Thursday, January 24, 2019

Perspective: The Best of Optics Technology in 2019

by Martin Zirngibl, Finisar CTO 

400G needed for explosive bandwidth growth everywhere in the network

It seems like 100G pluggable modules were introduced just yesterday but they are already running out of steam for leading-edge applications. 2019 will be the year of the early roll-outs of 400G across the entire network, for short-reach links such as server-to-top-of-rack switches in data centers, for leaf-to-spine connections inside data centers, for data center interconnection links (DCI) and DWDM metro networks.

But there is no one-size-fits-all solution

Although 400G will appear almost simultaneously throughout the network, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Cost, power and footprint per bit need to be carefully tailored for each application, requiring a diverse set of technologies to optimally address the various distances and capacities. There is a strong trade-off between power consumption, footprint and cost of transponders versus their performance in reach and fiber capacity, which translates into the cost of the link. For instance, an electrical copper link based on direct attach copper cables (DAC) consumes on the order of 1W/100G and costs a few dollars but it can only reach three meters. On the other end of the spectrum, an optical transmitter transponder for long haul (several thousand km) burns up to 30-40W/100G and costs about three orders of magnitude more than the above copper link. A network provider must carefully choose the interconnection technology in their network. If the technology has too much performance, then there is a penalty to be paid in terms of power and cost. However, a transponder with low performance may constrain the scalability of future network expansions.

Multimode fiber (MM) will increasingly replace copper for high volume server to TOR links
 There are three types of optical interconnection technologies today: optical multimode, optical single-mode direct detect, and optical signal-mode coherent. Optical multimode transponders can be as low as 2W per 100G power consumption. They are based on Vertical Cavity Emitting Lasers (VCSEL) which are directly modulated. VCSEL-based multimode technology is very cost-effective since VCSELs can be processed and tested on wafer scale and the alignment tolerances of MM is very forgiving, allowing low-cost packaging technology. The main disadvantage of MM is their short reach: At 400G it is typically 30-70m, limited by modal dispersion. Multimode links can come in the form of parallel fibers, where there is typically one fiber per 50G lane capacity; or wavelength division multiplexed channels, where there are 4 lanes of 50G per fiber, the latter reducing the amount of fiber four times.

It is expected MM links will become the “new copper” and therefore their volumes will explode. Indeed, the great majority of links in a data center are between the servers and the top-of-rack switch and currently, they are based on electrical copper cables. Their volume dwarfs that of all the other optical links in a data center. But as SERDES speeds increase to 100G, the reach of copper links will be significantly curtailed, thus many of these high-volume links will need to become optical. This transition represents a significant opportunity for optical multimode VCSEL technology and they will be even more ubiquitous in all data centers.

For links beyond 100m, SiP and InP are competing for lowest cost solution
Once reach needs to extend beyond 100 meters at 400G, single mode optics is required. There are several technology options: Silicon Photonics (SiP), direct modulated lasers (DML) and externally modulated lasers (EML). It is generally accepted in the technical community that SiP-based transponders are best suited for parallel fiber, with one 100G lane per fiber, because this technology allows sharing of a single laser source amongst multiple modulators, each one creating a 100G lane. The sweet spot for parallel-fiber solutions is around 500m applications, although technically SiP can go longer reaches, the cost of the parallel fibers starts to outweigh the transponder cost savings. For links that need to reach 2km or 10km, most network providers, therefore, prefer duplex fiber, reducing the amount of fibers fourfold. Since either four or eight separate wavelengths are now required, the above described laser sharing is no longer an option thereby making DMLs and EMLs appealing. However, SiP solutions are also competing in this space and the jury is still out about which technology will eventually dominate.
Coherent transponders will dominate the DCI and metro applications 

Of course, the bandwidth explosion will ripple through data center interconnection, metro and access networks as well. It is the consensus in the technical community that for distances >30km and rates of 100G and above coherent technologies offer the best trade-offs between cost of the transponders versus cost of the fiber plant. One big advantage of coherent is that the fiber plant does not have to be engineered, because a coherent transponder can undo most of the transmission impairments on its own. Coherent transponders can also bridge very lossy links without need of optical amplification, making them attractive even for access networks.

Finisar to play in all segments: multimode, single-mode direct detect and coherent

In 2019, Finisar expects to ship 400G products across all reaches. We are now sampling single mode parallel 400G modules based on internal Silicon Photonics (shown at ECOC 2018), supporting up to 500m links.  For longer reaches (2km) and duplex fiber, 400G FR8 pluggable modules based on InP components are also available. Direct detect at 400G can even go much longer; our recently demonstrated QSFP-DD “eLR8” module with directly modulated 50G lasers can transmit data up to 30km through unamplified grey optics links. For coherent optical links we have developed what we believe is the highest integrated, lowest power coherent optical components on the market. The integrated tunable transmitter receiver assembly (ITTRA) integrates all the optical and control functionality into a single gold box. These very small form factor components are designed to fit into future coherent pluggable modules such as QSFP-DD, OSFP, CFP2, and CFP4. Its bandwidth of 40GHz will enable capacities of about 600Gb/s per single wavelength, something that was unimaginable only a few years ago. The low power, cost and footprint profile of the ITTRA will make coherent competitive for new non-unamplified applications that have been, up to now, the undisputed domain of direct detect technology.

Only the future will tell where the boundaries between multimode, single-mode direct detect, and coherent lies. There are powerful new technologies such a Silicon Photonics, low-power CMOS, chip-on-glass packaging technology and high-volume applications in data centers and 5G Mobile networks that will push the boundaries in unknown directions. What is clear is that Finisar has all the tools and technologies in-house to offer products that are cost and performance competitive for any of the emerging optical interconnection needs.

Martin Zirngibl was named Corporate CTO of Finisar in June 2018. He joined the company in 2016 as a VP Technology Fellow responsible for coherent product strategy. Prior to Finisar, he held progressive managerial roles at Nokia Bell Labs including Director of Optical Networking Research and Executive Director of Device and Subsystems Research. He also served as a member of technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Dr. Zirngibl holds a PhD in Physics from the Swiss Institute of Technology, Lausanne and a Diploma in Theoretical Physics from the same Institute. He received the Bell Labs Fellow award in 2008 and has published more than 100 scientific papers and filed over 50 patents.

Huawei launches its own 5G Base Station core chip

Huawei introduced its own core chip for 5G base stations.

Huawei said its TIANGANG chip will support networks of all standards and all bands (C band, 3.5G, and 2.6G), helping customers access the best wireless and microwave services. Huawei said its silicon design aims for simplified 5G networks and large-scale 5G network deployment all over the world. The chip can support large-scale integration of active power amplifiers (PAs) and passive antenna arrays into very small antennas. It also boasts super high computing capacity, with a 2.5-fold increase over previous chips. Using the latest algorithms and beamforming technology, a single chip can control up to 64 channels, which is the industry's highest standard. This chip also supports the 200 MHz high spectral bandwidth, getting ready for future network deployment.

Huawei also claims significant improvements in active antenna units (AAUs), with 50% smaller, 23% lighter, and 21% less power consuming base stations.

"Huawei has long been committed to investing in basic science and technology. We were the first to make breakthroughs in key technologies for large-scale 5G commercial use," said Ryan Ding, Huawei Executive Director of the Board and Carrier BG CEO.

To date, Huawei claims 30 commercial 5G contracts. The company says it has already shipped over 25,000 5G base stations globally.

Microsemi and Acacia collaborate on Flexible Rate Optical at up to 600G

Microsemi and Acacia Communications announced interoperability between Microchip’s DIGI-G5 Optical Transport Network (OTN) processor and Acacia’s AC1200 Coherent Module.

Microsemi's DIGI-G5 OTN processor supports FlexE and OTUCn protocols, enabling new terabit scale line cards with flexible rate optical interfaces for packet optical transport platforms. Acacia's AC1200 modules support for metro and data center interconnect networks. Specifically, while the DIGI-G5 processes client traffic into OTN, the 1.2T AC1200—powered by Acacia’s Pico digital signal processor (DSP) ASIC—on the line card will enable the OTN connections over two 600G tunable DWDM wavelengths with flexible transmission three-dimensional (3D) shaping features. These features, which include fractional quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) and adaptive baud rate optimize transmission reach and capacity, approaching theoretical limits on a wide range of network configurations, in a power efficient manner.

The companies said their collaboration enables the first flexible rate system architectures with an established ecosystem to support the market’s transition to 200G, 400G, 600G and flexible rate OTN networks built with new Flexible Ethernet (FlexE) and OTUCn protocols. FlexE was designed to provide up to 30 percent greater bandwidth efficiency compared to traditional Ethernet link aggregation (LAG) with fewer limitations. Combining it with OTUCn and tunable fractional dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) transmission brings service providers the potential to improve their OTN network capacity by up to 70 percent.

“DIGI-G5 allows our optical transport system partners to deliver terabit-class OTN switching line cards at 50 percent less power per port while enabling flexible rate ports and protocols up to 600G,” said Babak Samimi, vice president for Microchip’s Communications business unit. “Demonstrating interworking of the DIGI-G5 with Acacia’s AC1200 coherent module highlights that the ecosystem is ready to support the market transition to these new protocols, rates and multi-terabit architectures.”

“In addition to high capacity and density, our AC1200 module introduces several key features designed to enable network operators to optimize capacity, reach and spectral efficiency —making flexible transmission solutions up to 600G a reality,” said Benny Mikkelsen, Chief Technology Officer of Acacia Communications. “With Microchip’s DIGI-G5 scaling up capacity and reducing power at the same time, and the optical performance provided by our AC1200, we believe that Acacia and Microchip are helping to enable the market to scale network capacity with improved efficiency.”

ECOC 2018: Acacia presents 600 Gbps per Wavelength Coherent Transmission

At the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) in Rome, Acacia Communications demonstrated its AC1200 coherent module with dual-core design enabling 1.2 Tbps error-free transmission over fiber with 600 Gbps per wavelength.

The Acacia AC1200 module supports transmission capacity of up to 1.2 Tbps in a footprint that is 40 percent less than the size of the 5” x 7” modules that support transmission speeds of 400 Gbps today.

The module is based on Acacia’s Pico DSP ASIC, which utilizes two wavelengths that can be configured to support from 100 Gbps to 600 Gbps capacity each. The Acacia AC1200 supports a suite of advanced three-dimensional (3D) shaping features that may be optimized to enable performance approaching theoretical limits on a wide range of network configurations.

Acacia shipped its first AC1200 module customer samples in March 2018 and anticipates production to begin by the end of 2018.

Acacia said its high-capacity solution targets the requirements for connections between large data centers with reaches of 100km and above using standard single-mode fiber.

 Microsemi's DIGI-G5 powers Terabit OTN switching cards
Microsemi introduced its DIGI-G5 Optical Transport Network (OTN) processor for terabit capacity OTN switching cards.

The company said this newest generation in its DIGI franchise enables packet-optical transport platforms to triple in capacity while slashing power consumption by 50 percent per port.

DIGI-G5 delivers 1.2 terabits per second (Tbps) of combined OTN and client interfaces and is first to market with newly standardized 25 Gigabit Ethernet (GE), 50GE, 200GE, 400GE, Flexible OTN (FlexO) and Flexible Ethernet (FlexE) with integrated security engine enabling flexible encrypted optical connections.

Transporting Ethernet, storage, intellectual property (IP)/ multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and 4G/5G Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI)/eCPRI services over 100G OTN switched connections has proven to be the most fiber, power and cost-efficient deployment solution for moving bits in today's metro and long-haul networks.

“Our DIGI OTN processor portfolio has been instrumental in transforming service provider networks to mass deploy 100G OTN switched networks,” said Babak Samimi, vice president and business unit manager for Microsemi's Communications Business Unit. “Our DIGI-G5 breaks new ground by enabling the industry’s transition to new OTN 3.0 architectures at terabit scalability by delivering three times the port density while lowering power consumption by 50 percent per port.”

DIGI-G5 highlights

  • Total interface bandwidth of up to 1.2Tbps
  • Comprehensive Ethernet support: 10GE, 25GE, 50GE, 100GE, 200GE, 400GE and the new OIF FlexE specification
  • New OTN 3.0 rates, enabling flexible (FlexO) and fractional 100G+ (OTUCn, OTUCn-m) transmission
  • 56G PAM-4 Serializer/Deserializer (SerDes) allows direct connection to QSFP-DD, OSFP and coherent digital signal processors (DSPs)
  • Integrated packet test set enables remote troubleshooting and debug, driving down capital and operating expenditures
  • Integrated security engine enabling end-to-end AES-256 based encryption and authentication
  • Integrated G.HAO bandwidth-on-demand processing for OTN switching networks
  • Innovative DIGI-Mesh-Connect architecture which enables compact, pay-as-you-grow OTN switching at lowest cost and power by eliminating the need for a centralized switch fabric device.
  • Sampling is expected in Q2

Linux Foundation targets Unified Open Source Framework for the Edge

The Linux Foundation is unifying a number of its projects into a new umbrella organization to establish an open, interoperable framework for edge computing independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating system. The goal is the formation of a software stack that brings the best of telecom, cloud, and enterprise (representing location, latency and mobility differentiation).

LF Edge is initially comprised of five projects: Akraino Edge Stack, EdgeX Foundry, and Open Glossary of Edge Computing, formerly stand-alone projects at The Linux Foundation. The initiative also includes a new project contributed by Samsung Electronics, which will create a hub for real-time data collected through smart home devices, and another project from ZEDEDA, which is contributing a new agnostic standard edge architecture.

“The market opportunity for LF Edge spans industrial, enterprise and consumer use cases in complex environments that cut across multiple edges and domains. We’re thrilled with the level of support backing us at launch, with 60 global organizations as founding members and new project contributions,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, the Linux Foundation. “This massive endorsement, combined with existing code and project contributions like Akraino from AT&T and EdgeX Foundry from Dell EMC, means LF Edge is well-positioned to transform edge and IoT application development.”

LF Edge is already supported by the following founding members: (Premier) Arm, AT&T, Baidu, Dell EMC, Dianomic Inc., Ericsson, HP Inc., HPE, Huawei, IBM, Intel, inwinStack, Juniper Networks, MobiledgeX, Netsia, Nokia Solutions, NTT, OSIsoft, Qualcomm Technologies, Radisys, Red Hat, Samsung Electronics, Seagate Technology, Tencent, WindRiver, Wipro, ZEDEDA; and (General) Advantech Co., Alleantia srl,  Beechwoods Software Inc., Canonical Group Limited, CertusNet, CloudPlugs Inc., Concept Reply, DATA AHEAD AG, Enigmedia, EpiSensor, Foghorn Systems Inc., ForgeRock US Inc.,, Hangzhou EMQ Technologies Co. Ltd., IOTech Systems Ltd., IoTium, KMC, Linaro, Mainflux, Mocana, NetFoundry, Packet, Pluribus Networks, RackN, Redis Labs, VaporIO, Vitro Technology Corp., Volterra Inc., Wanxiang Group; and (Associate) Automotive Edge Computing Consortium (AECC), Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (BUPT), Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI), Infrastructure Masons, Inc., and Project Haystack.

More about LF Edge projects: 

  • Akraino Edge Stack -- creating an open source software stack that supports high-availability cloud services optimized for edge computing systems and applications;
  • EdgeX Foundry -- focused on building a common open framework for IoT edge computing.
  • Home Edge Project -- seed code contributed by Samsung Electronics, is a new project that concentrates on driving and enabling a robust, reliable, and intelligent home edge computing framework, platform and ecosystem running on a variety of devices in our daily lives.
  • Open Glossary of Edge Computing -- provides a concise collection of terms related to the field of edge computing.
  • Project EVE (Edge Virtualization Engine) -- contributed by ZEDEDA, will create an open and agnostic standard edge architecture that accommodates complex and diverse on- and off-prem hardware, network and application selections.

Intel grew 13% in 2018 but outlook disappoints

Intel reported Q4 2018 revenue of $18.7 billion, up 9 percent year-over-year (YoY); and full-year revenue set an all-time record of $70.8 billion, up 13 percent YoY. Q4 earnings per share amounted to $1.12 ($1.28 on a non-GAAP basis);

The Q4 results, however, fell short of analyst expectations, as did the company's outlook for 2019. Data center revenues came in below market expectations. The company has not yet appointed a permanent CEO. Intel said it remains on-track to launch 10nm products in volume during 2019.

“2018 was a truly remarkable year for Intel with record revenue in every business segment and record profits as we transform the company to pursue our biggest market opportunity ever,” said Bob Swan, Intel CFO and Interim CEO. “In the fourth quarter, we grew revenue, expanded earnings and previewed new 10nm-based products that position Intel to compete and win going forward. Looking ahead, we are forecasting another record year and raising the dividend based on our view that the explosive growth of data will drive continued demand for Intel products.”

Some highlights:

The PC-centric business (CCG) was up 10 percent in the fourth quarter due to continued strong demand for Intel's higher performance products and strength in commercial and gaming. CCG expanded its product portfolio for 2019 with the recent launch of new 9th Gen Intel® Core™ processors and unveiled "Ice Lake" the upcoming, 10nm-based PC processor, which is expected to be in OEM systems on shelves for holiday, 2019.

Collectively, Intel's data-centric businesses grew 9 percent YoY in the quarter and 20 percent YoY in 2018. In the fourth quarter, DCG achieved 24 percent cloud segment growth and 12 percent communications service provider segment growth while enterprise revenue declined 5 percent. Intel recently announced that the new "Cascade Lake" family of high performance Intel® Xeon® processors with advanced AI and memory capabilities is now shipping.

Fourth-quarter Internet of Things Group (IOTG) revenue declined 7 percent YoY. However, excluding Wind River, which Intel divested in the second quarter, fourth-quarter IOTG revenue was up 4 percent YoY despite supply tightness. Record quarterly revenue in Intel's memory business (NSG) was up 25 percent YoY. Intel's Programmable Solutions Group (PSG) also achieved record quarterly revenue, up 8 percent YoY driven by strength in the data center and communications market segments.

Mobileye fourth-quarter revenue of $183 million was up 43 percent YoY as customer momentum continued. In 2018, Mobileye achieved 28 new design wins and 78 vehicle model launches.

Telefónica sells affiliates in Guatemala and El Salvador to América Móvil

Telefónica agreed to sell its interests in local affiliates in Guatemala and El Salvador to América Móvil for EUR 570 million.

The aggregate amount of the transaction (enterprise value) for both companies is US$648 million (approximately EUR 570 million at the current exchange rate, EUR 293 million of which correspond to Telefónica Guatemala and EUR 277 million to Telefónica El Salvador), an implicit multiple for the total amount of the transaction of 9.7 times the estimated 2018 EBITDA of the two companies. Both of the local affiliates provide mobile, fixed line voice, data and paid TV services.

Telefónica said it is disposing of these assets as part of its portfolio management policy based on a strategy of value creation, improving return on capital and strategic positioning.