Before silicon photonics can fulfil its commercial potential – providing low-cost, high-speed optical devices for connecting servers and switches inside data centres – it must overcome many challenges. One is getting the chips made. The technology is well established, but the manufacturing processes have yet to reach a level of maturity sufficient to enable silicon photonics to make a seamless transition to industrial-scale production.
Fibre Systems Autumn 2017
We live in a world of virtualised resources and distributed systems. From evolving radio access networks, to algorithmic and high-frequency trading platforms, to smart national power grids and beyond, all these environments are designed for flawless performance and need to be timed with increasing precision. To ensure that performance is maximised, all appliances in a network need to be interconnected at the lowest latency and synchronised to sub-microsecond precision, ensuring tight coordination.
The European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) is Europe’s largest conference and exhibition dedicated to the optical communications industry. This year the event heads to Gothenburg, Sweden in the heart of Scandinavia, a region renowned as a high-tech innovation hub.
The technical conference and workshop programme are complemented by a three-day exhibition where vendors can showcase their latest innovations in components, network systems and test instruments. Here are some highlights coming up in the exhibition hall.
Fibre characterisation has been a part of my career since I joined York Technology in 1983. York had developed the FCm 1000, the first automatic fibre characterisation machine. This mighty machine could measure all of the fibre’s critical parameters, including end face geometry, mode field diameter and refractive index profile, as well as perform optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR) testing, spectral attenuation measurements and, for multimode fibres, find the modal dispersion.
Advances in data centre-related infrastructure are largely driven by increased network demand for higher bandwidth, faster service and ubiquitous access. Because of these trends, very high fibre-count cables (more than 3,000 optical fibres) become essential for connecting hyperscale data centres within a campus over distances of less than 10km. Another application space that is currently a topic of active interest in the industry is metro data centre interconnect (DCI).
Two years ago, JDSU spun out its optical components business as a separate entity. The piece that remained, which incorporated test instrumentation and optical security, was christened Viavi Solutions. The logic was that the different parts of the business – test instrumentation and optical modules – had different requirements and different trajectories, and would be better served by going their separate ways.
Britain has a reputation as a backwater when it comes to fibre-optic broadband connections that reach directly into consumer’s homes. Currently, only two per cent of households in the country have access to full fibre connections. But that looks set to change. This summer, some £500 million of equity and new debt have been invested in alternative network providers in the UK.