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60-second interview with .... Sterling Perrin

Heavy Reading has published a report Photonic Integration, Super Channels & the March to Terabit Networks. In this 60-second interview, Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at the market research company, talks about the report's findings and the technology's importance for telecom and datacom.


"PICs will be an important part of an ensemble cast, but will not have the starring role. Some may dismiss PICs for this reason, but that would be a mistake – we still need them."


Sterling Perrin, Heavy Reading


Heavy Reading's previous report on optical integration was published in 2008. What has changed?

The biggest change has been the rise of coherent detection, bringing electronics to prominence in the world of optics. This is a big shift - and it has taken some of the burden off photonic integration. Simply put, electronics has taken some of the job away from optics.


How important is optical Integration, for optical component players and for system vendors?

Until now, photonic integration has not been a ‘must have’ item for systems suppliers. For the most part, there have been other ways to get at lower costs and footprint reductions.

I think we are starting to see photonic integration move into the must-have category for systems suppliers, in certain applications, which means that it becomes a must-have item for the components companies that supply them.


How should one view silicon photonics and what importance does Heavy Reading attach to Cisco System's acquisition of silicon photonics' startup, Lightwire?

When we published the last [2008] report, silicon photonics was definitely within the hype cycle. We’ve seen the hype fade quite a bit – it’s now understood that just because a component is made with silicon, it’s not automatically going to be cheaper. Also, few in the industry continue to talk about a Moore’s Law for optics today. That said, there are applications for silicon photonics, particularly in data centre and short-reach applications, and the technology has moved forward.

Cisco’s acquisition of Lightwire is a good testament for how far the technology has come. This is a strategic acquisition, aimed at long-term differentiation, and Cisco believes that silicon photonics will help them get there.


 "It will be interesting to watch what other [optical integration] M&A activity occurs, and how this activity affects the components players"

What are the main optical integration market opportunities?

In long haul, we already see applications for photonic integrated circuits (PICs). Certainly, Infinera’s PIC-based DTN and DTN-X systems stand out. But also, the OIF has specified photonic integration in its 100 Gigabit long haul, DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) MSA (multi-source agreement) – it was needed to get the necessary size reduction.

Moving forward, there is opportunity for PICs in client-side modules as PICs are the best way to reduce module sizes and improve system density. Then, beyond 100G, to super-channel-based long-haul systems, PICs will play a big role here, as parallel photonic integration will be used to build these super-channels.


Were you surprised by any of the report's findings?

When I start researching a report, I am always hopefully for big black and white kinds of findings – this is the biggest thing for the industry or this is a dud. With photonic integration, we found such a wide array of opinions and viewpoints that, in the end, we had to place photonic integration somewhere in the middle.

It’s clear that system vendors are going to need PICs but it’s also clear that PICs alone won’t solve all the industry’s challenges. PICs will be an important part of an ensemble cast, but will not have the starring role. Some may dismiss PICs for this reason, but that would be a mistake – we still need them.


What optical integration trends/ developments should be watched over the next two years?

The year started with two major system suppliers buying PIC companies: Cisco and Lightwire and Huawei and CIP Technologies. With Alcatel-Lucent having in-house abilities, and, of course, Infinera, this should put pressure on other optical suppliers to have a PIC strategy.

It will be interesting to watch what other M&A activity occurs, and how this activity affects the components players.


The editor of Gazettabyte worked with Heavy Reading in researching photonic integration for the report. 

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