrations that would be impossible (or unwise) to do otherwise, and bring more technical conference attendees to the show floor.
The 2023 start of a three-year program to launch and expand OFCnet comes after a successful pilot effort last year, according to Marc Lyonnais, director of external research at Ciena who will serve as OFCnet chair this year and next. OFCnet will “allow the current exhibitors to have live demonstrations outside the convention center. We want to increase the inter-booth collaboration and we want to reduce the barriers of live demonstration,” he explained. “We want to attract network science, academia, and research lab attendees. We want to highlight high-performance networking application use cases. We want to be a place where emerging technologies companies can use the exhibit floor as a science accelerator.”
The network will benefit from collaboration and participation from a variety of partners. Lumen will supply the fiber plant, which will connect into the CENIC California REN and onward to Internet2 and ESnet, among other networking participants. Other supporters include but are not limited to ADVA, Cisco, Corning, EXFO, Huber & Suhner/Polatis, Infinera, Nokia, Verizon, and VIAVI Solutions. The resultant network will support 400 Gigabit Ethernet connections over multiple fibers, offering plenty of capacity.
Lyonnais says that OFCnet will support two types of networking this year. One will provide a stable connection between the show floor and the REN ecosystem. The second will be a platform for experimentation, with quantum technology companies expected to take full advantage.
In fact, there will be approximately 20 demonstrations of various sorts using OFCnet this year – eight more than Lyonnais and his team originally thought they could comfortably support.
Next year will be even busier, as plans call for the creation of a third network that will be able to demonstrate fault recovery and maintenance. He and his team hope to tie OFCnet to the conference program through short courses in 2024 that will leverage the infrastructure. To help with this effort and promote further resource utilization, OFCnet will hold a Birds of a Feather session in Room 17, Monday, March 6, from 4:30-6:30, co-chaired by Prof.dr. Reza Nejabati, University of Bristol, and Prof.dr.ir. C.T.A.M. de Laat, University of Amsterdam.
Meanwhile, show floor attendees can see the OFCnet equipment in action (behind plexiglass) at booths 5917 and 6109. OFCnet staff will wear distinctive shirts for those who have questions or suggestions.
Four hot button topics for the show floor
Co-packaged optics: Observers and analysts continue to push out the timeline for when they expect pluggable modules to give way to co-packaged optics for data center switch I/O. But that won’t stop the companies that have been working on CPO from showing off. Meanwhile, it will be time to get an update on QSFP-XD, the pluggable module alternative to CPO.
800G modules in various flavors: Expect to see progress on enabling 800G coherent modules as well as direct-detect alternatives. Standards work on both continues within OIF (coherent) and IEEE (direct-detect and, likely, coherent), and both groups will be on hand to provide updates. Meanwhile, MSAs and others likely will demonstrate that some parts of the industry are willing to build on previous standards for customers who can’t wait for new ones.
Greater than 800G technology: You'll see 1.2-Tbps coherent technology, including DSPs. The IEEE is working on 1.6T Ethernet as well – which means someone is already working on the enabling technology.
Advanced fiber types: While the industry awaits word on what Microsoft plans to do with Lumenisity, potential competitors will jockey for position. As mentioned regarding the conference, multi-core fiber also should be represented on the show floor.