6 Comments

Summary:

Optical components business is finally growing up. After the first few years when every little started to craft its own version of optical gear, there is a handful of companies that are taking the ‘chip’ approach to optics and optical subsystems. First there was Parama, which […]

Optical components business is finally growing up. After the first few years when every little started to craft its own version of optical gear, there is a handful of companies that are taking the ‘chip’ approach to optics and optical subsystems. First there was Parama, which has developed an “ADM on a chip.” (ADM stands for Add Drop Multiplexer) and now today Infinera has finally taken off the wraps on its “WDM on a chip.” (WDM stands for Wavelength Division Multiplexing.) There is Galazar lurking around somewhere as well. In isolation, these two developments don’t really mean anything. However taken together, these “chips” are now going to make the two basic pillars of optical business cheaper and easier to deal with.

bq. “Photonic integration has long been a goal of the optical communications industry, but its difficulty has thwarted many excellent design teams from even considering an attempt,” said Michael Howard, Principal Analyst at Infonetics Research.

I had written about the ramifications of these developments, almost two years back, called the Light Brigade. (It was on the cover, though sadly the new management has mucked up the entire website and there are no permalinks to the story.) Vinod Khosla at KPCB had turned me on to the story, while Jagdeep who I had written about helped pave the way for the story, which eventually ended up on the cover. Anyway I was convinced that this was an industry shaking, economics changing concept, if it worked. I saw the company work its way through many of the problems and till today, when it has emerged as a one of the first with “optical chips.”

bq. Infinera announced today two key technology breakthroughs: the first large scale Photonic Integrated Circuits, and the first Digital Optical Networking System, the Infinera DTN.  Photonic Integrated Circuits are similar to electronic integrated circuits, but these new photonic chips generate, manipulate, and detect light rather than electrons. Jagdeep Singh, Infinera’s CEO says,  “Performing all these functions in simple digital electronics rather than in a host of analog optical components greatly simplifies the optical layer and resonates with our customers.”

bq. “It comes as a surprise to many people that much of the existing optical network is analog,” said Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst at Heavy Reading. “After all, every other network that carriers run has transitioned from analog to digital: the voice network in the 1960s, the mobile wireless networks more recently, and even video delivery networks.  How ironic that these digital services are transported by an optical layer where waves, not bits, are manipulated by amplifiers, filters, dispersion compensators, and in some cases, mirrors.  Performing key functions digitally, rather than with analog optics, makes perfect sense.” 

You will see this company mutate and bring out more and more products, based on this chip, though you will hear mostly about this from a system’s perspective.

* More on Parama
* More on Infinera from Light Reading

  1. Rich Wargo Monday, May 3, 2004

    Nice to see progress being exhibited in this field. No doubt that the burgeoning demand for ever more bandwidth is the commercial driver. This is more a trunk network / massive cluster technology, not for desktop use. Why? Because you still have electronic processing, which cannot keep up with optical solutions. So optical would be extreme overkill for desktops, but great for situations requiring very high bandwidth. Now, what we need is an all optical crosspoint switch.

    Share
  2. Buzz Lightyear Monday, May 3, 2004

    Another one to take a long hard look at is Xanoptix. These guys seem to fly under the radar but are supposed to be doing real things, not science projects. I saw the company at OFC and was impressed. The company was spun out of Lockheed Martin optoelectronics and from what I understand, they’re far ahead of Infinera and other photonic chips guys, selling “hybrid” optics/electronics chip to a more immediately addressable market.

    Share
  3. Jack 'daWabbit' Imsdahl Monday, May 3, 2004

    Buzz;
    Funny; I heard the exact opposite about Xanoptix. I have no idea which take is right. Probably yours is. I seem to have a talent for not getting the point, at times.

    I find this whole area of development very exciting. Thanks, OM, for the article.
    Jack

    Share
  4. hi guys – i am most interested in knowing more about this trend. any tips on this stuff would be more than appreciated.

    Share
  5. Well infinera is quite different than Xanoptix, Xanoptix is a high density short reach optical interconnects @ 2.5G (technology base licensed to start the company). They are also sellling some hybrid services to make ends meet.
    Infinera was looking at being dataspeed agnostic intially to 40G, but I believe the current max is 10G all in CMOS. Core technology is dirt cheap OEO conversion.

    Share
  6. Latest on infinera – emerging from stealth
    Infinera Announces Breakthrough in Photonic Integration and the Infinera DTN Digital Optical Networking System for Long-Haul, Regional, and Metro Networks

    Infinera DTN, First System Based On Photonic Integrated Circuits, Enables ÏDigital Optical NetworkingÓ

    SUNNYVALE, CA., May 3, 2004- Infinera announced today two key technology breakthroughs: the first large scale Photonic Integrated Circuits, and the first Digital Optical Networking System, the Infinera DTN. Photonic Integrated Circuits are similar to electronic integrated circuits, but these new photonic chips generate, manipulate, and detect light rather than electrons. Photonic Integrated Circuits form the heart of the Infinera DTN, a new carrier-grade optical telecommunications system for long-haul, regional, and metro networks. Carriers will be able to deploy Infinera DTNs to build Digital Optical Networks, which are simpler, more flexible, and more economical than conventional, inherently analog optical networks.

    ÏPhotonic integration has long been a goal of the optical communications industry, but its difficulty has thwarted many excellent design teams from even considering an attempt,Ó said Michael Howard, Principal Analyst at Infonetics Research. ÏFor nearly 50 years, we’ve seen the benefits of integration in the electronic world. Moore’s Law cost reductions, ever greater performance, and higher reliability make integration a no-brainer for transistors and other electronic devices. But until now, it has not been possible to bring these same benefits to photonic devices like lasers, modulators, and photodiodes. Infinera has changed that with its Photonic Integrated Circuits, which combine dozens of devices, both actives and passives, onto single photonic chips. This is a disruptive technology.Ó

    InfineraÌs Photonic Integrated Circuits include a 100 Gb/s transmitter, which integrates ten lasers, ten 10 Gb/s modulators, and an optical multiplexer; as well as a 100 Gb/s receiver, which integrates an optical demultiplexer and ten photodiodes. Each enables low-cost optical-electrical conversion on a semiconductor chip no larger than 5mm on a side.

    The Infinera DTN, the first communications system based on Photonic Integrated Circuits, gives carriers and other network-builders digital control of key optical networking functions such as adding and dropping customer traffic, managing bandwidth, monitoring performance, and eliminating noise and optical impairments.

    ÏWeÌve been working closely with our carrier customers for nearly three years, and weÌve been very gratified by their enthusiasm for Infinera,Ó said Jagdeep Singh, InfineraÌs CEO. ÏPerforming all these functions in simple digital electronics rather than in a host of analog optical components greatly simplifies the optical layer and resonates with our customers.Ó

    ÏIt comes as a surprise to many people that much of the existing optical network is analog,Ó said Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst at Heavy Reading. ÏAfter all, every other network that carriers run has transitioned from analog to digital: the voice network in the 1960s, the mobile wireless networks more recently, and even video delivery networks. How ironic that these digital services are transported by an optical layer where waves, not bits, are manipulated by amplifiers, filters, dispersion compensators, and in some cases, mirrors. Performing key functions digitally, rather than with analog optics, makes perfect sense.Ó

    The motivation for analog management of existing optical networks has been the high cost of converting light to electronics, a necessary step for digital processing. Because this conversion has historically required numerous costly discrete devices, optical system vendors have worked to eliminate electronics from their products. Unfortunately, eliminating electronics also eliminates digital capability, leaving an analog optical network. Photonic integration will reverse this trend by making optical-electrical conversion economical, thereby restoring the ability to use digital electronics for key network functions.

    ÏIn today’s market environment, service providers need to be very confident of obtaining an adequate return on their investment in their network infrastructure,Ó said Mark Lutkowitz, Principal of Telecom Pragmatics. ÏThey appreciate the small minority of sensible suppliers such as Infinera, who swim against the tide in offering extremely simple and low-cost solutions that do not waste resources or cause conflict with existing operational methods and procedures. With the DTN, Infinera understands that advancements in optical networking demand disruptive technology that fits the reality of today’s legacy plant.Ó

    The extremely compact Infinera DTN supports 400 Gb/s, i.e., forty 10 Gb/s channels in a half rack. 100 Gb/s line cards support a variety of hot-swappable client interfaces including OC-192/STM-64, OC-48/STM-16, 10 Gigabit Ethernet LAN PHY and WAN PHY, and Gigabit Ethernet. The DTN runs Infinera’s IQ Network Operating System to automate network discovery, configuration, and provisioning via GMPLS. A network of DTNs can be managed by Infinera’s MPower Management Suite, which includes an Element Management System, a JAVA Graphical Element Manager, and standards-compliant interfaces for OSS integration. The DTN enters carrier trials in 3Q2004.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post