Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

LOS ANGELES -- OFC/NFOEC 2012 -- Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , trying to build a reputation for cutting-edge optical research, is showing off a switch built from the metro-ring technology of optical burst switching (OBS).

Huawei calls it the Petabit (-per-second) Photonic Cross-Connect (PPXC). While it might become a product, it's really part of Huawei's strategy to become known for something more than cheap equipment, says Reg Wilcox, the company's vice president of network marketing.

OBS is a metro technology for dynamically provisioning subwavelength capacity. Huawei took that concept and built an 80x80 matrix that uses it. The PPXC puts electronic switches on either side of that matrix, forming a Clos fabric. (That is, a multistaged, non-blocking switch fabric.)

This could be the heart of a really big OTN switch, one that could use 25Gbit/s optics to carry a capacity in the petabit range. Because OBS is a packet technology, the PPXC could also be oriented to handle packet traffic, Wilcox says.

It's about five years away from being a real product, during which time it's possible the demand for a big OTN switch might or might not emerge. "If we're wrong, it's not that hard to orient the thing for packet," Wilcox says.

OBS itself is represented in the market by basically one company, Intune Networks , and the technology hasn't had a glorious history so far. (See Is Intune Off-Key?.)

Huawei's entry into the OBS market was subtle, taking the form of a demo that seemed randomly dropped into last year's OFC/NFOEC booth. Huawei doesn't have any big OBS successes to brag about, but the product is still alive. "We got considerable interest from one customer -- not from North America -- last year, and we've got followup meetings with that customer this week," Wilcox says.

Huawei very much wants to build an image as a technology innovator, and a key part of that strategy is to have a good presence at OFC/NFOEC -- not on the exhibition floor so much as in the technical presentations.

The company presented one OFC/NFOEC paper last year and is up to 15 this year, Wilcox says.

It also got one post-deadline paper accepted, which is a pretty big deal. OFC/NFOEC spotlights the best of optical networking research -- it's Lollapalooza for Ph.Ds -- and organizations like Bell Labs and NTT Group (NYSE: NTT) sometimes save their best, most eye-catching papers for last, hoping for a post-deadline slot.

Huawei's post-deadline paper involves a prototype 40Gbit/s passive optical network (PON) created with China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) and the Beijing Research Institute. It's not an LTE iPad or anything, but for Huawei, it's a milestone.

Huawei's OFC/NFOEC booth highlighted other research dabblings including, interestingly enough, a 400Gbit/s demo very similar to what Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) had announced earlier. Like those two companies, Huawei used 16 QAM modulation to produce two 200Gbit/s wavelengths. These can fit together in a 100GHz spacing and can be packed closer together if needed.

(To read the same details, twice, see Ciena Pushes Ahead to 400G and AlcaLu Can Do 400G Too.)

AlcaLu and Ciena produced 400 Gbit/s with their own ASICs. Huawei's is an FPGA-based implementation, and Wilcox adds that it's "far from production."

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Keep up with all our OFC/NFOEC coverage at http://www.lightreading.com/ofc-nfoec.

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:40:05 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

So we have three 400G demos now that hit almost all the same bullet points. Maybe we should just call that the de facto standard. (Kidding.)

Optical burst switching -- aside from this booth and Ireland, am I ever going to see that again?

Rush21120 12/5/2012 | 5:40:02 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

CLOS is  a multi stage switch in which 3 stages ingress,middle and egress can suport non-blocking.  It's not entirely correct to suggest that the term of CLOS is fully non-blocking.  The equipment provide must show there are no blockage or performance errors under maximum switching and processing functions.  I understand what the writer is suggesting but wanted to point out that simply saying CLOS does not mean equipmnet providers get a pass when saying they have a CLOS design and sub-standard processing capabilites or latching performance.  This can also include concerns other then the data, timing or network managment planes.  

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:39:59 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

Rush - Thanks for the clarification on Clos. I basically learned the concept from chip vendors during the 1999/2000 network processor craze, so, yes, my understanding is missing some of that real-world touch.

redface 12/5/2012 | 5:39:59 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

A cursive look at this year's postdeadline papers shows a large number of papers from Bell Labs.  It's like one third to half of all papers.  I wonder if Bell Labs is still the same as before, the dominating national-monopoly fed research organization with almost unlimited resources, or simply they still occupy the screening committees of the postdeadline papers and tend to select papers from Bell Labs?  

AESerm 12/5/2012 | 5:39:58 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

Maybe the surge of papers from Huawei reflects the brainy, ex-Nortelian presence. (Such as R Wilcox.) Nortel had that brain trust status in Canada, much like Bell Labs did in the U.S.

opticaljunkie 12/5/2012 | 5:39:58 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

That is an ugly looking 16qam constellation. Not impressed. What's the baud rate?? 

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 5:39:57 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

Redface -- You know, I'd noticed that too (and it's been the same for years IIRC).  I'd wondered the first part of what you'd mentioned, about Bell Labs just continuing to get resources. Hadn't thought about the second part, but that's an interesting thought.  Alternatively (and charitably), maybe there's a bit of unconscious bias at work when someone sees "Bell Labs" at the top of a paper?

rhr 12/5/2012 | 5:39:57 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect Nice round-up of Huawei's activities. I wondered what is the de-facto standard after 100G and came to the conclusion there isn't one, not after seeing the details of Ciena's WaveLogic 3 and ALU's PSE.
einstein 12/5/2012 | 5:39:56 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

I remember speaking to Matisse another OBS pioneer vendor that has 2 small deployment. They are defunct since 2010. No one knows if OBS will ever be used in a big time.

ninjaturtle 12/5/2012 | 5:39:53 PM
re: Huawei Strives for Optical Respect

I just hope the US Government bans them from selling anything in the US. We certainly don't need there Shit. The Chinese Goverment has already laid virus's within our network systems. Last weekends 60 minutes piece made that pretty evident.

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