Stepping on the Gas – Ethernet goes High Speed at OFC 2017

By Ethernet Alliance

For me, the OFC 2017 Ethernet Alliance booth perfectly captures the mood of the show overall, including demand for ever-higher speeds, and their implications and requirements. There continues to be an insatiable drive for more – more video, more cloud-based services, and more interactions on social media. All this demands ever-increasing network throughput and resilience…and OFC is a demonstration of how the optical industry is organizing to supply it.

Showcased in the Ethernet Alliance booth will be a live 400GbE network. Multiple participating vendors including cable, silicon, optics, and test tools providers will be running this network across the show floor, with the hub in the Ethernet Alliance booth. For me, this is a must-see demonstration. Even though the standard is not quite complete, the technology is mature enough to be incorporated into nodes and interconnects that can already be put together into operational networks.

In some ways, the Ethernet Alliance booth is a practical demonstration of all the technology that is presented and discussed in the OFC’s rich collection of tutorials, panels, short courses, symposia, and workshops.  There are hundreds of choices, making the week a great opportunity to brush up on my technical skills. However, whether you are studying new optical fiber designs, or new modulation techniques, or new photonics capabilities, they will eventually come together in a live high-speed network – like what the Ethernet Alliance is demonstrating.

Also in the Ethernet Alliance booth is a seemingly passé demonstration of 100G, 25G, and 10G interoperability. There is a dizzying array of PMDs and transceiver form factors on display in the interoperability demonstration – for example CFP8, QSFP28, QSFP, SFP28, and SFP+. A walk around the trade show floor will uncover hundreds of suppliers for all these technologies.

What this highlights for me, as a test equipment vendor, is one of the most important industry trends.  This new dynamic will be discussed in the Ethernet Alliance-hosted panel, The Fracturing and Burgeoning Ethernet Market. For enterprises and service providers deploying new high-speed Ethernet, there have never been so many great options – speeds, cabling infrastructure, transceiver form factors.  For suppliers into this market, it is difficult to find solutions that enable all those choices. Simultaneously, vendors are facing exploding growth and yet hard to chase down market niches. This will be a great panel discussion that I’m definitely looking forward to.

If you are lucky enough to attend the conference, take advantage of the chance to learn some new skills.  Then, come by the Ethernet Alliance booth #3709 and see all this technology in action!

Author:  Paul Mooney

Paul Mooney is the Director of Product Management for Spirent’s Hardware and Software Platforms. He is responsible for the definition, development and support of several lines of test equipment including the flagship Spirent Test Center.