Monday, March 21, 2011

Avago’s Interesting Demos at OFC/NFOEC

As always, the top transceiver manufacturers were represented at OFC, but of the top three datacom transceiver providers, Avago Technologies stood out to me. They had two significant demonstrations:
  1. Connecting a 40GBASE-SR4 Ethernet port using its QSFP+ to four standard 10GBASE-SR Ethernet ports with its SFP+ modules. On the surface, this seems pretty easy to do, until you realize that the specifications for the transmitters and receivers in these devices have are very different. The 10G devices could easily overpower the 40G receiver if it’s not designed to handle the higher power. Avago has solved this issue with its parts and hopes to be able to be interoperable with anyone’s transceivers in the near future.
  2. A VCSEL-based 25G short-wavelength SFP+ working prototype. At first I was puzzled about this because I couldn’t figure out the application. Well, it turns out there really is none for the 25G part, yet, but showing that it could be done makes you realize that 32G Fibre Channel applications using the SFP+ may not be as far-fetched as we think. And, perhaps we can get a 100GBASE-SR4 (4x25G that isn't in the IEEE standard yet) solution soon.
Stay tuned for more on other developments announced or demonstrated at OFC/NFOEC.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts on OFC/NFOEC

I’ve never been enamored with Los Angeles, but when OFC/NFOEC decides to go there, I really have no choice but to follow them. OFC/NFOEC is the premier optical components conference and is starting to move its way up the food chain again. Those of us who have been in the industry since before 2000 know that equipment manufacturers and service providers were regularly a part of OFC. But after 2000, this changed and the optical value chain was split – components relegated to OFC and/or NFOEC (until they combined into one), equipment manufacturers concentrating on Interop and Supercom and service providers opting for Supercom. Now, Supercom has closed its doors and Interop has become more and more software-centric. So both OEMs and service providers are looking for a trade show of value and they may have found it in OFC/NFOEC.

Notable communications equipment OFC/NFOEC exhibitors this year were ADVA, Ciena, Cisco, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Huawei, Infinera, Juniper, Mellanox Technolgies, Nokia Siemens Networks and Optelian. Many others gave speeches including Alcatel-Lucent, ADVA, Brocade, Ciena, Cisco, Cray, Force10 Networks, Fujitsu, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Infinera, Juniper, Nokia Siemens Networks and SunLabs/Oracle. Service providers participated by way of technical and business presentations as well – among them were AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, NTT and Verizon.

End users of networking equipment even showed up – NYSE Euronext, USA provided the plenary speaker for the Service Provider Summit and Facebook and Google again told us how much more bandwidth they need – Terabit Ethernet. There was an entire afternoon dedicated to large data center business issues at The Optical Business Forum, which included speakers from Abovenet, Allied Fiber, CENX, Equinix, Juniper, PacketExchange, Verizon, XO Communications Zayo Bandwidth and Zayo Networks.

So this seems to be a transition year for OFC/NFOEC where it has started to include more practical programming to expand its audience into data communications, data centers and up the value chain with equipment manufacturers and service providers. It appears to be working too, because the attendance was up by all accounts.

I’ll review some exciting new developments by systems and components suppliers in future posts.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

OFC/NFOEC Data Center Cabling Short Course (SC358)

I'm headed to LA next week for OFC/NFOEC and my first order of business will be to teach a short course on transitioning your data center from copper to fiber. Here's a short description of what I'll discuss:

This short course is intended to help data center and network managers understand the value proposition of an all-optical data center. Topics that will be discussed include looking at basic data center network infrastructure design and hardware needs.  The course was developed with the TIA-942, Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers in mind, but will also address the fact that many data centers really have not used this standard in practice. Networking standards such as IEEE 802.3, Fibre Channel, iSCSI and InfinBand will be reviewed along with their applicability to certain aspects of the data center. Technology roadmaps and data center networking trends will be included as well as how to handle transitioning from lower to higher data rates within your data center. When it makes sense to implement fiber optics and what types of transceivers and cabling should be used for different scenarios will be presented. Other technologies such as Fibre Channel over Ethernet, RDMA (InfiniBand) over Converged Ethernet, IO virtualization and how virtualization and network consolidation will affect data rates will also be discussed. Detailed cost analysis of fiber versus copper in the data center will be presented considering not only equipment and infrastructure cost, but port and cabling density, power and cooling costs.  Also included will be analysis of whether it matters what vertical market a data center supports – for example, does a financial sector data center have different requirements than a higher-education data center? Several real-world case studies will be presented.

Hope to see you there.