Optical Could Be Next Bottleneck, Warns Alcatel-Lucent CMO

CANNES, France -- ECOC 2014 -- The optical sector underpins pretty much every major communications networking development under the sun, but the perception of "value" has shifted elsewhere, leaving optics somewhat in the shadows, according to Tim Krause, chief marketing officer at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).

Delivering a keynote speech here at the European Conference on Optical Communications (ECOC) in sunny Cannes Monday morning, Krause noted that the optical sector has been "marginalized" in today's communications industry, yet the pressure to develop faster and cheaper products is greater than ever as systems vendors and network operators try to figure out how to build networks that can cope with the anticipated growth in data volumes. (See Bell Labs Sees 560% Boost in Metro Data Traffic.)

Those considerations now, of course, revolve around virtualization, as the industry figures how SDN and NFV might make networks more efficient, reactive and manageable. "Our customers are saying they want something different -- they want quantum change in the economics of how networks are built and run," he noted.

With those considerations come questions around the three "Cs":

  • Connectivity -- how this can be achieved in a secure fashion;
  • Complexity -- a major issue as the industry tries to figure out how virtualized networks and functions will be managed (a consideration that will even reach down to the optical layer in some instances, noted Krause);
  • Commercial -- what is the return on investment (ROI) model for the next generation of networks and applications?

    With multiple developments underway to meet these challenges, Krause believes the optical piece of the puzzle might become the next bottleneck that holds back the development of the communications sector.

    "It's not just about speed -- it's the business models that matter. The technology has to deliver something ... the cycle times in optical are just too long. Don't just think about what you can develop, but how," he told a packed auditorium of optical specialists.

    Currently it can take between two to three years for a product to be developed to commercial availability after the original proposition, "but there is no time for that," noted Krause. The optical sector has to move faster avoid being the bottleneck, he noted.

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    At this point it's worth noting that Krause hasn't just parachuted into an optical industry event and addressed an industry sector about which he knows little. His early years in telecom were steeped in optical, having worked on SONET product development at Rockwell in the last century (sounds a long time ago, eh?) before it was acquired by Alcatel in 1996. He has spent much of his career since in various roles at Alcatel and Alcatel-Lucent, and can claim to have been instrumental in the increasingly important acquisition of TiMetra in 2003. He survived as a senior member of the vendor's management team when Michel Combes took the helm in 2013. (See Euronews: Krause Is AlcaLu CMO – Again! and Alcatel & TiMetra Seal the Deal.)

    Krause closed his speech by citing John Donovan, senior executive vice president for architecture, technology and operations at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T). He recalls the AT&T executive saying that "the difference between invention and innovation is that innovation is invention with commercial relevance." And that's the approach he'd like the optical sector to take to heart: "These are very exciting times for optical -- we can innovate to secure the future," concluded Krause.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

  • Liz Greenberg 9/23/2014 | 6:20:35 PM
    Re: Funny, but I can see it Exactly Seven...although some of the fiber still exists and is just dark without any ownership.  The Global West Network running up the coast of California is one of those.  Although at this point who knows what kind of shape the fiber is in!  But more to your point, get what you need where is the crux of the matter and that is the key challenge.
    brooks7 9/23/2014 | 1:10:49 PM
    Re: Funny, but I can see it Well, what actually happened if you recall is that lots of fiber was installed between the NFL citiies and not much else happened.

    I know a lot of the installed fiber got lost as companies went out of business.  

    I think the one struggle is always going to be the value of purely optical versus packet optical versus optics on packet gear.  End customers (outside the wholesale market) generally want IP or Ethernet connections.  So how much traffic grooming do you do where?  That will continue to be the fight.


    thebulk 9/23/2014 | 10:01:34 AM
    Re: Funny, but I can see it I remember the first dot com boom, I wasnt on the telecom side then but all the talk was "we need more fiber" "More fiber would be great" 
    Liz Greenberg 9/22/2014 | 7:35:44 PM
    Re: Funny, but I can see it It is deja vu all over again but with a twist.  Back before the first dot bomb crisis fiber was literally both the bottleneck and the saving gracew as there just wasn't enough bandwidth to go around.  Fast forward and that is still pretty much the same but the twist being how to squeeze even more out of it with respect to all the C's mentioned. It is once again an exciting timein the fiber industry.
    thebulk 9/22/2014 | 6:09:01 PM
    Funny, but I can see it it is sort of funny to see Optical as being the bottlenet, but the way its explained here I can sort of see it. Though really its hard to image.
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