Tunable XFPs positioned to replace 300-pin modules

April 1, 2010
APRIL 1, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- The promise of tunable, pluggable transceivers, especially XFPs, is finally beginning to be realized. While initial applications involve replacing fixed-wavelength XFPs, suppliers have their sights set on displacing 300-pin modules as well.

APRIL 1, 2010 By Stephen Hardy -- The promise of tunable, pluggable transceivers, especially XFPs, is finally beginning to be realized. While initial applications involve replacing fixed-wavelength XFPs, suppliers have their sights set on displacing 300-pin modules as well.

JDSU was first to market with such a device, which reached production this past September, according to Tom Fawcett, the company’s senior director of product management, transmission modules. The company is “engaged” with 26 customers concerning use of tunable XFPs and is shipping modules to at least 12 of them, Fawcett reveals. Transmode is JDSU’s only announced customer (see “Transmode designs JDSU tunable XFP transceiver into TM-Series and TS-Series WDM platforms”).

Meanwhile, the company is at work on tunable XFPs with the horsepower to compete with 300-pin modules in metro transmission applications. One avenue toward this goal is the development of a linear tunable XFP+ transceiver that can be paired with board-deployed electronic dispersion compensation (EDC) devices to support reaches as long as 200 km. JDSU has linked with EDC supplier ClariPhy on this effort; the latter company demonstrated a JDSU transceiver working with its CL1012 maximum likelihood sequence estimation (MLSE) EDC chip in a hotel suite adjacent to the OFC/NFOEC show floor in San Diego last week.

JDSU plans to begin shipping linear tunable XFPs in the second quarter of this year, Fawcett says. He adds that JDSU expects the device to work with EDC devices from a variety of vendors.

More tunable XFP enhancements were discussed in the JDSU booth at OFC/NFOEC as well. These include intrinsically higher-power devices for the metro as well as zero-chirp modules for long-haul applications.

The market for tunable XFPs makes such technology investments well worthwhile. Fawcett says that JDSU expects to be shipping more tunable XFPs than 300-pin modules by the end of the year -- and, to place this statement in context, Fawcett says JDSU expects its tunable 300-pin shipments to grow this year.

Tunable XFP competitors

With demand for tunable XFPs at such an attractive level, it’s not surprising that other companies want to play in this space. Finisar highlighted its own device in its booth last week. Vice President of Marketing Rafik Ward says the company will pin its hat on performance; for example, Finisar’s tunable XFP will offer an extinction ratio of greater than 13 dB, Ward said. Finisar has both PIN and APD versions planned, as well as a design that pairs an APD with a variable optical attenuator. Finisar’s modules should begin sampling by the end of June, with general availability in the fourth quarter of this year.

Oclaro also plans to play in the XFP space, although the company’s focus at the show was more on wavelength-selective switches and 40G technology. EMCORE also is believed to have a card to play in this game as well. Its newly announced micro-ITLA (integrable tunable laser assembly), based on EMCORE’s ClearLight tunable external-cavity laser (ECL), could serve as the heart of a tunable XFP product.

Meanwhile, Menara Networks has announced a tunable version of its “OTN in an XFP” product. The module integrates G.709 framer, OAM, and forward error correction within an XFP module, with switch/router vendors as a primary target. Juniper Networks is known to be putting the device through its paces.

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