A Monster All-Optical Switch
They wouldn't let me take a picture of the actual system. But the sign is accurate: This is a demo of a 1,200-by-1,200 optical crossconnect -- an all-optical switch dating to the days of Xros. (See Nortel Buys a Monster Crossconnect and Nortel Shuts Optical Switch Effort.)
Like something from a '50s sci-fi story, it's been running, day and night, in Glimmerglass's Hayward, Calif., headquarters, chugging through its little task while waiting for a chance that might never come. Glimmerglass officials say they've sold large systems to military and defense customers, but not that large. Mostly, the market sticks to 144 ports or fewer.
Calient Technologies Inc. and Polatis Inc. agree on that, although Calient sees chances for big switches in Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexer (ROADM) networks. (Glimmerglass doesn't necessarily agree.) (See Calient Gets Ambitious With Optical Switching.)
The 1,200-by-1,200 MEMS switching element, the chip containing the micromirrors that carom a wavelength into the proper output port, is a square that's four inches on a side. It looks monstrous. I didn't verify whether every single port was hooked up, but if you want to count, be my guest.
Best part: watching the little mirrors pop in and out of place. The motion is too small and fast to see, but tiny blank squares appear and vanish in the matrix. The effect is just as visible on more normal-sized switches, but it's more fun on the big chip.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading