Things to do and see at OFC/NFOEC

March 1, 2007

By Stephen Hardy

There’s no one way to work a trade show, particularly one as large as OFC/NFOEC. Certainly, you can’t talk to everyone and attend every conference session of potential interest-there are too many of each. You could just wander around and see what catches your eye. Or you could have a plan in place or a topic you want to explore.

Of course, Senior Editor Meghan Fuller and I will be running around OFC/NFOEC when it convenes in Anaheim the last week of this month. While we plan to keep alert for surprises, there a few topics we expect to explore or questions we’re hoping to answer. Here are a few of them.

What’s up with the LRM?: We’ve covered the “emerging” 10GBase-LRM transceiver PMD, targeted for use mainly on legacy 62.5-µm multimode fiber, for the last several years. In our 2006 OFC/NFOEC issue, we ran an article from an LRM proponent that predicted “widespread production” of the devices last year. The specification was ratified last September-so where are the devices? A quick glance at our 2007 OFC/NFOEC Product Showcase elsewhere in this issue (page 30) shows only one company-ExceLight-highlighting an LRM transceiver. Certainly the market shift from XFP to SFP+ for data center applications could account for the lag in transceivers for small-form-factor applications (although it doesn’t appear to have hampered ExceLight). But X2 has been a stable format for some time. Has market interest waned or is there a technical problem?

A rush toward Provider Backbone Transport (PBT)?: The interest in PBT right now appears strongest in Europe. But, just like OTN, one can expect discussions of the transport strategy’s benefits to begin in North America. We certainly expect to see more systems companies jump on the PBT bandwagon-or at least have a position statement ready to explain why they’re not. More interesting, however, will be the information we can collect regarding potential North American and Asian carrier interest in the technology.

Dispersion-tolerant technologies for high-speed communications: Alternatives to the traditional NRZ modulation format to aid high-speed networking are very much in play-particularly now that the Physical Link Layer Working Group of the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) will evaluate such modulation formats to help the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) develop a 10-km interface specification for 40-Gbit/sec transmission. Transceiver vendors and systems houses have begun the exploration of these formats, and modules based on optical duobinary and proprietary technologies have already been introduced. Placing design bets on a specific format might be risky right now, however; whichever modulation format the OIF recommends for the new 10-km specification will likely jump to the front of the line.

Of course, dispersion tolerance not only helps 40-Gbit/sec and faster traffic stretch across existing links; it also helps 10-Gbit/sec traffic reach further. We expect to see emerging modulation formats paired with electronic dispersion compensation for such applications. Dispersion tolerance will also prove important in another application…

Reconfigurable networks: Yes, this year’s OFC/NFOEC will see reconfigurability as a repeated theme from last year. And that means ROADMs, of course-but not just ROADM subsystems. We foresee much of the discussion this year focusing on how to make ROADMs more effectively deployable. That means optical channel/performance monitoring to help ensure that the network is operating properly, as well as network management strategies and software that will enable carriers to implement reconfigurability in a manner that doesn’t cause more headaches than the function is meant to solve. We’ll also hear more discussion about where two-degree systems work best and where multidegree systems might make more sense, including when carriers might need more than a few multidegree systems in the first place.

Evolution in optical access: Of course, we can’t forget FTTX. We’ll continue to question touts handicapping the PON race in China, as well as monitor how well active Ethernet approaches are doing worldwide. We’ll dig into rumors we’ve heard about interest from cable MSOs in PON, as well as some rural carriers already talking about migrating from PONs to home-run architectures. Needless to say, we’ll also take the temperature of WDM-PON technology development and carrier interest.

And, of course, we’re sure something will blindside us. That’s part of the beauty of an event like OFC/NFOEC. If you’re going, we hope your show is as interesting as ours promises to be.

One way to make your visit to Anaheim more interesting is to attend the OSA/Lightwave Executive Forum. It will be held Monday, March 26, in the Anaheim Hilton. You can still register onsite Sunday afternoon, March 25, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm (just in time to attend the pre-forum reception) or Monday morning before the forum starts at 8:30 am.

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