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100 Gigabit direct detection gains wider backing

More vendors are coming to market with 100 Gigabit direct detection products for metro and private networks. 

The emergence of a second de-facto 100 Gigabit standard, a complement to 100 Gigabit coherent, has gained credence with 4x28 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) direct detection announcements from Finisar and Oclaro, as well as backing from system vendor, ECI Telecom.



"We believe that in some cases operators will prefer to go with this technology instead of coherent"

Shai Stein, CTO, ECI Telecom 


ECI Telecom and chip vendor MultiPhy announced at OFC/NFOEC that they have been collaborating to develop a 168-pin MSA, 5x7-inch 100 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) direct detection module. Finisar and Oclaro used the show held in Los Angeles to announce their market entry with 100Gbps direct detection CFP pluggable optical modules. 

Late last year ADVA Optical Networking announced the industry's first 100Gbps direct detection product. At the same time, MultiPhy detailed its MP1100Q receiver chip designed for 100Gbps direct detection.

According to ECI, by having the 168-pin MSA interface, one line card can support a 100Gbps coherent transponder or the 100Gbps direct detection. "This is important as it enables us to fit the technology and price to the needs of end customers," says Shai Stern, CTO of ECI Telecom.


100 Gigabit transmission

Coherent technology has become the de-facto standard for 100Gbps long-haul transmission. Using dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), system vendors can achieve 1,500km and greater reaches using a 50GHz channel. 

But coherent designs are relatively costly and 100Gbps direct detection offers a cost-conscious alternative for metro networks and for linking data centres, achieving a reach of up to 800km. 

"It [100 Gig direct detection] provides needed performance at an attractive cost, in particular when you are looking at private optical networks," says Per Hansen, vice president of product marketing, optical networks solutions at Oclaro. 

Such networks need not be owned by private enterprises, they can belong to operators, says Hansen, but they are typically simple point-to-point connections or 3- to 4-node rings serving enterprises. "Bonding adjacent [4x28Gbps] wavelengths to create a 100Gbps channel that connects efficiently to your [IP] router is very attractive in such networks," says Hansen.

For more complex mesh metro networks, coherent is more attractive. "Simply because of the spectral resources being taken up through the mesh [with 4x28Gbps], and the operational aspect of routeing that," says Hansen. 

ECI Telecom says that it has yet to decide whether it will adopt 100Gbps direct detection. But it does see a role for the technology in the metro since the 100Gbps technology works well alongside networks with 10 and 40 Gigabit on-off keying (OOK) channels. "We believe that in some cases operators will prefer to go with this technology instead of coherent," says Stein. 

Some operators have chosen to deploy coherent over new overlay networks, to avoid the non-linear transmission effects that result from mixing old and new technologies on the one network. "With this technology, operators can stay with their existing networks yet benefit from 100 Gig high capacity links," says Stein.

Finisar says 100Gbps direct detection is also suited to low-latency applications. "The fact that it is not coherent means it doesn't include a DSP chip, enabling it to be used for low latency applications," says Rafik Ward, vice president of marketing at Finisar.



The announced 100Gbps direct detection designs all use 4x28Gbps channels and optical duo-binary (ODB) modulation, although MultiPhy also promotes an 80km point-to-point OOK version (see Table).

 Source: Gazettabyte


The module input is a 10x10Gbps electrical interface: a CFP interface or the 168-pin line side MSA. A 'gearbox' IC is used to translate between the 10x10Gbps electrical interface and the four 28Gbps channels feeding the optics. 

"There are a few suppliers that are offering that [gearbox IC]," says Robert Blum, director of product marketing for Oclaro's photonic components. AppliedMicro recently announced a duplex multiplexer-demultiplexer IC. 

MultiPhy's receiver chip has a digital signal processor (DSP) that implements the maximum likelihood sequence estimation (MLSE) algorithm, which is says enables 10 Gig opto-electronics to be used for each channel. The result is a 100Gbps module based on the cost of 4x10Gbps optics. However, over-driving the 10Gbps opto-electronics creates inter-symbol interference, where the energy of a transmitted bit leaks into neighbouring signals. MultiPhy's DSP using MLSE counters the inter-symbol interference. 


100G direct detection module showing MultiPhy's MP1100Q chip. Source: MultiPhy


Oclaro and Finisar claim that using ODB alone enables the use of lower-speed opto-electronics. "This is irrespective of whether you use MLSE or hard decision," says Blum. "The advantage of using optical duo-binary modulation is that you can use 10G-type optics."

Finisar's Ward points out that by using ODB, the 100Gbps direct-detection module avoids the price/ power penalty associated with a receiver DSP running MLSE to compensate for sub-optimal optical components.

Oclaro, however, has not ruled out using MLSE in future. The company endorsed MultiPhy's MLSE device when the product was first announced but its first 100G transceiver is not using the IC. 

Finisar and Oclaro's modules require 200GHz to transmit the 100Gbps signal: 4x50GHz channels, each carrying the 28Gbps signal. "This architecture will enable 2.5x the spectral efficiency of tunable XFPs," says Ward. Using XFPs, ten would be needed for a 100Gbps throughput, each channel requiring 50GHz or 500GHz in total. 

MultiPhy claims that it can implement the 100Gbps in a 100GHz channel, 5x the efficiency but still twice the spectrum used for 100Gbps coherent.

Finisar demonstrated its 100Gbps CFP module with SpectraWave, a 1 rack unit (1U) DWDM transport chassis, at OFC/NFOEC. "It provides all the things you need in line to enable a metro Ethernet link: an optical multiplexer and  demultiplexer, amplification and dispersion compensation," says Ward. Up to four CFPs can be plugged into the SpectraWave unit.


Operator interest 

In a recent survey published by Infonetics Research, operators had yet to show interest in 100Gbps direct detection. Infonetics attributed the finding to the technology still being unavailable and that operators hadn't yet assessed its merits.

"Operators are aware of this technology," says ECI's Stein. "It is true they are waiting to get a proof-of-concept and to test it in their networks and see the value they can get.

"That is why ECI has not yet decided to go for a generally-available product: we will deliver to potential customers, get their feedback and then take a decision regarding a commercial product," says Stein.

However MultiPhy claims that this is the first technology that enables 100Gbps in a pluggable module to achieve a reach beyond 40km. That fact coupled with the technology's unmatched cost-performance is what is getting the interest. "Every time you show a potential user some way they can save on cost, they are interested," says Neal Neslusan, vice president of sales and marketing at MultiPhy.


Direct detection roadmap

Recent announcements by Cisco Systems, Ciena, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei highlight how the system vendors will use advanced modulation and super-channels to evolve coherent to speeds beyond 100Gbps. Does direct detection have a similar roadmap?

"I don't think that this on-off keying technology is coming instead of coherent," says Stein. "Once we move to super-channel and the spectral densities it can achieve, coherent technology is a must and will be used."  But for 40Gbps and 100Gbps, what ECI calls intermediate rates, direct detection extends the life of OOK and existing network infrastructure.

ECI and MultiPhy are members of the Tera Santa Consortium developing 1 Terabit coherent technology, and MultiPhy stresses that as well as its direct detection DSP chips, it is also developing coherent ICs.


Further reading: 100 Gigabit: The coming metro opportunity

Reader Comments (2)

Biplab Pal via LinkedIn

Interesting. But I am still doubtful because PMD issues are too difficult to handle for 100G direct detection. As long as that 80km or short fiber is a good fiber - I mean low PMD fiber -this may be ok. But I am not sure, this can be even as "roughly" assuring as 10G XFPs.

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoy Rubenstein

Stephan Rettenberger via LinkedIn

PMD limitations were discussed when 10G serial transmission systems came to market and then resurfaced at serial 40Gbaud transmission.

The 100G metro solutions discussed in this article refer to 4x28Gbaud solutions with direct detection. These are less sensitive to PMD than 40Gbaud direct detection systems and therefore very suitable for data center connectivity and metro infrastructure.

March 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoy Rubenstein

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