Fiber-optic transceiver developers are building datacom and telecom capacity into and around metropolitan-area networks (MANs) with a touch more urgency these days as the IEEE 10-Gigabit Ethernet specification nears final adoption.
There's also growing activity in the
area of 2-Gbit/second Fibre Channel (a serial architecture initially designed for networked mass-storage applications) and in so-called parallel optics for moving data at high speeds through various local and enterprise networks.
The MAN, or metro, region remains the sweet spot of activity, not only because of the high-volume market but also because more problems need solving. This region is largely considered to be the system's worst bottleneck for efficient end-to-end data transfer in the complex fiber-optic transmission architecture.
Helping to meet the challenge, vendors continue to evolve products for a commodity-based, plug-and-play market, offering a variety of transceivers-optical-to-electrical and electrical-to-optical-that ease the end user's design woes.
Several multisource agreements- notably the Xenpak (pronounced "zen pack"), a physical form factor for products meeting the 10 Gigabit Ethernet standard-ensure a high degree of cooperation for second sourcing and product-line compatibility for a growing market, sources said.
"We see the metro still very much Sonet-based, but 10-Gigabit/s Ethernet is making its way into the central office and enterprise areas. Smaller form factors as well as hot-pluggable transceivers are very important, and multirate transceiver and 30-Gbit/s parallel-optics products are arriving," said Tom Fawcett, product-marketing manager for the Networking Solutions Division at Agilent Technologies (Palo Alto, Calif.). Mike Peppler, strategic-marketing manager for Agere Systems (Allentown, Pa.), agrees. "The major applications will be in communications: more transceivers (vs. discrete designs), hot-swap pluggable devices, more diagnostic features, higher densities and better thermal management," he said.
Manufacturers roll with Xenpak
Indeed, with the nearly finalized 10-Gigabit Ethernet spec (IEEE P802.3ae) well-anticipated, many companies have hit the road running with appropriate products. Agilent Technologies launched last September what it bills as the industry's first serial 10-Gigabit Ethernet transceiver module with additional multiplexing/demultiplexing circuitry. The company's 10 GBase-LR Xenpak transceiver, in sampling, supports campus trunking and enterprise-to-metro uplinks over a range of 10 kilometers. It incorporates complete physical-layer functionality from the optical interface to the electrical XAUI (pronounced "zowie") interface, which provides four channels at 3.125 Gbits/s.
"The 1310 serial 10-kilometer technology is the watershed optical technology for 10-Gigabit Ethernet," said Euan Livingston, Agilent's strategic-marketing manager. "We have developed a product that will hit the high-volume, $1,000 price point that is critical for enabling the 10-Gigabit market." Due shortly with its 10-Gigabit Ethernet Xenpak entry is Intel Corp. (Folsom, Calif.) with its TXN17401.
The entry from Molex (Downers Grove, Ill.) for the high-speed Ethernet market will be its pluggable 10-Gigabit Ethernet WWDM transceiver, which can use multimode or single-mode cable for applications in the local-area network (LAN), MAN and wide-area network (WAN) at distances to 10 kilometers. Sampling will begin late this quarter. Volume production is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2003.
Agere Systems (formerly Lucent Technologies in Allentown) is also shipping its 10-Gigabit Ethernet Xenpak transceivers now. "As Ethernet becomes faster and Sonet becomes less costly and more versatile for data traffic, the two protocols are evolving as viable solutions for metro-access-based applications," said Samir Samhouri, director of marketing for the company's Transport Division.
Indeed, the Ethernet-Sonet connection is closer than ever, often lending rise to multirate applications.
Intel released what it bills as the first multirate product, the TXN13303, which will work in the 10-Gbit/s, 10-Gigabit Ethernet and Sonet/synchronous digital hierarchy space. The company is also developing a module, the TXN13200, with much of the same capability (minus multirate operation) in half the size. It is due for release shortly.
Another multirate arrival is a lithium multiprotocol module from Network Elements Inc. (Atlanta). The product is a 10-Gbit/s system that's intended as a plug-and-play, multilayer optical network interface that supports 10-Gigabit Ethernet, packet-over-Sonet and Sonet applications over the LAN to WAN.
There are other new products for Sonet-the "data transport network"-that imply OC-3 (155-Mbit/s), OC-12 (622-Mbit/s) and OC-48 (2.5-Gbit/s) rates and single-mode fiber and multi-kilometer data transmission. They include Agilent's HFCT5942L and 5942TL transceivers. The offerings are small-form-factor (SFF) OC-48 devices specifically designed to free up bandwidth bottlenecks in short- and intermediate-reach networks (2 to 15 kilometers) that lead from the MAN to the WAN. Pricing is in the $500 range in quantities of 5,000.
Agilent extended its Sonet line last fall with similarly packaged OC-3 and OC-12 transceivers. Other Sonet entries, due in April from Tyco Electronics (Harrisburg, Pa.), are its SC duplex transceivers in 3.3-volt, OC-3 and OC-12 versions. "We remain committed to electro-optics and these new transceivers are the first of many new products aimed at the converging metro-access and networking markets, " said Tom Riha, director of Tyco's Electro-Optics operation. Other entries include those from Agere, which earlier released its Netlight transceivers of pluggable transceivers for OC-3 to OC-48 service.
While Xenpak will be widely adopted, other form factors are best-suited to a given application. The 10-Gigabit Ethernet transponder from Picolight (Boulder, Colo.), for instance, is applied with an 850-nanometer laser for short-reach applications.
"Xenpak is one way, but not the only way, and for short-reach applications we think it would penalize the user," said Tracy Earles, director of product management at Picolight. "For one thing, 1,550-nm lasers have to be cooled. We see a good number of applications for 850-nm short-reach lasers, so our package is a smaller one."
The product supplements a transponder for 10-Gbit/s and Sonet OC-192 short-range (100-meter) applications, which is one of the first serial transponders operating at 850 nm.
Other entries include a 10-Gbit/s transponder module for Sonet from Toshiba America Electronic Components (TAEC; Irvine, Calif.). The company's TOTR370M is intended for use in networking and telecommunications infrastructure equipment, multiplexing and demultiplexing 16 622-Mbit/s channels. "The TOTR370M is the first transponder in a planned family of 10-Gbit/s devices and a key stepping-stone to our future OC-768 40-Gbit/s products," said Jay Heinecke, director of business development for TAEC's optoelectronics products.
Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo) has just developed a 40-Gbit/s module, which is slated to sample in March.
Other new products for the 10-Gbit/s Sonet market include a 12.5-Gbit/s optical receiver module from Princeton Optronics (Princeton, N.J.). The RXPB1250 is optimized for low group delay and Sonet-compliant 10-Gbit/s transmitters.
Moving down from Sonet and the MAN to the enterprise and more localized networks, Ethernet and Fibre Channel remain closely linked in the transmission achitecture continuum. Basic devices for Ethernet, originally developed in the '70s for the LAN, and Fibre Channel continue to attract interest.
Agilent's transceiver entries for these include three new small-form-factor products for 1.25-Gbit Ethernet, iSCSI and Fibre Channel applications that are billed as the lowest in generating electromagnetic interference, thus allowing high-density installations. The company's HFBR-5710L supports 1.25-Gbit/s Ethernet; the HFBR5730L supports 1.063-Gbit/s Fibre Channel; and the HFBR57-01L supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel and iSCSI.
The devices from Agilent feature 850-nm oxide vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs).
Tyco plans a 125-Mbit/s Fast Ethernet transceiver. It will be part of the company's small-form-factor pluggable (SFP) transceivers. In the markets targeting shorter wavelengths (850 mm), the company will shortly release products aimed at 2.5-Gbit/s proprietary applications and Gigabit Fibre Channel.
Another major player, Stratos Lightwave (Chicago), touts its Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel transceivers as the first offered in the compact RJ package format.
In storage-area networks, 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel has picked up noticeably. Tyco's Fibre Channel module will be offered both for 1.025-Gbit/s and for dual-rate, autonegotiate 1.0- and 2.1-Gbit/s applications. Agilent's entry for the 2-Gbit/s application, introduced last year, is its HFBR-5702L small-form-pluggable module for multimode fiber applications up to 300 meters. Pricing is under $100 in low-volume quantities.
Other vendors in both Ethernet and Fibre Channel products include Ericsson (Richardson, Texas) and Infineon Technologies (San Jose, Calif.).
Moving toward requirements to push ever more data over shorter distances brings so-called parallel optics to the fore, an area initially developed by such companies as Mitel Semiconductor (Ottawa). These devices are often placed on the backplanes of large network switches to connect equipment within, for example, a network's central office.
"Parallel-optics transceivers are a bit more difficult to produce; there's only a handful of companies in this," said Steve Skiest, marketing manager for optoelectronics at Molex Fiber Optics.
Agilent Technologies last year touted the industry's first surface-mount-compatible parallel-optics modules, which combine the company's 12-channel HFBR-712BP transmitter and HFBR-722BP receiver. Each channel has a capacity of 2.5 Gbits/s. Thus, the system delivers a total throughput of 30 Gbits/s to support 300- to 600-meter distances for proprietary interconnects and OC-192 very-short-reach systems.
The module occupies approximately the same area as two 1-Gbit/s, small-form-factor transceivers.
Other new entries with the same sizing advantages include the first in the Magnus family from Picolight Inc.
Molex Fiber Optics intro-duced in November its ParaLink, a 12-channel parallel fiber transmitter and receiver pair that works with 12-fiber ribbon cable for board-to-board, rack-to-rack and bay-to-bay links in optical cross-connect switchers, terabit routers and high-speed computers.
The transmitter uses an 850-nm VCSEL array and the receiver a PIN diode array. The company offers two models, one operating at 1.6 Gbits/s per channel and the other operating at 2.5 Gbits/s per channel. The latter option allows the ParaLink to deliver a total data throughput of 30 Gbits/s over 200 to 300 meters. Molex will be introducing a pluggable version with a 10 x 10-pin ball grid array socket in the first quarter.
Other entries include new offerings from W.L. Gore (Newark, Del.). The company recently brought out 2.5-Gbit/s and 1.6-Gbit/s parallel-optics modules as extensions to its nLighten family.
The parts, which are 12-channel devices, are said to provide an aggregate throughput of 30 Gbits/second and 19.2 Gbits/s, respectively, up to 300 meters.
Fiber-to-the-curb and fiber-to-the-home represent even more localized applications. A few select products for those applications are expected soon, but this area has yet to develop. Most attribute the slow going to an insufficiently developed fiber infrastructure in the "last mile," premises applications that generally don't require the kind of bandwidth fiber can provide and the consumer's unwillingness to pay for such a luxury.
Other applications of a local or specialized nature in commercial and industrial areas appear to be expanding somewhat, but quantifying growth trends is difficult. Dymec (North Andover, Mass.) is one of the few with extensive expertise in industrial fiber-optic systems specific to power utilities and the factory floor. Dymec provides "hardened" Ethernet systems for rugged environments.
Several other vendors, often using basic Ethernet systems, contribute to an otherwise specialized, if not localized, market. They include Canoga Perkins (Chatsworth, Calif.), which has a large product line in modems, multiplexers and LAN extension, and expertise in video applications.
TC Communications (Irvine, Calif.) likewise works with modems, multiplexers and short-range telecom extending blocks, with some multikilometer long-distance products. Versitron (Newark, Del.) focuses on point-to-point fiber-optic links using Ethernet and Fast Ethernet, and has expertise in basic telephone and security systems, and video applications.
Opticomm's (San Diego) forte remains video systems for broadband TV, security and audio/videoconferencing.
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