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Silicon Photonics: Widespread Usage on Active Components Doubtful

September, 2014

While the amount of industry chatter about silicon photonics rose substantially in 2014, partially because of certain market research firms looking to sell more reports, the technological hurdles, especially with insertion loss, make extensive use of active, combined components, such as for modulators and photodetectors, unlikely in the foreseeable future. Although there have definitely been numerous demonstrations of integrating with these CMOS fabrication processes, like with receivers, both the performance and cost are superior with standard methods. Certainly for passive devices, silicon lends itself quite well to integration, including for AWGs. Instead of using micro optics, combining waveguides with attenuators is being accomplished with Si. With 100G receivers, the delay lines are being integrated with the phase combiners with either silicon or Indium Phosphide. Given the increas ...

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Finisar Getting a Raw Deal with Silicon Photonics

September, 2014

When it comes to technology development, some of the leading analysts in the financial community have a tendency to blindly follow a template of conventional wisdom. One of the most egregious examples was during the bubble when there was the widespread notion that the need for bandwidth could not be satiated, and service providers were literally being punished for installing insufficient dark fiber. A similar injustice has occurred with Finisar with the imagined threat to the company by the introduction of silicon photonics. These investment firms talk about the “checks” they conduct in drawing their conclusions. Well, how about spending approximately five minutes checking with an objective optical scientist? As we suggested in a recent blog article, it is clear that in general, development of silicon photonics for active components has for several decades been akin to placing a square p ...

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Another Savior of Data Center MM Fiber?

January, 2015

In addition to the development of longer-distance and higher-speed VCSELs, there is a possibility that in the long term, polymer waveguide material embedded in electronics could also help to extend the life of multimode fiber in data centers. Yet right now, the technology appears to be reminiscent of the use of silicon photonics with active components, but without the hype. As with SI photonics, the concept of these types of waveguides has been discussed for many years with the problem of loss being a major concern, and right now, the vast majority of dialog on the latter can be found almost exclusively in engineering papers and patent applications. An exception has been Dow Corning, which has for a while been making somewhat of a marketing push, such as at trade shows with its short-reach interconnects utilizing “low loss,” silicone-based polymer waveguides. Back in early 2013, both Dow ...

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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 decision of a sin ...

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Bullish on 850nm VCSELs; Avago Selling VCSEL Components

March, 2015

As we will demonstrate on an OFC 2015 panel, the data center VCSEL market will remain healthy for an extremely long time, especially in terms of steady revenues. The most shocking change is based on recent evidence that Avago Technologies is selling VCSEL components, possibly including as far down the food chain as bare die, to at least one interconnect solutions provider and at the request of a minimum of one very large enterprise. In even reading between the lines of a small portion of the transcript of the latest quarterly report from the vendor, it indicates a move in this direction: "...[W]hen you start talking about 25[G], you’re talking about having to drive short-reach or even longer reach native 25, which makes it very tough to produce laser, VCSELs, laser, so to speak, that does 25 gigabit. We are one of the few guys who can do it. And we happily sold it to guys who do 100 giga ...

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