Summer 2019 - Optical Connections Magazine


batch testing. The aim is to get to 100% quality, says Clarkson, and to do that requires stringent quality management. That includes ProLabs’ Data Traveller Process, which effectively follows each part through the production process, monitoring quality every step of the way. The introduction of 100% testing late in 2017 when ProLabs merged with AddOn Networks has paid dividends, says Clarkson, with ProLabs’ failure rate at 0.03% compared to a typical industry failure rate of 2-3%. That rise in quality doesn’t come without a cost, with overheads rising as a result of the rigorous testing, but it’s worth it to meet customers’ demands for quality and the ensuing growth in business thanks to its reputation for reliability. “It’s about reducing the chances of failure when a part gets to site because if you build a network often the cost of the transceivers is less than sending someone to replace it,” Clarkson adds, “so it’s very important to make sure it works first time and works every time.” But as networks grow - and grow quickly - could the speed with which technology is progressing render existing form factors and capabilities obsolete? While many transceivers are

are going to put something into their network it absolutely has to be of carrier grade and has to be tested,” says Smith. TXO has its own in-house testing lab so it can test transceivers before they are shipped to customers and carries out a variety of checks to ensure they can deal with the task at hand. The first is interoperability - ensuring the transceiver is compatible with the equipment a customer is planning to use it in. “In our testing labs we have a wide range of different types of equipment or hardware that the telco operator is using,” he says. “We consult with the customer first, find out which devices they will be using, which software version, then we replicate the customer’s environment in our testing lab.” Another test involves looking at the optical parameters, testing both the transmitting power and sensitivity of the receiver then comparing them to the data sheet to ensure they marry up, says Smith. TXO also carries out a Bit Error Rate Test (BERT), which involves passing traffic over the transceiver and checking to ensure every single bit and each packet that is transmitted is received. Since the distance over which transceivers can transmit and receive is also a factor, it is also tested, says Smith.

Tim Smith, Group CTO, TXO Systems

number of white papers and documents relating to the issue. Despite this work, Smith doesn’t see standardisation as a huge issue, saying from his point of view, most of the MSAs are already doing a good enough job. “There are a lot of standards there in terms of different form factors and different requirements for each form factor,” he said. “It’s already pretty much standardised and that’s great for us because all manufacturers are working towards the same standards.” Unsurprisingly, as speeds get faster networks become more complicated, along with the parts used to build them. That is behind the demand for higher bit-rate transceivers, says Tim Smith, as well as the ongoing need for quality. “The telcos are always going to be concerned that any component is fit for purpose and carrier-grade,” he says. They are always going to want that standard.” That means for any manufacturer that doesn’t focus on quality, potential problems could arise, but not for those who put it at the heart of what they do. “I think the desire for quality will always be there,” says Smith. “The only thing is more speed - 200G is coming, 400G won’t be far behind that so the big change will be rates.” Similarly, Clarkson doesn’t see the challenges of future networks insurmountable when it comes to transceivers. “We just have to adapt and make sure that we apply the same level of quality.” And while consolidation within the industry and differing requirements often mean that transceiver manufacturers have to meet a range of requirements, he says they already have solutions to manage that, such as multi-code option that enable different OEM vendors at each end of the cable. “There’s a lot of consolidation going on but there’s also a lot of growth coming,”

While differences in quality may seem small, they make large differences in the likelihood of failure at volume


made under Multi-Source Agreement (MSA), the arrival of 400G and potentially 600G bring a whole new range of form factors, challenging any notion of standardisation. It’s an issue the Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO) is tackling in a bid to develop future-proof solutions. Brad Booth, chair of COBO and principal network architect for Azure hardware at Microsoft, previously told Optical Connections that many MSAs aren’t designed for shock and vibration requirements and that the increased power consumption that comes with faster speeds won’t necessarily be sustainable on current interfaces. Consequently, COBO is working towards a standardised footprint for optical transceivers that offers the ability to support 100G, 400G and other future network developments, as well as providing flexibility that isn’t present in MSAs. On top of this, COBO has put funding into research and compliance boards and is planning on releasing a

He adds, “With transceivers, it’s not just speed, it’s also the distance that the transceiver can actually transmit the data over. We have got various fibre spools in our lab to make sure that the transceiver can achieve the distance. Those spools can replicate distances from 10km up to 80km, verifying that the transceivers are capable of transmitting data as far as it needs to go.” Fellow transceiver manufacturer ProLabs differentiates itself from other companies by carrying out 100% testing, says its Technical Director, EMEA & India, Anthony Clarkson. While differences in quality may seem small, they make large differences in the likelihood of failure at volume. ProLabs has found that at 500 units, an increase of 0.48% in quality can bring about an 82% drop in the likelihood of failure - a hefty difference when the company is shipping hundreds of thousands of units per month. That increase in quality is brought about by testing each and every transceiver that is sent to customers, rather than relying on

says Clarkson. “There are new incumbents coming along and

challenging the big guys and when you bring all that together it’s finding the best solutions that work for everybody.”


ISSUE 17 | Q2 2019

Made with FlippingBook Learn more on our blog