What's Coming at NXTcomm

The optical industry is geared up for NXTcomm08 in Las Vegas. While I don't get too excited about Las Vegas in particular, I do always look forward to the NXTcomm event (Supercomm in years past). It tends to be a great conference for systems-level optical networking suppliers to announce their biggest innovations.

Here's what I think will be interesting on the optical front.

40G with a smooth path to 100G: 40G has certainly heated up this year, but we're finding that 40G can't be talked about without also outlining the near-term path to 100G. The reason is that 100G standards and technology are coming quickly, and operators aren't going to make a 40G investment without a solid understanding that the vendors are also ready for 100G. Nortel Networks Ltd. got good marketing traction when it delivered this 40G and 100G message early in the year, based on its 2-pol QPSK modulation innovations. Now, OpVista Inc. is claiming its own breakthrough technology, called dense multicarrier, which will allow operators to migrate to both 40G and 100G. OpVista made the announcement in May, but the official product unveiling is at NXTcomm. If the products perform as advertised, the new innovations could give the company a much-needed market boost.

More photonic integration: I have written before in these pages and in Heavy Reading research reports that photonic integration will play a critical role in solving the fundamental challenge in carrier networks of rapidly growing bits and slow-growing revenue streams. Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) continues to innovate on the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) front and has just announced its foray into passive PICs, with new chips that integrate the functionality of 40 passive components and are a key part of the vendor's new 160-channel optical line system (all C-band), called ILS2.

Packet optical networking: The debate rages on two main fronts right now. First, what is the best packet-optical migration architecture for network operators? The options include converged packet-optical transport systems, CESR platforms over DWDM, and integrated optics on routers (IP over DWDM). Second, which connection-oriented Ethernet technology is best? There is a possibility that different connection-oriented Ethernet technologies will be used on different platforms. There will be a lot of debate on these topics at NXTcomm, though I'm not sure how much will be resolved before the operators themselves are able to make up their minds on these major packet-optical issues.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

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