Poll Points to All-Optical Future
Some good and some bad news for developers of all-optical switches is coming out of Light Reading's research poll this month. The good news is that most folk expect a sizeable market for this type of equipment to develop within two years. The bad news is that a lot of startups developing all-optical switches won’t be around to enjoy it.
The survey asks respondents to cast their minds forward two years and say what the market for all-optical switches will look like by then.
All-optical switches route light from one fiber to the next without converting it into electrical signals. Vendors already shipping this type of equipment are still rare. The most prominent is Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV), but quite a large number of other equipment vendors are developing all-optical switches, often based on 2D MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) modules from OMM Inc.
So far, close to 180 people have taken the Light Research poll. Of those, 66 percent think that more than one in ten new switches being installed in long-haul backbones will be all-optical in two years’ time. In fact, 22 percent think that more than half of new switches will be all-optical.
The corresponding figures for metro networks are surprisingly high. 52 percent think more than one in ten new switches will be all-optical, and 19 percent think that more than half will be.
2D MEMS is considered by poll respondents to be the most promising optical switching fabric. When asked which technology would be carrying live traffic in more than 100 networks in two years’ time, 49 percent cited 2D MEMS.
3D MEMS isn’t far behind, with 37 percent, which is surprising, considering that OMM and Onix Microsystems Inc. have mothballed development work on this technology, saying the market for it has receded by a couple of years (see OMM-inous News and Onix Follows in OMM's Footsteps).
The other popular switching fabric is the electro-optic waveguide, made in indium phosphide, gallium arsenide, or lithium niobate, which garnered votes from 31 percent of respondents.
This type of switching fabric has the advantage of being solid state -- no moving parts to stick or wear out, unlike MEMS. Vendors making switching subsystems based on this technology include Lynx Photonic Networks, Marconi PLC (Nasdaq/London: MONI), and NTT Electronics Corp. (NEL).
As noted, the bad news is that most respondents expect a massive shakeout of startups in this field. 40 percent think that more than a half will go bust in the next two years and 28 percent think more than three quarters will die.
To take the poll yourself, please go to the All-Optical Switch Research Poll
— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading
More than 60 companies – including Corvis , OMM, and Marconi – will be showing their wares at Lightspeed Europe, Light Reading’s annual conference, being held in Earl’s Court, U.K., December 4-6, 2001. Check it out at Lightspeed Europe 2001.