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OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More

Craig Matsumoto
3/25/2010
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SAN DIEGO -- OFC/NFOEC 2010 -- Vendors of reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer (ROADM) technology have talked about colorless, directionless, and contentionless cases. Next up might be "gridless."

It's all part of making ROADMs more flexible in order to give service providers more options. The gridless ROADM -- vendors seem to favor the phrase "flexible spectrum," actually -- has gained some buzz amidst all the 100-Gbit/s chatter, because the technology could be useful for carrying unusually high-speed signals.

And like a lot of ideas proposed in optical networking, it's not new. "I think this question pops up every five years," says Krishna Bala, executive vice president with Oclaro Inc. (Nasdaq: OCLR).

Being gridless refers to having wavelengths that don't conform to the ITU grid for Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing (DWDM). Specifically, it's about letting wavelengths take up irregular numbers of slots -- 1.4 or 2.2 times more spectrum than usual, for instance.

That could be useful for very high-speed signals or experimental modulation schemes, cases where carriers "aren't sure how much passband they'll need," says Craig Iwata, manager of corporate marketing for JDSU (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU).

But Iwata says he was previously hearing those concerns for 100 Gbit/s, and it's already being shown that a serial, long-haul, 100-Gbit/s wavelength can, indeed, fit in a 50GHz ITU grid. And Bala -- who joined Oclaro through its acquisition of Xtellus last month -- notes that the industry is trying to keep to some standards for line-side 100-Gbit/s interfaces, which he thinks would make anything with nonstandard grid spacings unpopular. (See Oclaro Acquires Xtellus.)

Each of them doubts that demand for flexible-spectrum ROADMs will get heavy any time soon.

Others aren't so sure. Ashish Vengsarkar, CEO of ROADM subsystems vendor Nistica , says he's hearing of interest in the technology right now.

And Nokia Networks seems to like the idea of having a gridless ROADM at the ready, as the company experiments with line-side speeds exceeding 100 Gbit/s.

"There's some way to do 200 Gbit/s within a 50GHz grid, and people have done 100 Gbit/s within 25GHz, but these are based on really complex modulation schemes," says Michel Chbat, the company's North American head of solution engagement.

Should a need for gridless ROADMs emerge quickly somehow, Finisar Corp. (Nasdaq: FNSR) might have an edge. The company's wavelength-selective switch (WSS) is software-programmable to arbitrary grid spacings, even irregular ones. The capability appears to make Finisar's the only shipping WSS that could produce a gridless ROADM.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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Mark Sebastyn
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Mark Sebastyn,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:38 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More


Check with them too. I think they could do it.

olsen
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olsen,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:36 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More


Sorry about that last remark, Craig. I was somehow left with that impression, but after re-reading, that is def. not true.


Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:36 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More


Olsen -- Thanks for your concern.  Let me explain:  I had to leave OFC early, unexpectedly, due to a personal matter.  I do have more notes up my sleeve that I haven't had time to deal with yet.


That's particularly true of 40/100G, where I think I may simply write up a report (or a really long list) of vendors' stated timetables.  A discussion of whether 40G coherent will have a substantial lifespan would be good too.  The to-do list is brimming, and I do feel bad about cutting my week short.


As for the ROADMs being "old news all over," I don't believe I've written anything of the sort!  Gridless is an up-and-coming, interesting feature, as is NxN.


(Thing about gridless is, it sounds like WSS vendors will be compelled to support it, but there's a chance the systems vendors won't ever need it. Hm.)

Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:36 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More


Nistica also claims to also be shipping gridless WSSs to customers.  I thought Ashish Vengsarkar had told me so earlier in the week, but I didn't have time to circle back and confirm.  I'll update the story sometime over the weekend.

olsen
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olsen,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:36 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More


Is less more??


Does this pretty much sum up LRs coverage of this years OFC/NFOEC?


Maybe you should change name to "Mobile Reading"? The front page has been flooded with CTIA 2010 articles, and the event in San Diego seems to be forgotten (apart from ROADMS which pretty much is presented by Craig as old news all over).

Pete Baldwin
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Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:35 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More


Next OFC is March 6-10, so -- no worries about another CTIA conflict.

DCITDave
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DCITDave,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:40:35 PM
re: OFC/NFOEC: For ROADMs, Less Is More
olsen: Perhaps the folks who coordinate OFC/NFOEC would be interested in hearing from you before they set the schedule for next year. We try to cover as much as we can with what we have, but it only makes sense to devote more coverage to what is proportionally a bigger part of our audience.

OFC/NFOEC is still a big deal to us. It's a shame the organizers seem to think the show exists in a vacuum.

re: "Maybe you should change name to 'Mobile Reading?' The front page has been flooded with CTIA 2010 articles, and the event in San Diego seems to be forgotten (apart from ROADMS which pretty much is presented by Craig as old news all over)."
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