Infinera Claims Breakthroughs

The first large-scale photonic integrated circuits, and the first digital optical networking system, the Infinera DTN

May 3, 2004

4 Min Read

SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Infinera announced today two key technology breakthroughs: the first large scale Photonic Integrated Circuits, and the first Digital Optical Networking System, the Infinera DTN. Photonic Integrated Circuits are similar to electronic integrated circuits, but these new photonic chips generate, manipulate, and detect light rather than electrons. Photonic Integrated Circuits form the heart of the Infinera DTN, a new carrier-grade optical telecommunications system for long-haul, regional, and metro networks. Carriers will be able to deploy Infinera DTNs to build Digital Optical Networks, which are simpler, more flexible, and more economical than conventional, inherently analog optical networks.

“Photonic integration has long been a goal of the optical communications industry, but its difficulty has thwarted many excellent design teams from even considering an attempt,” said Michael Howard, Principal Analyst at Infonetics Research. “For nearly 50 years, we've seen the benefits of integration in the electronic world. Moore's Law cost reductions, ever greater performance, and higher reliability make integration a no-brainer for transistors and other electronic devices. But until now, it has not been possible to bring these same benefits to photonic devices like lasers, modulators, and photodiodes. Infinera has changed that with its Photonic Integrated Circuits, which combine dozens of devices, both actives and passives, onto single photonic chips. This is a disruptive technology.”

Infinera’s Photonic Integrated Circuits include a 100 Gb/s transmitter, which integrates ten lasers, ten 10 Gb/s modulators, and an optical multiplexer; as well as a 100 Gb/s receiver, which integrates an optical demultiplexer and ten photodiodes. Each enables low-cost optical-electrical conversion on a semiconductor chip no larger than 5mm on a side.

The Infinera DTN, the first communications system based on Photonic Integrated Circuits, gives carriers and other network-builders digital control of key optical networking functions such as adding and dropping customer traffic, managing bandwidth, monitoring performance, and eliminating noise and optical impairments.

“We’ve been working closely with our carrier customers for nearly three years, and we’ve been very gratified by their enthusiasm for Infinera,” said Jagdeep Singh, Infinera’s CEO. “Performing all these functions in simple digital electronics rather than in a host of analog optical components greatly simplifies the optical layer and resonates with our customers.”

“It comes as a surprise to many people that much of the existing optical network is analog,” said Scott Clavenna, Chief Analyst at Heavy Reading. “After all, every other network that carriers run has transitioned from analog to digital: the voice network in the 1960s, the mobile wireless networks more recently, and even video delivery networks. How ironic that these digital services are transported by an optical layer where waves, not bits, are manipulated by amplifiers, filters, dispersion compensators, and in some cases, mirrors. Performing key functions digitally, rather than with analog optics, makes perfect sense.”

The motivation for analog management of existing optical networks has been the high cost of converting light to electronics, a necessary step for digital processing. Because this conversion has historically required numerous costly discrete devices, optical system vendors have worked to eliminate electronics from their products. Unfortunately, eliminating electronics also eliminates digital capability, leaving an analog optical network. Photonic integration will reverse this trend by making optical-electrical conversion economical, thereby restoring the ability to use digital electronics for key network functions.

“In today's market environment, service providers need to be very confident of obtaining an adequate return on their investment in their network infrastructure,” said Mark Lutkowitz, Principal of Telecom Pragmatics. “They appreciate the small minority of sensible suppliers such as Infinera, who swim against the tide in offering extremely simple and low-cost solutions that do not waste resources or cause conflict with existing operational methods and procedures. With the DTN, Infinera understands that advancements in optical networking demand disruptive technology that fits the reality of today's legacy plant.”

The extremely compact Infinera DTN supports 400 Gb/s, i.e., forty 10 Gb/s channels in a half rack. 100 Gb/s line cards support a variety of hot-swappable client interfaces including OC-192/STM-64, OC-48/STM-16, 10 Gigabit Ethernet LAN PHY and WAN PHY, and Gigabit Ethernet. The DTN runs Infinera's IQ Network Operating System to automate network discovery, configuration, and provisioning via GMPLS. A network of DTNs can be managed by Infinera's MPower Management Suite, which includes an Element Management System, a JAVA Graphical Element Manager, and standards-compliant interfaces for OSS integration. The DTN enters carrier trials in 3Q2004.

Infinera Inc.

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