Optical Hardware Innovation Permanently

February, 2015

At the OFC 2015 show next month, the Rump Session is entitled, “Is it 'Game Over' for Hardware?” The discussion will be about “[s]ome industry trends like SDN appear[ing] to make optics hardware engineering and innovation irrelevant and shift innovation into software-based network control [while] [o]ther industry trends like [s]ilicon [p]hotonics appear[ing] to create great new opportunities for hardware innovation.” Of course, while around the world, all kinds of fantastic developments in fiber optic gear continually take place in laboratories, the really important focus should be on actual implementation of new solutions in the telecom space, which has historically tended to be driven by events or needs that were unpredictable in nature. Just the specific network requirements of one large carrier can determine the success of a particular solution. In the same way, the...

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Ciena’s Last Chance to Fulfill Its Destiny

August, 2015

Ciena beat the overwhelming odds as a startup in the 1990s to become the most dominant optical system vendor in the global telecom space. However, while it used to be the case that incumbency with major service providers always in effect meant never having to say you were sorry because of the all-important operational advantages inherent with having a large installed base of equipment, the downfall of several major players, including Nortel and Tellabs, has amply demonstrated that survival of well-entrenched suppliers is hardly a sure thing anymore. While Nokia’s purchase of Alcatel-Lucent means that Ciena’s position particularly in the US market has been strengthened (at least one big carrier in the States wants as little to do with Nokia as possible), it also creates a bigger void that has been created for other players to take a more active role – and Ciena can either finally...

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All-Optical Switches: Still Illusory?

October, 2016

Over 30 years ago, there began discussions in the industry about the development of an all-optical switch. Some of the comments sound familiar to those of today. In April, 1983, The Economist addressed them: “[Optical] transmission performance is degraded by inefficient switching via electronic devices at either end of a system.” Also, there was the statement that one school of thought favors an “in incremental or hybrid approach.” Although there is not much hype in the market right now about the widespread use of such devices, both major vendors, Huber+Suhner Polatis and Calient Networks, long-time survivors since the big bubble burst at the turn of the century, are expressing a great deal of optimism, particularly relating to at least three of the big four hyperscale data center operators, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, supposedly taking a serious look at their...

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