Bringing the World the Latest in Optical Communications News
ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
SILICON PHOTONICS: Leading light in years ahead? | p8
LASER TECHNOLOGY: Focusing on improved data transport | p10
SECURING THE SUPPLY CHAIN: Satisfying demand for optical components | p14
PROTECTING NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE Securing POPs | p18
FIBRE UP - DSL DOWN CPO FRAMEWORK QKD FOR BLOCKCHAIN
Media Partners to
PHOTONIC OPPORTUNITY At Nexus Media’s highly successful Telecoms, Optics & Photonics Conference, held in London in February, it became abundantly clear that the photonics industry, while underpinning fixed and mobile communications networks, the internet and a host of other industries and services, is largely unrecognised and underfunded. Conference delegates and representatives from the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) called for a greater awareness of the importance of industry from governments and the public alike. In this issue, we look at some of the latest developments in the photonics industry and some of the less obvious issues that might impact on it. Veteran journalist John Williamson writes that silicon photonics (SiPho) is looking like a technology whose bigtime has finally arrived, and whose potential in terms of future performance metrics and application areas is huge. Regular contributor Antony Savvas looks at the latest developments in laser technologies and the growing market for the devices, driven by new use cases in data communications, transport, health, defence, manufacturing and other sectors. We also take a look at the technology behind Ragile Network’s new NPO switch and Infinera chart how telecoms networks reached their current complexity and how they will evolve in the future. With fibre network rollouts continuing to accelerate, data centres proliferating and the demand for bandwidth increasing exponentially, supply chains for optics and DSPs could be stretched. We discuss some of the most pressing supply chain issues with industry veteran, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Westbury Photonics Robert Hughes. Of course, having a secure supply chain and reliable software and components counts for little if the optical cable network hasn’t been installed properly and Mathieu Brigot, Product & Solution Manager at optical telecom systems provider Nexans argues that human error at the installation stage along with a lack of redundancy present major threats to network integrity. The growth in all areas of fibre communications is also creating opportunities for new and existing companies to take a share of the various market sectors. Ribbon is a company aiming to become a major player in the optical communications and IP routing spaces, and we discuss the company’s aspirations and strategy with President and CEO Bruce McClelland.
The Future of Silicon Photonics John Williamson
10 Focus on Laser Technologies Antony Savvas 14 Securing the Supply Chain Peter Dykes 16 Ribbon Aims For Growth Peter Dykes 18 Protecting the Network Mathieu Brigot 20 Ragile Goes With NPO Peter Dykes 22 Telecom Transformation Christian Uremovic 24 TOP Conference Wrap 26 Event Focus 28 Product News
Peter Dykes Contributing Editor
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ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
High-speed fibre grows as DSL declines
of their fixed broadband subscriptions: Korea with 86%, Japan with 83%, Lithuania with 77%, Spain with 76%, Sweden with 76%, Iceland with 72% and Latvia with 71%. DSL connections, meanwhile, saw sharp declines of over 30% in Chile (-37%), New Zealand (-32%), Norway (-40%), Spain (-32%), and Sweden (-31%). Some operators in OECD countries are in the process of shutting down copper connections altogether, for instance in France, Japan, Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Spain.
According to the latest update from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), high-speed fibre subscriptions grew by 15% across the OECD countries from June 2020 to June 2021, as living and working under Covid-19 restrictions continued to drive demand for high-quality internet connections with the rapid upload and download speeds that fibre offers. OECD’s broadband portal shows fibre now makes up 32% of fixed broadband subscriptions across the
broadband technology for nine OECD countries. DSL subscriptions declined by 6% over the same period, with several OECD countries showing sharp declines. Latin American OECD countries saw significant increases in fibre with growth rates of 74% for Costa Rica, 71% for Chile, 43% for Colombia and 26% for Mexico. Other countries with impressive growth in fibre connections include Israel with 76%, Ireland with 54% and Italy with 53%. Seven countries now have a fibre share of above 70%
OECD’s 38 member countries, up from 12% a decade ago, and is by far the fastest-growing broadband technology, outpacing a 4.5% rise in overall fixed broadband subscriptions. It says that while countries use different technology mixes, 23 OECD countries have now a higher share of fibre than copper DSL in their total fixed broadband connections, up from 20 countries a year ago. Cable showed more modest growth of 4% in the year to June 2021, and is now declining in 15 countries, yet it remains the main fixed
Partners build first QKD network for Blockchain app
OIF releases CPO framework agreement
Global industry forum OIF, has released a framework implementation agreement for co-packaging, identifying the critical co-packaged applications and their requirements, and charting a path for interoperability standards. The Co-Packaging track of OIF’s Physical & Link Layer (PLL) Working Group began by studying the application spaces contributed by the end-users. Then, it examined various related topics, including electrical and optical interfaces, thermal and mechanical considerations, reliability, safety, environmental and management interfaces. The findings of the work are summarized in the Framework Document implementation agreement. This work also guided OIF to initiate two
March 2021. “OIF is leading industry discussion on this critical dense integration technology,” said Jeff Hutchins, Ranovus and OIF board member and PLL Working Group – Co- Packaging vice chair. “This framework IA provides the industry with a foundation for developing interoperable energy efficient co-packaged solutions.” “Co-packaging represents a significant change to the way high-performance communications ASICs are packaged today,” said technical editor of the Co- Packaging Framework IA, Kenneth Jackson, Sumitomo Electric. “This Framework document addresses many of the issues that initially challenged this new architecture and narrows the scope of achievable solutions. This is precisely what OIF excels at…identifying a
New research involving JPMorgan Chase, Toshiba and Ciena, has demonstrated the viability of a QKD network for metropolitan areas. Resistant to quantum computing attacks and capable of supporting 800 Gbps data under real-world environmental conditions, it is believed to be the first demonstration of QKD securing a mission-critical blockchain application in the industry. The research team
JPMorgan Chase’s Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering (FLARE) and global network infrastructure teams, researchers from all three organisations collaborated to achieve the following results: • A QKD channel was multiplexed on the same fibre as 800 Gbps optical channels and was used to provide keys for encryption of the data stream. • Co-existence of the quantum channel with 2 x 800 Gbps and 8 x 100 Gbps channels was demonstrated for a 70km fibre, with a key rate sufficient to support up to 258 AES-256 encrypted channels at a key refresh rate of 1 key/sec. • Operation of QKD and the ten channels was demonstrated for distances up to 100km. The proof-of-concept network infrastructure used Toshiba Europe’s Multiplexed QKD System.
demonstrated the ability of the QKD network to
instantly detect and defend against eavesdroppers. It also studied the impact of realistic environmental factors on the quality of the quantum channel and used a QKD- secured optical channel to deploy and secure Liink by J.P. Morgan, the world’s first bank- led, production-grade, peer- to-peer blockchain network. Under the leadership of
follow-on co-packaging projects: External Laser
Small Form Factor Pluggable (ELSFP) Project, announced in May 2021, and the 3.2T Module Project, announced in
gap and collaborating on a path forward towards interoperability.”
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Nokia to deploy optical backbone for WINDTRE
Vi revamps backbone network with Ciena
Vodafone Idea Limited is revamping the backbone scalability and service resiliency by deploying 5th generation coherent optical solutions fromCiena. As consumers, enterprises, and content players look to embrace smarter digital experiences across India, Vi’s new 300G/400G backbone network increases scale and performance in an energy and cost-efficient manner. Vi has deployed Ciena’s 6500 packet-optical platform powered by WaveLogic 5 Extreme for high speed 300G/400G services, upgradable to 800G, with the ability to tune capacity for maximum agility while also reducing energy consumption. Vi says it has forged partnerships with several technology leaders, ecosystem players and Indian start-ups for developing a range of 5G use cases relevant for Indian enterprises and consumers.
It’s collaboration with Ciena is in line with the service provider’s strategy to build a future-fit network for emerging technologies such as 5G, to drive digital growth in India. Increasing and changing traffic patterns across India require new levels of capacity, flexibility, resiliency, and programmability. With broader network coverage and faster broadband made possible by Ciena, Vi maximises fibre capacity and network efficiencies to prepare for 5G. “Escalating demand for data requires a high-capacity and resilient network that can thrive not only today but for years to come,” said Jagbir Singh, chief technology officer, Vodafone Idea Ltd. “Preparing a future-fit network, through our partnership with Ciena, will enable Vi subscribers to experience world-class highly available, scalable connectivity and realise the benefits of cloud, IoT, and 5G in future.”
Nokia has been selected by WINDTRE in Italy to deploy a new, high performance optical backbone. At the heart of WINDTRE’s nationwide network infrastructure, the photonic backbone will bear traffic from the entire country, addressing the growing demand for ultra-fast connectivity as well as delivering high-capacity services to business customers. The DWDM solution will leverage Nokia’s fifth generation PSE-V super- coherent (PSE-Vs) chipset to support programmable line rates up to 600G on a pure photonic infrastructure, optimising power consumption and footprint. With redundant nodes in a
wave router configuration, a mesh structure and GMPLS-based restoration, the new backbone will be able to instantly re-route traffic as needed, providing the high reliability and robustness required in this business-critical part of the infrastructure. Benoit Hanssen, chief technology officer at WINDTRE, said, “Nokia’s solution based on industry- leading coherent technology will help us provide next generation broadband services to both consumer and business customers in the most efficient way. It will also enable us to grow our subscriber base and provide best-in-class experience to WINDTRE’s existing customers.”
High-speed VCSELs and photodiodes by TRUMPF Photonic Components
TRUMPF offers high-speed 850 nm VCSELs and photodiodes for TxRx, AOC, EOM, as well as consumer applications like HDMI, USB, or Thunderbolt. The design of the semiconductor lasers allows a high level of input coupling efficiency at the same low power input. More information at www.trumpf.com/s/VCSEL-solutions
ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
Fastweb, Infinera, successfully trial 600 Gbps
to meet increased growth in data traffic and bandwidth demands. Using Infinera’s ICE6 800G solution, Fastweb plans to increase its network capacity and launch new 400 Gigabit Ethernet services across its existing infrastructure. Infinera’s ICE6 solution features probabilistic constellation shaping and digital Nyquist subcarrier technology with dual-carrier super-channels, enabling successful transmission of 1.2 Tbps signals on the Milan-Bari route. The combination of these technologies improves Fastweb’s spectral efficiency and boosts existing capacity
enabling us to keep up with the relentless demand for increased capacity of unpredictable bandwidth- hungry events.” “Infinera’s ICE6 solution enables network operators to meet the demands of rapid bandwidth growth by providing the greatest capacity at the greatest reach, resulting in the most cost-effective and spectrally efficient solution,” said Nick Walden, senior vice president, Worldwide Sales, Infinera. “We are pleased to continue to support Fastweb’s upgrade of its network infrastructure to
Infinera and Italian operator Fastweb, successfully trialled single-wavelength service connectivity speed of 600 Gbps across Fastweb’s network, including the Milan-Bari optical route spanning 1,372 kilometres, using Infinera’s fifth-generation ICE6 800G technology on the GX Series Compact Modular Platform. The programmable flexibility of Infinera’s ICE6 solution enabled Fastweb to double network capacity. The network upgrade ensured Fastweb’s enterprise and service provider customers are equipped with reliable, ultra-high-speed capacity
on its current Infinera flexible-grid backbone network. “Sustaining the digital transformation efforts of enterprises and meeting our customers’ need is our primary objective,” said Marco Arioli, technology officer, Fastweb. “We are constantly looking to improve our infrastructure to ensure we can always provide our customers with the highest bandwidth and best-quality services they need to be successful. ICE6 is a significant step forward for us, substantially increasing the capacity of our network with a smooth upgrade path and
meet today’s growing bandwidth demands.”
IPS taps Ribbon for submarine capacity
Indonesian operator taps ViaLite for RF over fibre
One of the largest telecommunications providers in Indonesia now benefits from the ViaLiteHD long-distance DWDM link system. ViaLite says the systemwas designed to meet the customer’s specific that matched the predicted results generated by ViaLite’s software design tool. Some of the key features of this deployment include switchable fibre routes to allow for optical fibre redundancy and SNMP monitoring of both sides of the link from a single control room, enabling remote changes to be made without the need to travel between sites. Having teleports tens or hundreds of kilometres apart, in regions where rain fade and diversity operations were key considerations, allowing the operator to maintain satellite connectivity from either of its
sites. With High Throughput Satellite (HTS) connectivity becoming a prerequisite where 500 MHz and 800 MHz bandwidths are necessary, ViaLite was able to exceed HTS bandwidth requirements using their long-distance links. “Despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our team was able to support the installation using remote logins and by providing guidance with local engineers on site. The fully operational diverse system was installed across a long distance with redundant switchable paths, and was tuned to meet performance specifications remotely,” said Amair Khan, ViaLite’s business development manager. “We managed to not only assist installation of the system remotely but also train staff in the operation of the system at the same time.”
Ribbon Communications, announced that Philippines-based carrier IPS, is to use Ribbon’s Apollo Optical Networking solution to power 100GbE services delivered over both terrestrial and undersea cables from Manilla to Hong Kong and Singapore. The solution deployed by IPS leverages Apollo’s high-performance programmable TM800 muxponder cards on Apollo 9600 series platforms to provide optimised long haul undersea connectivity for 100GbE services. “Our ability to seamlessly deliver connectivity services to our customers over long distances is key to the success of our business,” said Koji Miyashita, president and
CEO, IPS. “Ribbon’s Optical transport technology allowed us to maximise our available capacity and transmit world- class communications applications via our submarine services under the South China Sea.” “Submarine applications must deliver extensive
capacity and carry the highest level of
communications services on each channel in order to realise cost efficiencies,” said Mickey Wilf, general manager APAC and MEA Regions for Ribbon. “Our Apollo solution enables IPS to maximise capacity by leveraging dual wavelengths with programmable baud rate and modulation, in conjunction with flexgrid technology.”
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MARKING THEIR 20 TH ANNIVERSARY, OPTICAL COMPONENTS LEADER ENSURE EXEMPLIFIES TECHNICALLY ADVANCED SOLUTIONS, THAT STAND THE TEST OF TIME
U pon reaching their 20 th perfecting its processes, producing premium components and connectivity solutions worldwide . In 2002, Ensure established its market strength by manufacturing top-grade components, identifying its initial ‘star product’ ceramic ferrules amongst other in-house passive optical components, attracting major anniversary , Ensure Advanced PLC Manufacturer, has earnt its reputable position at the forefront of the photonics market, thanks to 20 years cooperation , designing custom prototypes and curating specialized OEM solutions . Jump 20 years forward, the components leader provides an advanced and diverse range of premium quality solutions , shown to stand the test of time. With rapid growth within new markets, partnering with esteemed world-renowned clients , and dedication to innovate and improve, forecasts a bright future ahead for Ensure, as part of the digital green infrastructure revolution . So, what’s in the secret sauce? The company attributes part of its success by distinguishing itself with an unwavering commitment to R&D and quality control . R&D Director, Lee Jin, tells us how, “guaranteeing the highest standard quality control is a TOP priority in order to uphold Ensure’s impeccable reputation , and standard practice when delivering PREMIUM connectivity solutions”. Having the ability to manufacture all PLC chips, wafers, fiber arrays, and ferrules in-
all plastic packaging with compostable and recyclable materials, further extending its eco-friendly approach to clients who choose Ensure’s specialized OEM assembly and packaging option . This conservation commitment stems from the large-scale production, down to small scale daily practices, instigating an eco-friendly action plan to safeguard our better-connected future. Ensure not only boasts reputable products trusted by the world’s best-known and fastest-growing operators and ISPs, including Telefónica , Vodafone , Altice , and DS Telecom , but proudly boasts reputable company ethics . Ensure celebrates this year its 20 th Year Anniversary , by reflecting on the success of the company’s achievements and rapid growth , whilst looking eagerly towards the future. To continue on its upward journey, the company predicts scaling up development & production capacity, facilitating rollouts worldwide , and preparing for the ascending forecasted future demand , committed to the eco digital infrastructure revolution. To keep up to date with Ensure’s journey, follow Ensure – Advanced PLC manufacturer on LinkedIn
house allows scrupulous control of the entire production chain from start to finish, performing meticulous tests using calibrated equipment, allowing zero room for error. In short – pristine components, 100% of the time. Upon reaching its 20 th anniversary, Ensure highlights the importance of prioritizing the long-term, maintaining a consistent drive to innovate and improve . By partnering up with research institutions and investing heavily in R&D and specialized equipment , Ensure has been able to supersede the market standard across the board, with its rockstar PLC splitters, WDM packages, and connector options such as superior Grade B connectors . By investing heavily in advanced technology, such as the acquisition of 17 core tuners to allow for optimum alignment, Ensure’s capacity for Grade B connectorizing was expanded up to 14,000 pcs per month! Deputy General Manager, Anthony Xie Hao, goes on to explain how in doing this, “enabled us to secure superior performance and huge capacity for manufacturing, satisfying our clients’ high demands by advancing their networks exponentially, overseeing every detail with the strictest commitment to quality control ”. To stand the test of time, Ensure has maintained its core company values , recently developing its ethos to align with environmental conservation . The components leader instigated its #GreenEnsure initiative first by replacing
Or contact us at www.ensure-ks.com for more info.
ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
JOHN WILLIAMSON SILICON PHOTONICS
SILICON PHOTONICS: LEADING LIGHT IN YEARS AHEAD?
Today silicon photonics (SiPho) is looking like a technology whose bigtime has finally arrived, and whose potential in terms of future performance metrics and application areas is huge, writes JohnWilliamson . Reflecting this, market research published by MarketsandMarkets predicts that the global SiPho business could be worth US$4.6 billion in 2027, up from US$1.1 billion in 2021. Meantime, a forecast by Mordor Intelligence PvT Ltd has the value of the overall worldwide photonic IC market at a whopping US$21,649.8 million in 2026.
CMOS AND PHOTONICS: PROMISING BEDFELLOWS
but with SiPho you can because it’s built of the same material. “You can bring optical components much closer to the switch than is the case with regular modules,” he says. “As a result of being able to get closer to the chip, along with co-packaging and things of that nature, you are able to reduce the power consumption by about 30% to 40%.” The densities that can be achieved with SiPho are another plus. “The modulators that we and others build in silicon photonics could be of the order of 20 µm,” comments Arabzadeh. “The modulators that are built using traditional devices would be roughly about two orders of magnitude larger than that.” DATA CENTRE COURT A particular contemporary focus of SiPho application is in intra- and inter-data centre and 5G networking. Here, observes Robert Blum, senior director of Marketing and New Business, Silicon Photonics Division at semiconductor giant Intel, the technology meets increasing demand for data and compute resources, which in turn drives an exponential growth for networking bandwidth in the datacentre. “Silicon photonics came into play when traditional optics could no longer meet the scaling challenges of the largest cloud service providers, which consume millions of optical transceivers a year,” he explains.
“And with wafer scale manufacturing comes not just volume, but also improved quality and reliability – and this is something that our customers value as a key benefit of silicon photonics.” Cost is definitely a big deal in the data centre’s continuing embrace of SiPho. “We see our customers talk about cost advantages versus some of the conventional single mode optics, say the EMLs (Electro-absorption Modulated Lasers) or potentially the DMLs (Directly Modulated Lasers),” confirms Timothy Vang, vice president at Semtech’s Signal Integrity Products Group. “Cost is certainly a must- have, and is seen as a key benefit.” Vang’s company operates on the electronics side of this business, and its chips are used enable SiPho in the data centre. Vang adds that cost is also key in the use of SiPho in 5G networking, and there are similar bit rate and reach requirements to those in the data centre. However, the 5G operating environment is more demanding. “Some of the technical requirements are different,” he states. “In 5G xhaul, for example, the optical modules that are used have to be able to withstand wider temperature ranges than in a data centre. The issue is around the packaging or the implementation in the module. If you have to add a bunch of packaging around that, does that change the cost equation?”
At ground level SiPho has some compelling attractions for optical network designers, builders and users. As instanced by Hamid Arabzadeh, chairman, president and CEO of photonics interconnect solutions provider RANOVUS, traditional legacy optical components and materials may have performance upsides but a couple of not insignificant downsides too. One is to do with complexity of device build. “With optical materials such as indium phosphide (InP) and others, it’s very hard to build small, miniature devices,” Arabzadeh points out. “And the manufacturing processes for them are all custom-based. It’s almost like hand assembling pieces one-by-one.” For optical networking to try to leverage the attributes of the trillion dollar CMOS semiconductor industry, with its mature technology, ecosystem, supply chains and testing capabilities, is something of a no- brainer. “The promise of silicon photonics is to get to the lowest cost possible for having any optical components built,” states Arabzadeh. Power consumption is a ‘table stakes’ issue for SiPho deployments. Arabzadeh reports that conventional switch ICs dissipate anywhere between 300 to 500 W of power, meaning that you cannot bring optical components too close to them,
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JOHN WILLIAMSON SILICON PHOTONICS
STANDING OUT IN THE SIPHO CROWD How do SiPho vendors differentiate their products? This is a question that Blum admits to having sometimes asked himself. In this context he considers that Intel has a unique capability of integrating III-V material, such as InP onto silicon at the wafer level, which gives the ability to have optical gain - for lasers and optical amplifiers - as part of its silicon photonics process. “We also manufacture on 300 mm wafers and are fully integrated, meaning we design and manufacture our photonic chips in-house,” he explains. “We also do a lot of in-house packaging, which is a key differentiator. For us a lot of differentiation comes not just from the design, but to a large extent from the manufacturing technology and scale.” According to Arabzadeh, SiPho product differentiation can come from factors such as cost of manufacture and packaging, and density and power consumption characteristics. To this end RANOVUS’ SiPho devices implement optical modulation on micro-ring resonator architecture, an arrangement designed to enable the achievement of very high densities and support high-speed modulation at data rates of up to 100 Gbps/lambda. The company also reckons to achieve industry benchmarks for lowest power consumption. COMING TO LIGHT There’s widespread optical industry consensus that there are various applications that should drive significant future volumes for SiPho deliveries. Blum believes that optical I/O, where photonics is connected to CPUs, GPUs, memory and accelerators, is undoubtedly one of them. “Imagine every server in a data centre and eventually every personal computer having embedded optical links that send Terabytes of data between compute and accelerator chips,” he proposes.
Besides optical I/O and co-packaged optics in the data centre Intel sees a lot of SiPho opportunities in sensing, such as for automotive LiDAR, biotech and consumer health. Arabzadeh also envisages a big SiPho future in medical sensing applications and autonomous vehicles. “SiPho is really good where you have very high density I/O connections,” he amplifies. “That is really where it shines. For low-capacity cases, other technologies could do a better job.” There’s also the expectation that there’s quite a bit more for SiPho to do in terms of speed and connectivity. Blum reports that Intel is working on a proof of concept for multi-Tbps chip-to-chip connections in the 2023 timeframe. “Photonics or optical I/O is just becoming another tile that can be packaged as part of larger assemblies using technologies such as EMIB or Foveros,” he asserts. EMIB (Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge) is an approach to in-package, high density interconnect of heterogeneous chips. Foveros enables the building of processors with compute tiles stacked vertically, rather than side-by-side. What about SiPho being used to support connections between sections on the chips themselves? “To some extent we don’t really need photonics within a chip, since today’s advanced chips are really an assembly of multiple tiles with different functionalities, and moving forward so some these tiles can now be optical I/O tiles,” offers Blum.
fabric of hyperscale data centres to handle the unprecedented data volumes generated by innovations such as AI and ML, competing claims for pluggable optical modules and Co-Packaged Optics (CPO) are being made and scrutinised. At the risk of over-simplification, systems that use pluggable optics dissipate a lot of power sending signals back and forth to the CPU and switches and high- performance ICs on the PCBs. One of the advantages of the CPO approach of moving the optics closer to the ICs doing the brunt of the work is reduction of the power that’s being used. However, as Vang suggests, in the event of CPO failure you might need to replace a very expensive board rather than simply plug in a replacement module. Although pluggables may be a better established proposition, there have been some interesting CPO initiatives. One was the establishment by Microsoft and Facebook in March 2019 of the Co- Packaged Optics (CPO) Collaboration. The goal of the CPO Collaboration is the adoption of common design elements that will provide guidance for suppliers in the design and manufacturing of co- packaged optics. In February of last year, the Co-Packaged Optics Collaboration Joint Development Forum released a 3.2 Tbps Co-packaged Optical (CPO) Module Products Requirement (PRD). This PRD describes the requirements to build a 8 x 400 Gbps optical module targeted to increase network switch density and increase power efficiency. Bodies such as the Consortium for On-Board Optics (COBO) and the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) have also mounted programmes aimed at advancing the CPO cause. Meantime, both Intel and RANOVUS (the latter in a collaboration with IBM, TE Connectivity and Senko Advanced Components) are among the companies to have launched CPO products.
ALL ABOARD? Going forward, one technical and
operational strand of SiPho development with major ramifications for data centre deployments is now the subject of considerable industry discussion and investigation. With optical connections needing to penetrate deeper into the
Robert Blum, Senior Director Marketing and New Business, Silicon Photonics Division, Intel
Hamid Arabzadeh, Chairman, President, CEO, RANOVUS
Timothy Vang, VP, Semtech Signal Integrity Products Group
ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
ANTONY SAVVAS DATACENTRE LASERS
LASER TECHNOLOGY: FOCUSING ON IMPROVED DATA TRANSPORT
For efficiently moving data across data centres and networks, laser technology is key. Antony Savvas looks at the latest developments in a growing market, fuelled by newer use cases in transport, health, defence, manufacturing and other sectors.
L aser market sales are expected to grow from US$11.7 billion in 2020 to US$17.6 billion by 2025, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets, at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 8.6%. MarketandMarkets says some of the key laser market players include Coherent (US), IPG Photonics (US), TRUMPF (Germany), Lumentum (US), Jenoptik (Germany), Novanta (US), Lumibird (France), Laser Star (US), Epilog Laser (US), Han’s Laser (China), MKS Instruments (US), 600 Group (UK), Eurolasers (Germany), Bystronic Lasers (Switzerland), Toptica Photonics (Germany), Photonics Industries (US), Focuslight Technologies (China), Corning Incorporated (US) and Access Lasers (US). MARKET DEVELOPMENTS Developments in the market include Coherent launching a switchable adjustable ring mode (ARM) fibre laser, with the ability to sequentially power two separate processes or workstations, at the end of 2019. And in January 2020, Jenoptik launched F-theta lenses that are suitable for ultra-short pulse lasers. More recently, in September 2021, TRUMPF Photonic Components, a manufacturer of VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers) and photodiode solutions, revealed the new product platform ViBO (VCSEL with integrated Backside Optics).
SEMTECH Another market player is Semtech, and in August 2021, it announced full production availability for its PAM4 CDR chipset for 100G data centre optical links. The GN2538 and GN2539 Tri-Edge CDR chipset is designed to enable next generation data centre interconnectivity over multi-mode fibres. The GN2538 is a dual channel 50G PAM4 CDR with integrated VCSEL drivers. And the GN2539 is a dual channel 50G PAM4 CDR with integrated linear transimpedance amplifiers (TIAs). The offering is designed to allow major data centres to upgrade their intra-data centre interconnects and enhance overall performance, says Semtech. Semtech’s Tri- Edge CDR solutions offer low power and reduced latency to enable cost efficient and sustainable data transfer, despite growing data rates. The laser driver integrated in the GN2538 includes proprietary VCSEL compensation to enable a wide range of VCSEL options with fully adaptive input equalisation and easy start up. CHANGING THE BUILD Claire Besançon, a research scientist at Nokia Bell Labs, is looking at how full integration between laser arrays and integrated circuits may change things for the better. She says, “Fibre is rapidly making its way into more places and more end devices. Meanwhile fibre technologies are
This array technology supports a new generation of illumination devices that are inherently eye-safe over the whole product lifetime, as the diffuser optics are monolithically incorporated into the laser array. The company says the form factor is significantly reduced compared to other hybrid VCSEL package solutions, and ViBO can be directly SMD mounted onto a board or driver IC without additional wire bonding. This supports, for instance, easier integration under smartphone displays, and can be used in automotive applications. With coplanar contact designs, the devices can be flip-chip mounted, yielding the most compact integration with the shortest electrical path, and thus minimum electrical inductance. This design setup allows short pulses, high modulation speed and the flexibility of addressing multiple channels or even selected segments on the chip. “ViBO has superior properties as well as cost advantages compared to standard top-emitting devices that are combined with external optics,” says Ralph Gudde, VP of marketing and sales at TRUMPF. “Using ViBO as a light source for 3D sensing applications offers more flexibility and freedom in design for its integration, as the footprint and the height are significantly smaller.”
| ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
to get there. together.
Micro Optics & Services We are experts in the custom manufacture of refractive micro-optic lenses, lens arrays and diffractive optical elements in silicon and fused silica.
ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
ANTONY SAVVAS DATACENTRE LASERS
OBSTACLES When going back to the full IC/laser integration question, Khan says: “It’s possible, but three issues still have to be fully addressed, and they are good product yield in manufacturing, lower cost to customers and effective power management.” Hamid Arabzadeh, CEO of Ranovus, confirms complete integration is not easy. He says, “The requirements for lasers to be used in silicon photonics subsystems are very different to today’s lasers. SiPh lasers must be designed using a simple structure that is not cost prohibitive to manufacturing.” Arabzadeh adds, “Silicon photonics also have a lot of optical loss, and therefore need higher power lasers. But higher power lasers will produce more back reflection from the SiPh, so there is a balance between these constraints when designing a laser that is suitable for SiPh subsystems. Packaging technologies are needed to bring the laser, SiPh TX/RX, driver, TIA, control IC and fibre together in a cost-effective manner.” However, Brad Booth, president of industry organisation the Consortium for On-Board Optics, says, “Integrating lasers with the co-packaged optical engine is certainly viable, as it simplifies the design. But it also places the laser in a less friendly thermal environment, which could result in a shorter lifespan. The ability to replace a laser when it fails is also extremely challenging. Therefore, it’s currently preferred to have the laser external to the optical engine to enable serviceability. As the optical networking industry will inevitably want to make sure transport systems can be as integrated as possible to meet data traffic demands, there is certainly also room for those looking to get the most out of what we already have.
successfully grew a five-channel laser array emitting at five different wavelengths, covering a 155nm-wide spectral range over silicon. “We were able to show that our ‘bonding- and-growth’ method could create a high density of high-performance components, which are needed in optical systems to maximise bandwidth,” says Besançon. By integrating the components, you also no longer need to provide separate cooling systems for them, thus lowering power consumption. The work is being done at the company’s III-V Lab in Paris-Saclay, France. IC IMPROVEMENTS Raza Khan, senior market manager for Semtech’s signal integrity products group, says it is “right and proper” for the industry to seek improvements in silicon photonics (SiPh) to better integrate the laser with the integrated circuit, but emphasises existing IC technology already exists to help do this. Khan says: “Our Tri-Edge platform takes customers to 50G lanes through driving lasers effectively, it would be counter intuitive for customers if full integration of the IC and the laser led to higher costs. We’re concentrating on using our proprietary IC technology to deliver higher- bandwidth links at lower cost to customers, through getting more wavelengths down the fibre, reducing the power needed in the lasers to do it, and delivering the same data performance despite the higher bit rates.” A rapidly evolving area for Khan in this endeavour is the wireless segment, including 5G and multi-access edge computing (MEC). He says: “Data traffic in markets like this will rapidly ramp up as users take advantage of full commercial roll-outs. IC and laser costs cannot be allowed to increase as a result of this growth, and we plan to offer 100G fibre links using 50G laser technology.”
growing more complex as we develop more sophisticated ways to transmit information over light. Our current methods of manufacturing optical devices can’t keep up with those two competing demands. We need to find new and cheaper ways of manufacturing more-efficient and higher- performance optical modules to power the fibre networks of the future.” One of the most intriguing solutions to this problem, she says, is to move away from today’s methods of building optical modules from separate components, and instead of “assembling” them, to “grow” them. Currently, optical modules consist of two distinct components: a laser source and a chip connected to that emitter via a fibre. Both components are manufactured separately, using vastly different methods, then later assembled. Nokia Bell Labs says its fully integrated module can deliver higher-performance. Placing the laser source directly on the chip suppresses lossy optical couplings that limit the overall performance of the system, meaning you get more-efficient, higher-capacity optical systems. A laser source is fabricated from alloys made from indium, gallium, aluminum, arsenic and phosphorus. These alloys are known to chemists as III-V materials due to the location of their component elements on the periodic table. “The fabrication process for these materials is expensive and they can only be produced in small volumes, in stark contrast to silicon chips. That creates a fundamental scalability roadblock. We essentially want to take an easily manufactured, cheap component and pair it with a hard-to-manufacture, costly component to build a single optical module. We’ve explored bonding III-V materials directly onto a silicon wafer, but that kind of integration is difficult. The process is complex and less cost-effective than the current methods of assembling an optical module out of separate components. But we may finally have a solution that could bring these two families of materials together on a single chip,” says Besançon. Her team at Nokia Bell Labs is developing a system to “grow” the laser source directly on the chip. Normally this would be a near impossible task because most III-V elements are incompatible with silicon. The team, however, has developed a method for layering III-V materials onto a silicon wafer. An unprocessed film of indium phosphide is bonded onto a large silicon wafer. Then, on that film, III-V alloys are grown/layered on top of each other to create the laser source. In 2020, the team
Brad Booth, president, Consortium for On-BoardOptics
Raza Khan, senior market manager, Semtech
Hamid Arabzadeh, CEO, Ranovus
| ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
EPIC PROMOTES THE DEVELOPMENT AND COMPETITIVENESS OF THE EUROPEAN PHOTONICS INDUSTRY AND ITS MEMBERS
PETER DYKES TRANSCEIVER SUPPLY CHAIN
With fibre network rollouts continuing to accelerate, data centres proliferating and the demand for bandwidth increasing exponentially, suppliers of optical transceivers could experience component shortages. Optical Connections editor Peter Dykes discussed some of the most pressing supply chain issues and how they might be alleviated, with industry veteran, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Westbury Photonics Robert Hughes . SECURING THE SUPPLY CHAIN SATISFYING DEMAND FOR OPTICAL COMPONENTS
THE MARKET Things have changed a lot in the
cost effective, that they trust, and where they can get local technical support on the other end of the phone. There’s another group that is seeing a demand for greater bandwidth. The IT managers and consultancies, who are having to put in multi-gigabit switches and supply pluggable transceivers, but they have got to do that in a very cost-effective manner. I saw these two groups emerging and felt that there was a great opportunity for me to step in there.” THE SUPPLY CHAIN On a much larger scale, a relatively new development is that the likes of Microsoft, Facebook and Alibaba, who have the resources and finances, are building their own international fibre network infrastructures, work which in the past would have been the done by the likes of Alcatel. In addition, 5G rollouts are continuing apace and 6G is on the horizon, so the potential for transceiver shortages is very real. According to Hughes, part of the solution is component aggregation. He says, “We’ve seen that in the UK, Europe and North America there is an accelerated demand for components
and that are available from stock.” Hughes says these particular issues were highlighted when it took him four days to get a quote for a single 10G SFP+ module and was required to supply highly detailed company information before making a purchase. As a consequence, Hughes set up Westbury Photonics to distribute optical components irrespective of the number required and the level of local support required. He says, “We’re seeing a much stronger move towards the commoditisation of optics, as the demand for bandwidth increases and fibre to the home becomes more pervasive. We’re going to see IT managers requiring anything from 500 to 1000 [transceivers], or much smaller orders from IT companies and consultancies, who are providing IT services to smaller businesses. There are also the IT managers who are managing networks within SMEs and middle enterprises, which typically employ around 500 to 1000 people, as well as people who literally will be supporting their own networks. All of them are looking for components that are compatible, that are
transceiver market over the last 15 years or so. Components that would traditionally have been seen as niche products and only available as branded products from the likes of Cisco, Juniper Networks and Nokia can now be sourced from a number of manufacturers and distributors. However, factors such as a lack of local technical support and procurement difficulties could impact on the speed with which networks can be rolled out. Indeed, Bristol, UK-based Westbury Photonics, one of the more recent entrants to this market sector, was set up to address just such issues. Robert Hughes, the company’s founder and CEO says, “What I’ve seen is the emergence of compatible optical components and modules in particular, being readily available. The challenge for the distributors today, typically the ones in UK, Europe and also North America, is to meet the need to have available components that companies can buy from distributors in the UK, Europe and North America, which are supported by native English speakers, that have been tested within the UK, Europe and North America,
| ISSUE 28 | Q1 2022
PETER DYKES TRANSCEIVER SUPPLY CHAIN
What we’re seeing now is that it’s not so much about having a tuneable laser, or about having a DSP, it’s actually about having both.
LASERS AND DSP’S A significant element of the supply chain consolidation process involves creating partnerships with other manufacturers. Hughes argues that supply chain issues can be alleviated further if companies consolidate access to their optics and DSP supplies, either by acquisition or by a careful choice of partners. According to Hughes, there are two things that are problematic at the moment. One is getting high-quality optics, the other is getting DSPs. He says there are only a handful of players who actually have highly tuneable lasers on the one hand, and on the other, there are only a few DSP vendors. As we’ve been seeing over the last few years, there’s been a big race for companies to add DSPs to their portfolios and while the likes of Nokia and Huawei have their own, Cisco’s purchase of Acacia and the acquisition of ClariPhy by Inphi, and Inphi by Marvell, means there are fewer suppliers to choose from. He says, “What we’re seeing now is that it’s not so much about having a tuneable laser, or about having a DSP, it’s actually about having both, so if you’ve got both, you’re in a reasonably good position. If you’re unfortunate enough to only have one or the other, then you’re potentially at the mercy of whoever, in this case, has a DSP, who would want you to have access to that and for how long. What we’re seeing now a big scramble for companies to get their arms around both elements. For example, Cisco has both, Marvell is pretty close to having both, but not quite at the performance level that Cisco has, and there are others. We also see a lot of movement in the industry by those ready to protect their own markets, such as HiSilicon. In China, they have tuneable lasers that are coming along, and that’s another key part of the puzzle. I would say at the moment, the only other player outside of these who would be willing to look at engaging with a company on a DSP would be someone like NEL, which is up there with the others. So there seems to be a much stronger move now around how to get
secure access and availability in a way that’s not going to hamstring your business. Now, it’s much more about relationships and how you secure your supply chain, and it’s not just supply chain in terms of a DSP. It’s a supply chain, around the DSP, around the optics and around your packaging partner. We’re also starting to see a lot more focus towards having a capability within a particular region, and part of that is because of the geopolitical situation that’s going on in various parts of the world. Right now. I think what people are doing is they’re saying, look, Covid has happened, we have a massive shortage of supply within the market and everyone is in catch up mode right now. But as far as I can see, there’s a lot more focus around supplying your near term, closest partners first, before starting to expand. We’re catching up, but will we ever really get there? Let’s put it this way, I’m not convinced we will get there quickly.”
and systems, and that will continue. There are shortages now around the sub components such as the ICs and chips that go into those modules. The question then becomes, are we ever going to get to a point where we will be able to satisfy demand? I think the reality is that there will be shortages, but how long will it take? That really depends how quickly the fibre rollouts continue and the requirement for components and subsystems to support all of that. So, we’re starting to see a much stronger need for a highly integrated supply chain, and it’s not just from the making of lasers or ICs, you need that right through the system and the rollout of that as well.” It’s not just potential component shortages that could slow things down however, there are other factors involved apart from supply chain issues, there are the much-reported skill shortages, geopolitical problems and of course, the impact of Covid-19. Hughes says, “Obviously, we’ve got to get out of this pandemic and everyone’s got to get back to work, but I think productivity is going to have to increase to the point where we can actually get slightly ahead of the curve. However, I don’t know how the geopolitical aspects will play out. I think that’s a big unknown at the moment in terms of the US and China, and maybe even Russia. We’ve still to see how that will work out, but there has to be partnerships right the way through from lasers through to modules, through to systems, right the way through to the actual rollout. I don’t think we’ve ever experienced that before, but I think that part of it is going to become a lot more critical. What we will see I would say, is at the beginning, probably those who are willing to pay a little bit more, have the better relationships, and are able to pull together a very complete supply chain right away, from the availability of lasers, ICs and component modules and the way they get rolled out, will be the most successful. This is the end-to-end supply chain relationship that’s going to have to happen.
Robert Hughes, CEO Westbury Photonics
Hughes brings over 25 years’ experience in the photonics and communications industry spanning development, manufacturing, fund raising, sales, marketing, business development, and working organisations from foundries to components, system OEMs, and service providers around the world. Robert is passionate about bringing new disruptive technologies to market as well as innovative business models.
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