OFC 2019: Nine Additional Odds and Ends

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Before getting to the subject of this article, I need to point out the most significant and outstanding event at OFC: Mitch Fields at the “Special Chair Session” on the “Role of Optics in Future Data Center and Computing Applications.” He moved and wowed everyone in that packed room as he talked about his courageous battle with brain tumor, as he thanked former optical engineers who have worked on his novel form of treatment, and as he validated his position as one of the top engineers in the optics business. Ken Chang, the following speaker, aptly stated that such an inspiring presentation helps all of us to keep things in perspective.

1. Glenn Wellbrock of Verizon at the “Broadband Acceleration Seminar” of the Broadband Forum pointed out what separates a serious 5G player from the rest of the wireless providers in the US — that it is deploying fiber as quickly as it arrives to the operator. (So, polling results of wireless companies, especially relating to these types of projects enormous in scale, are really irrelevant – one simply just has to follow the fiber.)

2. As there was another representative from Verizon taking Q&A at that Broadband Forum event, we did not feel we received as comprehensive an answer to our question as to whether achieving adequate latency, and more importantly, ensuring sufficient route diversity, will result in Verizon eventually moving from its home-run approach from the towers to the CO for 5G fronthaul, to ultimately more of a decentralized model with some intermediate points.

3. At the Rump Session, an initial assertion that was made by an organizer involved asking for options once existing solutions are exhausted, such as going beyond the C-band, which begged our continuing inquiry: “Where exactly is all the terrestrial L-band?”

4. During the “Open Platform Summit” on disaggregation in core networks, fibeReality could not resist responding that in looking at an out-year like 2025, at a show like OFC (reminiscent of last year’s workshop determining the potential impact for optical switches in data centers in 2028), by itself, reveals a large amount of pessimism — and we also took on AT&T again in expressing our disbelief about it being serious about such matters as open ROADMs in general. (We did not find the response by Scott Mountford to be convincing at all in that he just stated the work going on in Atlanta, along with the obligatory remark — that the service provider is supposedly just more cutting-edge on technology than a naysayer like Verizon.)

5. At the end of that summit, mentioned just above, a gentleman from a system house came up to this writer, and asked the astute, rhetorical question: In putting together a fiber network inside of a car, would a manufacturer ever even consider going with an open approach?  (It would be certainly a more critical example regarding the matter of reliability than five-nines in telecom, which Mountford implied can be ensured with open platforms.)

6. At the workshop, “Will Coherent Optics Become a Reality for Intra-data Center Applications,” we took note that Chris Cole of Finisar challenged Winston Way of NeoPhotonics, as to whether he was making an apples-to-apples comparison involving symbol rates — 96 Gbaud versus 56 Gbaud. (In such an analysis, power dissipation as well as, naturally, cost are important factors to be considered.)

7. A portion of another workshop, “Which One Will Succeed in Data Center Applications, Multi-chip or Monolithic Integrated Optoelectronic Chip,?” included one more sobering discussion of how dramatically competitive copper will remain on cost in the foreseeable future. (It was a reminder of a Rump Session a couple of year ago, “Sub $0.25/Gbps Optics; How and When Will Fiber Finally Kill Copper Cable Interconnects in the DC?,” in which many people left thinking that they ought to be in the copper business.)

8. At a panel on SDN, there was additional evidence provided of the false, widespread narrative that Google has maintained a totally simple, flat network. (While not nearly as severe as the ISPs, Google has to struggle with its own brownfield issues as it relates to applying SDN.)

9. Regarding that SDN session, our own mostly negative views on the topic have not changed, as we persist in seeing it as the latest attempt in a long line of previous panaceas to deal with well-entrenched OSS/BSS at traditional service providers. (The increasing demands for greater customization at each of these individual operators only exacerbates the nature of the challenge.)

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[written by Mark Lutkowitz]