For many years, the optical communications industry has been getting by with artisan techniques, but we are approaching a time when vendors must automate.
Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other Web giants are significant drivers of the technology agenda in networking. If you’re a product supplier to these companies, you are probably racing to keep up with their increasing demands. This means continuously producing a new class of optical technologies that will meet the enhanced requirements of a next-generation data center.
This reality was highlighted at the recent Optical Fiber Communications conference in Los Angeles. As the world’s largest global fiber optics and optical communications conference, OFC draws many of the top technical optical scientists, companies and experts from around the world.
One OFC 2017 keynoter, Google vice president Urs Holzle, laid out what optical technologies must do to keep pace with data center demand--reduce costs by 2x, while enhancing system bandwidth by at least 10x. Holzle noted a 50x increase in bandwidth requirements that has taken place over the last six years. Given that growth, an increase in system bandwidth of 10x or more over the next few years is needed to manage the volume of traffic from the global data network.
It’s worth noting, as Holzle did, that Google does not use commercially available system software control planes in its network. Instead, they have developed their own IP, overlay, and optical planes. At the same time, Holzle indicated that Google is definitely embracing software-defined networking.
The current approach to network capacity involves pluggable optics that are commercially available in 100 Gigabit Ethernet speeds. This is adequate for the time being, but Holzle called it a future bottleneck that is close to being unsupportable from both power and cost perspectives.
The solution is new optical networking modules that are less expensive, more compact and readily available.
It’s telling that Holzle referred to today’s optics industry as an artisan craft that has yet to automate in the ways necessary to achieve 10x performance and workable cost levels. So, if you’re selling optical networking components to Web giants like Google, automating the component manufacturing processes will be a key to success.
-- Rudy Montgelas is a senior technologist in Legrand’s data communications division, responsible fiber optic and IoT initiatives.