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The quiet period of silicon photonics 

Michael Hochberg discusses his book on silicon photonics and the status of the technology. Hochberg is director of R&D at Coriant's Advanced Technology Group. Previously he has been an Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and at the National University of Singapore. He was also a director at the Optoelectronic Systems Integration in Silicon (OpSIS) foundry, and was a co-founder of silicon photonics start-up, Luxtera.


Part 2: An R&D perspective

If you are going to write a book on silicon photonics, you might as well make it different. That is the goal of Michael Hochberg and co-author Lukas Chrostowski, who have published a book on the topic.

Michael HochbergHochberg says there is no shortage of excellent theoretical textbooks and titles that survey the latest silicon photonics research. Instead, the authors set themselves the goal of creating a design manual to help spur a new generation of designers.

The book aims to provide designers with all the necessary tools and know-how to develop silicon photonics circuits without needing to be specialists in optics.

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Silicon photonics: "The excitement has gone"

The opinion of industry analysts regarding silicon photonics is mixed at best. More silicon photonics products are shipping but challenges remain.


Part 1: An analyst perspective

"The excitement has gone,” says Vladimir Kozlov, CEO of LightCounting Market Research. “Now it is the long hard work to deliver products.” 

Dale Murray, LightCounting

However, he is less concerned about recent setbacks and slippages for companies such as Intel that are developing silicon photonics products. This is to be expected, he says, as happens with all emerging technologies.

Mark Lutkowitz, principal at consultancy fibeReality, is more circumspect. “As a general rule, the more that reality sets in, the less impressive silicon photonics gets to be,” he says. “The physics is just hard; light is not naturally inclined to work on the silicon the way electronics does.”

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Europe gets its first TWDM-PON field trial

Vodafone is conducting what is claimed to be the first European field trial of a multi-wavelength passive optical networking system using access equipment from Alcatel-Lucent. 


Source: Alcatel-Lucent



The time- and wavelength-division multiplexed passive optical network (TWDM-PON) technology being used is a next-generation access scheme that follows on from 10 gigabit GPON (XG-PON1) and 10 gigabit EPON. 


“There appears to be much more 'real' interest in TWDM-PON than in 10G GPON,” says Julie Kunstler, principal analyst, components at Ovum. 

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Silicon photonics economics set to benefit III-V photonics  

Silicon photonics promises to deliver cheaper optical components using equipment, processes and fabrication plants paid for by the chip industry. Now, it turns out, traditional optical component players using indium phosphide and gallium arsenide can benefit from similar economies, thanks to the wireless IC chip industry.


Valery TolstikhinSilicon photonics did a good thing; it turned the interest of the photonics industry to the operational ways of silicon 



So argues Valery Tolstikhin, head of a design consultancy and former founder and CTO of Canadian start-up OneChip Photonics. The expectations for silicon photonics may still to be fulfilled, says Tolstikhin, but what the technology has done is spark interest in the economics of component making. And when it comes to chip economics, volumes count.

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IBM demos a 100 Gigabit silicon photonics transceiver

IBM has demonstrated a 100 gigabit transceiver using silicon photonics technology, its most complex design unveiled to date. The 100 gigabit design is not a product but a technology demonstrator, and IBM says it will not offer branded transceivers to the marketplace.

“It is a demonstration vehicle illustrating the complex design capabilities of the technology and the functionality of the optical and electrical components,” says Will Green, manager of IBM’s silicon integrated nano-photonics group. 

Will Green

IBM has been developing silicon photonics technology for over a decade, starting with building-block optical functions based on silicon, to its current monolithic system-on-chip technology that includes design tools, testing and packaging technologies.

Now this technology is nearing commercialisation. 

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Altera’s 30 billion transistor FPGA 

  • The Stratix 10 features a routing architecture that doubles overall clock speed and core performance 
  • The programmable family supports the co-packaging of transceiver chips to enable custom FPGAs  
  • The Stratix 10 family supports up to 5.5 million logic elements
  • Enhanced security features stop designs from being copied or tampered with      

Altera has detailed its most powerful FPGA family to date. Two variants of the Stratix 10 family have been announced: 10 FPGAs and 10 system-on-chip (SoC) devices that include a quad-core 64-bit architecture Cortex-A53 ARM processor alongside the programmable logic. The ARM processor can be clocked at up to 1.5 GHz.

The Stratix 10 family is implemented using Intel’s 14nm FinFET process and supports up to 5.5 million logic elements. The largest device in Altera’s 20nm Arria family of FPGAs has 1.15 million logic elements, equating to 6.4 billion transistors. “Extrapolating, this gives a figure of some 30 billion transistors for the Stratix 10,” says Craig Davis, senior product marketing manager at Altera. 


Altera's HyperFlex routing architecture. Shown (pointed to by the blue arrow) are the HyperFlex registers that sit at the junction of the interconnect traces. Also shown are the adaptive logic module blocks. Source: Altera.

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ADVA's 100 Terabit data centre interconnect platform  

  • The FSP 3000 CloudConnect comes in several configurations
  • The data centre interconnect platform scales to 100 terabits of throughput
  • The chassis use a thin 0.5 RU QuadFlex card with up to 400 Gig transport capacity
  • The optical line system has been designed to be open and programmable

ADVA Optical Networking has unveiled its FSP 3000 CloudConnect, a data centre interconnect product designed to cater for the needs of the different data centre players. The company has developed several sized platforms to address the workloads and bandwidth needs of data centre operators such as Internet content providers, communications service providers, enterprises, cloud and colocation players.

Certain Internet content providers want to scale the performance of their computing clusters across their data centres. A cluster is a grouping of distributed computing comprising a defined number of virtual machines and processor cores (see Clusters, pods and recipes explained, bottom). Yet there are also data centre operators that only need to share limited data between their sites.

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