Defining moments

W. Conard Holton
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
cholton@pennwell.com

The point at which one thing stops and another starts is often clear. Yet in the design of optical networks, the point is becoming increasingly blurred. This trend is reflected in the distinction between components and subsystems, and in the integration of optics and electronics.

Adding to the confusion, the definition of a component often varies between companies or between technical disciplines. It gets foggier still when one company's "transponder" is another company's "transceiver." One company many conceive of a subsystem as a bigger box that can perform multiple functions, while another thinks of a subsystem as a series of coordinated functions, such as amplification, equalization, and monitoring, perhaps performed across many kilometers.

It's not only the terminology and technology that are shifting–design responsibilities are shifting as well. John Dunne of Intune Technologies makes this case in his column on integrating optical component functions into larger building blocks. He raises the question of who is now responsible for the functional integration of these blocks–system or component designers? There is opportunity here for companies and individuals to bridge this gap and provide practical means of linking the management layer to the physical layer, particularly with the coming generation of tunable components.

The benefits of integration are also evident in the article by Jim Sauer of Cisco System on flexible OADMs, and in YeeLoy Lam's discussion of quantum–well intermixing in InP chips. These changes in both terminology and technology are firm evidence to me that the industry continues evolving in important ways that will provide more value and services to customers.

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