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Optical/IP

Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance

Luxcore Networks Inc. is planning to demonstrate a significant development in all-optical switches at the Optical Fiber Communications (OFC) Conference in Anaheim, Calif., next week.

The startup will show a working prototype switch incorporating optical rather than electrical wavelength conversion -- a development that could help carriers slash costs considerably.

Understanding this can be a little tricky, but the argument goes like this:

First-generation, all-optical switches are fairly limited in what they can do. In their simplest form, they act like automated patch-panels, steering all the light from one fiber into another.

In their more sophisticated form, they're integrated with DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) systems so that light is split into different wavelengths before it’s switched. In this case, the wavelengths coming out of one fiber can be routed into different fibers.

The big catch, however, is that the switch can’t change the wavelength of the light without converting it into electrical signals and retransmitting it -- and this OEO malarkey is exactly what all-optical switches are supposed to eliminate.

Optical wavelength conversion promises to avoid this snag, but that’s only for starters.

Being able to shift light from one wavelength to another can be used to sidestep problems associated with one stream of signals blocking the path of another stream within a switch, according to Gerald Ramdeen, Luxcore’s CEO and CTO. As a result, the same capacity switch needs significantly less switching fabric if optical wavelength conversion is employed, he says. That equates to "less power, less space, less cost -- and that's exactly what customers want."

Luxcore’s way of doing optical wavelength conversion also appears to give its switch another plus. Light signals get a boost of power as they pass through. Ramdeen is cagey about giving details. “We’re using tunable lasers as a programmable pump source,” he says, adding, “We’re doing frequency mixing without all the nasty side effects.”

Our reading of this is that Luxcore’s using semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs). The tunable laser pumps different wavelengths of light into the SOA to change the wavelength of the light carrying the actual data.

Now for some details. Luxcore’s switch, called the LambdaXchange, will come in two sizes. The first one will have eight input fibers and eight output fibers and a capacity of 20 terabit/s. The second one will have 16 input fibers and 16 output fibers and a capacity of 120 terabit/s. Both models will incorporate some state-of-the-art DWDM technology: 240 channels, 80 in the C band, 80 in the L band, and 80 in the S band.

The switch is formed from two subsystems. The first one incorporates wavelength multiplexers and wavelength converters, which also amplify light signals, as already noted. This subsystem also incorporates some unspecified components that reshape signals optically.

The first subsystem marshals the different streams of light from the carrier’s fiber infrastructure and feeds them into the second subsystem, the switching fabric. Right now, Luxcore is using MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical system) switching fabric, although Ramdeen points out that his switch “wasn’t engineered around MEMs." It would be straightforward to replace the subsystem with something else, if it seemed appropriate.

Luxcore’s demo at OFC will be of a smaller switch, with just two input and two output fibers. It will support 40 wavelengths per fiber. The startup plans to demonstrate wavelength routing, optical wavelength conversion, add-drop functions, and broadcast functions, according to Ramdeen. “We hope this is going to be the first example of optical wavelength conversion,” he says. “We’ll know on Monday whether it really is."

Luxcore expects to start shipping commercial versions of its switch in the fourth quarter of this year. It has 125 staff. It raised $10 million in series A financing last July (see Luxcore Raises $10m First Round) and is planning to start raising further funding soon. “We purposely delayed our next round until after OFC,” says Ramdeen. Originally, Luxcore was called Synchordia (see Startup Touts "First Optical Router").

-- Peter Heywood, international editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com
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Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 8:43:21 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance Not that they have a shipping product, but is this as ground-breaking as it sounds, or do the other guys have something like this in the works too?

Nortel's Optera PX needs an OEO DWDM demultiplexer in order to switch labdas:
http://www.nortelnetworks.com/...

What do Lucent and Corvis have? I'm guessing this company will get bought out by somebody pretty soon...
Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 8:43:18 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance I don't know but I'm half expecting to see some other optical wavelength conversion developments at OFC.

The startups making SOAs must be working in this area. Here's a couple of articles we've done on such outfits - Genoa, Kamelian and Optospeed - which hint or explicitly say they're working on optical wavelength conversion:

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

http://www.lightreading.com/do...

Luxcore told me that its optical wavelength conversion was developed in-house, but if we're right about it being based on SOAs, they must be getting samples from an SOA vendor, possibly one of the above.

Luxcore can't be the only outfit developing a switch based on these components. However, it may be the first to demo it publicly. Like Gerald Ramdeen said, we'll know on Monday.

PS: I recall Alcatel telling me that it saw SOAs as being the ultimate solution for building optical switches.
fanfare 12/4/2012 | 8:43:09 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance CORV also incorporates DWDM.

For some reason ... LR never mentions this in any of the articles that reference CORV
Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 8:43:08 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance What kind of technology does CORV use to do lambda translation?
fanfare 12/4/2012 | 8:43:06 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance not sure what you mean
alloptical2000 12/4/2012 | 8:43:04 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance
Hi,
""Nortel's Optera PX needs an OEO DWDM demultiplexer in order to switch labdas:"""

I looked at Nortel's website. from which statement did you draw this conclusion. is it the first one which says "no OES in the data path" or is it some thing else some where in the page.

Any feedback is appreciated.
Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 8:43:02 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance "not sure what you mean"

I meant, does Corvis also use SOAs, with a similar architecture and components, or do they have something completely different.

If you have any white papers or academic documents on wavelength translation, could you post a link? I don't know much about how this is done but I find it fascinating.
Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 8:43:02 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance "Hi,
""Nortel's Optera PX needs an OEO DWDM demultiplexer in order to switch labdas:"""

I looked at Nortel's website. from which statement did you draw this conclusion. is it the first one which says "no OES in the data path" or is it some thing else some where in the page.

Any feedback is appreciated."


I'm going by the statement "wavelength transparent services", but also by the White Paper and Product Brief posted here:

http://www.nortelnetworks.com/...

Specifically, in the white paper, read the section on Wavelength Blocking. It states that "until cost-effective all-optical wavelength translation can be done, it is necessary [to do OEO]".

Also most detailed diagrams have a DWDM switch on either side of the PX.
fanfare 12/4/2012 | 8:43:01 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance I'm trying to find info on CORV wavelength conversion tech as we speak. This is a new area for me also.
fanfare 12/4/2012 | 8:43:00 PM
re: Luxcore to Demo Optical Switch Advance At first I assumed they had similiar technology incorporated into their switches (CORV). However, upon further reflection, I remembered that they are working on an oeo solution due out the end of this year. This presents questions:

Do they have an all optical solution for wavelength conversion? If they do .. why are they working so hard on an oeo solution? Maybe their conversion solution isn't sufficient and so they need oeo in addition. Maybe all optical conversion solutions 'over all' are not really close to being marketable without some level of oeo.

Any feedback on this is welcome.
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