The latest optical modules and semiconductor components are game-changers for 100G and will accelerate 400G adoption.

Simon Stanley

August 24, 2015

4 Min Read
Latest Modules Drive Market Toward 400G

Third-generation optical modules and semiconductor components supporting 28Gbit/s interfaces have made 100G more attractive than 10G or 40G and open the door to 400G connectivity. QSFP28 and CFP4 modules support 100G ports at much higher densities, lower power and lower cost of ownership than previous generations. There are already 20 vendors developing or shipping these optical modules, including all the market leaders and several new entrants. This will lead to significant competition and downward pressure on pricing.

Demand for bandwidth continues across all parts of the network. This bandwidth growth is most acute within data centers and between data centers. Video on demand, cloud services and other data-hungry applications require high-speed, low-latency links between users and the data center and between servers across multiple data centers. The success of both service providers and carriers depend on the performance of these links and the quality of experience delivered to customers. Many companies are finding they need 100G today and a roadmap to 400G to ensure they retain customers and expand market share going forward.

28G serial interfaces, photonic integration, and the latest silicon technology have enabled a new generation of semiconductor and optical components that can handle 100G bandwidths in smaller packages and at much lower power. These components are used in optical modules and on line cards or switch systems. Many components integrate 28G clock/data recovery (CDR), 10:4 gearboxes, support for multiple modulations or driver arrays for 100G lasers. Some components integrate DSP processors for metro and long haul coherent receivers, others implement the core functions for a packet optical transport platform (P-OTP).

Heavy Reading's new report, From 25/100G to 400G: A Competitive Analysis of Optical Modules & Components, identifies and analyzes the full spectrum of vendors developing optical modules and components from 25G to 400G. The report profiles 48 vendors and analyzes more than 400 different products, identifying the key features and highlighting the advantages they hold for service providers and equipment manufacturers. The report covers optical modules and semiconductor components including not only granular information on the products themselves but also insights into how the overall market and ecosystem is developing.

CFP modules have been widely used in 100G enterprise and line side applications. The latest CFP2 and CFP4 modules offer significantly higher density and lower power. Multiple vendors are sampling analog CFP2 modules (CFP2-ACO) for use in metro applications with coherent receiver DSPs on the line card. CFP2 modules for short and long reach applications up to 40 km are shipping in volume and several vendors are also shipping CFP4 modules for applications up to 10 km. Key vendors include Avago, Civcom, Eoptolink, Finisar, Fujitsu, Lumentum (JDSU), Oclaro, Oplink, NEC, Neophotonics, SEI and Source Photonics. Recent market entrants are Champion ONE and Prolabs. Acacia is one of several vendors shipping OIF-168 pin or CFP modules for 100G coherent applications and first to announce a 400G optical module.

The SFP and QSFP form factors have been dominant in the data center for Ethernet rates from 1G through 10G to 40G. Many vendors are sampling or developing QSFP28 modules or active optical cables for 100G connection in the data center and the first modules are in production. The 28G solutions developed for QSFP28 are already being used in the first SFP28 modules that enable 25G Ethernet and 28G Fibre Channel, and will be used for 400G CDFP modules. Vendors specializing in this area include Colorchip, InnoLight, Kaiam, Luxtera, Mellanox, Molex and Skorpios.

100G transceiver, gearbox and mux/demux devices are available with coherent DP-QPSK, QAM, DQPSK, QPSK, PAM4, OOK or ODB modulation. P-OTP devices support up to 400G and CDRs are shipping with up to sixteen 10G or 28G lanes. Driver and receiver arrays integrate laser drivers or transimpedance amplifiers (TIA) and limiting amplifiers (LA) for 4-12 lanes up to 28G. Some devices also integrate CDRs. Key vendors for these devices include Avago, Broadcom, ClariPhy, Inphi, Macom, Mellanox, Microsemi, Mosys, Multiphy, NEL, PMC-Sierra and Semtech. Many of these functions are also being implemented using FPGAs from Achronix, Altera and Xilinx.

The development of cost-effective semiconductor and optical components with 25G-28G interfaces is transforming high-speed connectivity in the data center and enterprise. For the next few years, this market will be dominated by 25G links, 100G links using 4x25G, and 400G links using 16x25G. Between data centers and over long distances, the market is moving from 100G links to 200G links, and on toward 400G as DSP costs drop and complex modulation schemes become more attractive.

— Simon Stanley, Analyst at Large, Heavy Reading

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About the Author(s)

Simon Stanley

Simon Stanley is Founder and Principal Consultant at Earlswood Marketing Ltd., an independent market analyst and consulting company based in the U.K. His work has included investment due diligence, market analysis for investors, and business/product strategy for semiconductor companies. Simon has written extensively for Heavy Reading and Light Reading. His reports and Webinars cover a variety of communications-related subjects, including LTE, Policy Management, SDN/NFV, IMS, ATCA, 100/400G optical components, multicore processors, switch chipsets, network processors, and optical transport. He has also run several Light Reading events covering Next Generation network components and ATCA.

Prior to founding Earlswood Marketing, Simon spent more than 15 years in product marketing and business management. He has held senior positions with Fujitsu, National Semiconductor, and U.K. startup ClearSpeed, covering networking, personal systems, and graphics in Europe, North America, and Japan. Simon has spent over 30 years in the electronics industry, including several years designing CPU-based systems, before moving into semiconductor marketing. In 1983, Stanley earned a Bachelor's in Electronic and Electrical Engineering from Brunel University, London.

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