Even before OFC/NFOEC 2012 officially got underway key messages about data center innovation and the critical need for photonic integration for low-cost, low-power interconnects, as well as the need for increased interest and investment in this integrated component area were the buzz at the conference.
Workshops featured deep dives into data center architecture, and discussions varied from the distributed all-to-all Hadoop approach to thegather-scatter centralized approach.
In other workshops participants pondered issues such as having to throttle back data rates between servers and potentially turn off processors (sleep mode) to save power or how to determine the right network design that supports fast data flow and also utilizes optical pipe switching at lower power levels.
OFC/NFOEC 2012 was all about the data center. Inter DC continues to focus on scalable and simple solutions in the long haul and metro networks connecting DCs worldwide. Metro deployments are expected to be in full force in 2013 and 2014, especially if low-cost coherent technology is available.
Data interconnects are clearly the major source of bottleneck within data centers today. The industry is looking for low-cost optical interconnects to replace copper because of distance and bandwidth limitations. By using silicon photonics, optics can advance the state of art in the computing environment into a faster and more scalable data center. Silicon photonics will likely be the building block for a growing number of computing and networking products. Reduced size, power and high-volume deployment will enable more low-cost options.
Other discussions centered on the bandwidth gap. With 40 percent average traffic increase, optimistic improvements in physical hardware can help by about 10 percent. The industry needs long-term research to deliver some innovative changes as we push towards Shannon's limit for capacity.
A Final Note
The entire ecosystem is strapped for dollars and seems to be operating on much lower margins. But the feeling at the conference was very upbeat. While margins are not great for everyone, it does feel like winter is over and investment is back into start-ups, although slight, and positive outlooks are everywhere.
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Paul Saville, Level 3
Eve Griliches, ACG Research
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