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Optical/IP

Pecking at the Terabit Question

11:00 AM -- As it looks beyond 100Gbit/s, the network transport sector doesn't seem much closer to declaring whether it will pursue 400Gbit/s or 1Tbit/s (or both), but that doesn't mean nothing is happening.

The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) is announcing some new high-speed projects on Wednesday, including an intentionally vague framework for Whatever Comes After 100Gbit/s.

The real name is the Next Generation Interconnect Framework, but the point is that the Forum is going to investigate whatever elements are necessary -- optics, electronics, connectors -- to create one foundation for future high-speed transmission. (See OIF Looks Beyond 100G.)

It's very vague, as OIF board member Jeff Hutchins admits. When the group first convenes in October in Beijing, at the OIF's quarterly meeting, it'll probably spend a lot of time talking about what to talk about -- setting boundaries, in other words.

But the OIF could pin down some variables, the way it did by settling on coherent detection and one modulation scheme for 100Gbit/s. The group might not settle the matter of 400Gbit/s versus 1Tbit/s right away, and it would still have to sync up with whatever the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) decides.

At least, though, the OIF could collect the engineering work that's been done so far and start identifying specific questions to address. The IEEE is already doing some of that on the electronics side, and the OIF could similarly organize the work behind line-side optics.

"When the 100Gbit/s project started out, it was a similar vague thing," Hutchins says. "But there were all sorts of sub-processes that started after that," specific problems for specific sectors of the industry to tackle. It's a way to start breaking down the problem.

The OIF is still riding the goodwill of having unified the industry on 100Gbit/s, and at the same time, all the vendors -- of components, connectors, chips and systems -- say they want to avoid the standards-free anarchy of the 40Gbit/s generation. They'll be eager to support the new framework.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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