Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Miniaturized Board-level Optical Interconnects

Optical interconnects at the board-level have historically just been optical pluggable standardized transceivers like the SFP or XFP with associated cable assemblies. But, of late, new technologies have stretched this traditional view to miniaturized modules using parallel optics that can be leveraged for several interconnect types – board-to-board, on-board and in some cases even chip-to-chip and on-chip. The possibilities of board-level optical interconnection using these devices holds promise for solving many issues ranging from multi-core processors to high-performance computing clusters. And, there are several optical components vendors that are banking on it – Avago Technologies, Intel and Luxtera standing at the forefront.

However, today, even the cheapest optical interconnects still cost more than twice what a copper one does. But, according to all of the above mentioned manufacturers, each of their technologies will eventually be able to reach a less than $1/Gigabit price tag. The way in which they will get there is common to all – highly-automated, vertically-integrated manufacturing. Whether this will actually be achievable is still a question, but I believe that at least Intel and Avago Technologies have the track record in manufacturing technology that should heed them the benefit of the doubt.

Find out more from a recently released report I wrote for CIR: New Revenue Opportunities for Optical Interconnects: A Market and Technology Forecast. And, stay tuned at this blog for more on each of these technologies.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Market Implications of Approval of IEEE 40/100G Standard

By Lisa A. Huff, CDCP, Principal Analyst, Discerning Analytics, LLC

It's been nearly five years since the work on 40/100G IEEE (IEEE 802.3ba) standard started and it is finally complete. What does this mean to the Ethernet networking industry? Well, really not much to start, even though you'll hear otherwise from all of the vendors.

For all but a few companies like Google, Facebook or the Amsterdam Internet Exchange, the truth is that the networking community has barely tapped 10-Gigabit Ethernet’s potential. Most enterprise networks still consist of 100Mbps connections to the desktop with workgroup switch Gigabit uplinks to corporate data centers. Within the data center you now see more 10G connections, but for the vast majority of businesses these are still scarce.

So really what the release of the new standard means is that the last data rate will start to see more sales because there is actually an upgrade path now available. And while Google will start to deploy 40G as soon as it can, 10G will be attractive for smaller companies.

But what does this have to do with optical components? What was found in a recent study I conducted for CIR was that 10GBASE-SR seems to be the most cost-effective 10G solution. It uses 850nm VCSEL-based transceivers and laser-optimized multi-mode fiber. But you would think that 10GBASE-T (copper) would be less expensive right? Not so if you consider that it still has issues with actually supporting 100m and consumes close to five times the power of the 10GBASE-SR modules.