Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

With 100G, terabit and ROADMs on the rise, it's a busy time for optical networking. Here's who we see making it all happen

Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

March 23, 2012

6 Min Read
Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

In the world of long telecom cycles, it's optical networking's time again. Carriers are looking toward 100Gbit/s deployment while data centers are crying for even more bandwidth. The advent of reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexers (ROADMs) is raising the promise of more flexible, agile networks and easier control.

We figured it was well past time for a Light Reading list of the people who are poised to make all this happen, the ones guiding optical networks into their next generation.

Some of the names will look more familiar than others. We strove for a mix of executives and in-the-trenches types. Did we miss anyone painfully obvious? Let us know on the message boards, below.


— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

10. Anuj Jain, Bharti Airtel
India is a booming telecom market, and it's created a hunger among vendors. For example: Jain, Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL)'s VP of network planning, spoke at a recent Light Reading event in India and was reportedly swamped by vendors afterward. He and Jagbir Singh, director of network services, can play a big role in determining which technologies succeed.

Light Reading India recently interviewed Jain about mobile backhaul. Here's a link to the video.

UPDATE: Jain changed jobs right after we posted this list. He's now at Reliance Industries as CTO of Infotel Broadband.

9. Chris Cole, Finisar
A few of the people on this list are active standards participants, Cole among them. He's shown willingness to go against the grain, decrying the 10x10 multisource agreement (MSA) for 100Gbit/s modules, for instance. At the same time, he's not the enemy of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and others who pushed for that MSA -- in fact, he's spoken in favor of having standards bodies consider a 500-meter reach, to suit data center needs. He's a strong voice helping to shape the next generation of optical technologies.

8. John Bowers, U.C. Santa Barbara
The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) has been a hotbed of optics since before the dotcom boom. A lot of that work has been taken to the outside world by Bowers and his colleague Dan Blumenthal (director of the Terabit Optical Ethernet Center and another candidate for this list). They founded Calient, and Bowers has more recently founded Aurrion , a silicon photonics startup.

Bowers also gets the nod for receiving the 2012 John Tyndall Award in November for his work on hybrid-silicon lasers and photonic integrated circuits. (See John Bowers Wins Tyndall Award.)

7. Dino DiPerna, Ciena
Nortel is still a factor in optical networking. It's just owned by Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) now, still housed in the old Carling Place campus. (But they'll have to relocate when Canada's Department of National Defence moves in.)

DiPerna has helped launch Ciena's 100Gbit/s generation, and it's under his development that the former Nortel team will either continue to innovate or fall downward toward the rest of the pack. He's in a position to keep the heat on the other systems vendors in what continues to be a contentious market.

6. Basil Alwan, Alcatel-Lucent
You might consider him more a router guy, but Alwan is charged with merging the IP router world with optical transport. Everyone wants to do packet-optical, but Alwan has some impressive resources at his disposal (Bell Labs ) and a good track record on the router side). Under his guidance, we're guessing Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) will implement some ideas that push the industry in new directions.

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    5. Dave Welch, Infinera
    It took a lot of years and a lot of money to get Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) past the novelty stage, but it's now a true contender in DWDM. The question is whether its next product, the DTN-X, can be as powerful as the first. If so, then Infinera stands to make a big difference in the 100Gbit/s generation, and Welch, who's been with the company from the beginning, would stand a chance to continue its influence into the 1Tbit/s era as well.

    4. John D'Ambrosia, Dell
    He technically works for Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), but really, John D'Ambrosia is known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) guru for higher-speed Ethernet -- with "higher speed" defined as "whatever comes next." Instrumental in recent product generations up to 100Gbit/s -- which is still a work in progress, he stresses -- D'Ambrosia is doing advance scouting for the 400Gbit/s or 1Tbit/s generation. Among his multiple IEEE commissions is a project to assess bandwidth demand and determine exactly what's needed for this next generation -- because, as he's been emphasizing, it's already past time to start working on it. Look for him to continue prodding the industry forward.

    3. Hong Liu, Google
    Bikash Koley, technical lead for network architecture and planning at Google, undoubtedly makes some big decisions and is the guy you see at conferences. He's the spokesman for the massive bandwidth requirements Google and other data-center owners are facing. But we're told that when you get down to the optical details, Liu is the person you need on your side. Components vendors are turning her way for guidance on how to craft the next generations of data-center parts.

    2. Huawei
    Sources couldn't decide on one person inside Huawei to nominate. We're told that if you get Huawei's interest, they don't send one guy to talk; they descend en masse, working like a hive mind, as one source described it.

    Yet, Huawei's position in the market can't be ignored. It's joined the optical market-share leaders and has home-field advantage when dealing with Chinese carriers. Even without a celebrity point person, Huawei's optical work affects the industry, and it certainly affects competitors such as Alcalu, Ciena, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. .

    1. Glenn Wellbrock, Verizon
    Everybody in optical networking wants Glenn Wellbrock's ear. No carrier has evangelized the next-generation network harder than Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and Wellbrock is the point man. (Stuart Elby has been a prominent name at Verizon, too, but his attention is more on things like software-defined networking these days.)

    Not every carrier shares Verizon's point of view, but there's no question the carrier has shaped vendor roadmaps. It's Verizon, for instance, that's dictated much of today's direction in ROADMs. Verizon has been coming to conferences with big diagrams of the colorless, directionless, contentionless optical network, and a couple of years ago, it kick-started the discussion about flexible-grid ROADMs, too.

    Verizon is out to distinguish itself in the context of driving the industry. The carrier wants to be an innovator, and it's pulling the optical equipment and components vendors behind it.

    To close out the list, here's our OFC/NFOEC interview with Wellbrock:


About the Author(s)

Craig Matsumoto

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Yes, THAT Craig Matsumoto – who used to be at Light Reading from 2002 until 2013 and then went away and did other stuff and now HE'S BACK! As Editor-in-Chief. Go Craig!!

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