A year ago at OFC, when Microsoft and optical components vendor Inphi Corp. announced a major new alternative approach to data center interconnect, little attention was paid to the fact the show demonstration of their solution was done over an ADVA open optical line system. Today, ADVA announced a commercial version of that optical line system that includes the kind of direct switch-to-switch optical link that Microsoft-Inphi discussed, and something extra. (See Microsoft Drops a Data Center Interconnect Bombshell, Inphi Debuts Data Center Interconnect Gamechanger and ADVA Adds Direct Detect Open Optical Layer for DCI.)
As an expansion of its ADVA FSP 3000 CloudConnect platform, the optical networking vendor now is offering the direct detect technology, using 100Gbit/s direct detect DWDM systems, such as Inphi Corp. 's ColorZ, in two formats, either as a disaggregated open line system (OLS) or as a combined terminal and line system.
The "extra" thing ADVA Optical Networking is adding is SmartAmp technology within the OLS that enables the direct detect technology to be transported up to 100km. That additional distance makes a difference given the projected use: providing data center interconnect that can link multiple data centers virtually into one much larger operation.
ADVA has been selling its new version of the FSP 3000 CloudConnect since the end of 2016, says Stephan Rettenberger, senior vice president of marketing, and has "decent volumes" with one large commercial customer and tests with several others. It's tempting to assume that one big customer is Microsoft –- which is quoted in the ADVA press release, but Rettenberger can't confirm that.
What Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Inphi, whose ColorZ reference design uses silicon photonics to reach 100G for 80km using standard form factors and pulse amplitude modulation (PAM4) signaling, brought to OFC last year was groundbreaking in that it directly links data center switches over an optical connection, with no DCI gear from an optical networking company in between. That significantly reduced costs for DCI over those distances, and created a simpler, less power-consuming solution, Rettenberger notes.
What ADVA brings to the party with its Open OLS and SmartAmp technology is a simpler way of doing direct connect that has the benefit of extending its range, he adds. All of this grows out of ADVA's original routes in the DCI space, dating back to when it developed optical gear exclusively for Fortune 500 companies, ahead of its engagement in telecom, Rettenberger says.
Not unexpectedly, the new version of ADVA's FSP 3000 CloudConnect targets the major Internet content providers, including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple, in addition to Microsoft. One reason for an open system with both a disaggregated and aggregated model is that, while all of those big players want the same thing from data center operations -- lots of capacity at lowest cost and least power consumption -- they have different ways of getting there, Rettenberger says.
This approach "is stirring up interest," he comments. "It's definitely off the beaten path, it's not mainstream technology."
But ADVA expects to see growing interest, especially among the companies that aren't fiber-constrained and thus more interested in lowering the cost of their terminal gear (and the power and cooling for same) than in packing every fiber to its fullest capacity, Rettenberger says. That would include those renting data center space from colocation providers.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading