VPIplayer: Tool or Toy?

VPI's latest simulation software could slash system design times, but it's got a lot to prove first

March 31, 2003

2 Min Read
VPIplayer: Tool or Toy?

VPIphotonics Inc. last week announced a development at the OFC Conference that could mark the beginning of big changes in the way engineers design optical subsystems (see VPIphotonics Helps Share Designs).

The development is some free software, called VPIplayer, that allows designers to simulate the performance of the subsystems they're designing. It works like Adobe Systems Inc.'s Acrobat Reader, in that it reads "dynamic data sheets" -- small computer files that define the performance characteristics of components, created by component suppliers using VPI design software.

The idea is that designers will be able to download dynamic data sheets from component suppliers and plug them in to their simulated designs on VPIplayer. They can then change parameters, such as the length of fiber or transmission frequency, and see what impact this has on subsystem performance.

This will help designers avoid laborious and expensive trial-and-error processes which sometimes call on them to build multiple prototypes, according to Rudolf Moosburger, VPI group vice president. Moosburger notes that such simulation processes are commonplace in electronic subsystem design, and sooner or later designers of optical subsystems are bound to follow suit.

Of course, VPI will have to persuade component suppliers to create dynamic data sheets of their products, and right now, the jury's still out on whether the VPIplayer will deliver useful results.

"Overall, it's a good idea, but if [designers] just use it as it is, it's a very dangerous tool," says Masoud Vaziri, until recently director of lightwave system design for ultra-long-haul transmission at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT). Vaziri, who's familiar with VPI's design software, says there are "tens of thousands" of variables that need setting properly in a typical design, and getting one of them wrong could make the results of VPIplayer meaningless. VPI "needs to do more work to validate the model," he contends.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading

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