Infinera took the bold and stunning risk of angering the Gilder priesthood by illustrating that an all optical network was not the future and not the best solution.
As a comm semi guy who will always have a soft spot in his heart for TDM circuit switches and electrical crossconnects, it was a message that resonated with me. But to the assembled congregation, still clutching to a vision of an all optical future, it was analogous to Galileo arguing that the sun did not revolve around the earth.
JDSU (JDSU) has made a concerted move away from the optical module business and towards subsystems like ROADMs and EDFAs. It is even rumored that JDSU has lost future 10GE module contracts at Cisco (CSCO) (this is single-sourced, any confirmation welcome) so they may have passed the point of no return. JDSU pushed hard during the panel that the future was indeed all optical, and that they were going to provide the building blocks to do it.
Intel (INTC), as I suspected, may be exiting the commodity module business, buy they have tee-ed up a big effort to do pure optical research. The UCSB/Intel announcement was just a small step, even though it received a disproportionate amount of media attention. Kevin Kahn opened my eyes to what Intel is doing outside of the commodity optical products that I used to solely associate them with. This is worth following.
Infinera laid out why O-E-O makes sense and that they have the most efficient solution as a result of their ‘optical chip’.
I remember a meeting with Infinera (Actually called Zepton before a savvy marketing guy changed the name of the company) way back where Drew Perkins laid out an array of optical modules on the conference room table. He pointed at each one, and said that they were way too big with some very colorful language.
The vision at Infinera appears to be the same as it was then. High integration creates high reliability, high port density, and low per port cost.
I think people were mortified to find out that Infinera, the poster boy of Telecosm 2.0, is not an all-optical player This illustrates the depth to which people have gone to really understand what this company is doing, and I realized I didn’t know what sort of electrical switching function resides inside their system. I had fallen under the spell…
The best part of the discussion was the limited debate between the merits of the ROADM and O-E-O. This was a good panel, with excellent participants and should have been allotted more time simply because much time was needed to explain the differences between what Infinera does with optical-electrical-optical (O-E-O) conversion and how ROADMs work. Some carrier input, particularly from a non-Bellco perspective, would help.
This topic will be just as relevant next year and should be revisited.
(Italics are my comments. Plain Text is my transcription) If folks have changes/corrections by all means add them into the comments- I am not a reporter by trade.
Mike Ricci – JDSU
Things are different now (Uh oh, hide your wallet when as an investor you hear anything like this). We need an optical network now, we didn’t need one 6 years ago.
ROADMs, Tunable Optics, and EDFAs are the three critical components that provide everything you need to do the all optical network. (What about a large sale optical switch? You can’t build them out of ROADMs very well) 9000 ROADMs deployed so far.
Kevin Kahn – Intel Photonics (Sitting next to me, very interesting guy)
Runs Intel Enterprise Interconnect Research. He was the guy who oversaw the work surrounding the recent Intel announcement. I applaud his organization for garnering so much public attention for what was really a heterogeneous material bonding innovation. It was a good marketing job.
JDSU is focusing on what building blocks are needed to do silicon photonics. Five key areas of focus – Modulator, Laser, Photodetector, Light Guides, Low Cost Assembly (I.E. no active alignment, more like wire bonding from the chip packaging business). Silicon is infrared transparent, so the material could be used. But it can’t do 850nm… No real progress until in silicon photonics until 2002. Kevin then walked through a neat timeline of silicon innovation milestones. Good stuff.
Dave Welch – Infinera – Chief Strategy Officer
Infinera believes that optical integration drives out cost, primarily by integrating all of the O-E-O functions into a small module.
Endgame is eventually to integrate L2/L3 capabilities right on to the transponder. Some confusion among the audience, including the Intel photonics guy in particular (who is siting next to me). Do they actually do L2 monitoring and aggregation among lambdas? I don’t think so. Another sharp guy at my table says it is a big STS-1 crossconnect. I’m starting to realize that I don’t really know what Infinera does, and may be under a marketing spell.
The Achilles heel of the ROADM is the inability to re-color wavelengths – ROADMs only switch the current wavelength. O-E-O still needed in order to change wavelength colors and perform basic traffic switching. If you don’t do this you will strand bandwidth. This has a rather interesting reaction from the Gilder priesthood, where wasting bandwidth is the mantra. This should be interesting to watch.
Q & A
Some confusion – Charlie the Moderator thinks WDM is dead. Infinera goes through the process of illustrating how ROADMs result in stranded wavelengths. O-E-O is still valuable. He handles the explanation well. This guy is an exceptional presenter to the laymen.
Infinera’s equipment is being used throughout Infinera’s network. Gilder appears to be surprised that carriers are still deploying OEO conversion… seems like there is a bias against O-E-O conversion among the moderator/Gilder. It is clear that the concept of an all optical network is such a central Gilder theme that they are having a hard time letting go. Ricci from JDSU still pushing that all optical is the future. Perhaps Infinera has now angered the Gilder gods….
Gilder asks if optics were cheap enough, would things be all optical? I think he is trying to see if the state-of-the-art is an intermediate step to optical Valhalla. Infinera guy makes point – “Future is packet based network, so I must look at the bits.” There will be O-E-O.
Gilder trying to incite a little rivalry between Infinera and JDSU O-E-O and ROADM. Who is cheaper. Who will ship more. Who can displace the other. Panelists aren’t biting. Its clear that both have a role, but I applaud the effort to keep the debate rolling!
Question: 40G vs 4 x 10G – which one wins? Infinera: 4 x
10G. 100G will be parallel first. JDSU: Increasing pressure to supply 40G (Yes of course there is pressure but what is the volume)
Question: What about the cable companies? What are they doing? (Good question, people are sooooo Bellco focused) “Yes they are.” But no information on how they are different, if at all. More representation from cable guys is needed next year – I would bet they would side more with the JDSU vision.
Full Disclosure: I hold in Intel and have a short position (hedging) in Cisco
This post is one of a series as I blog the Gilder Telecosm 2006 conference. All posts can be found by searching for ‘Telecosm 2006’.