By Kees Propstra,
VP Marketing & General Manager Quantifi Photonics USA
It was a pleasure to visit San Diego for OFC’23 and meet people again without COVID restrictions. There is nothing better than real face-to-face personal interaction.
The OFC (Optical Fiber Communication) Conference is the preeminent annual technology conference on optical communication where we techies love to discover (and boast) about new products and our crowning achievements.
This year, it appears we have officially entered the T-era, with many talking about their Terabits-per-second devices, from start-ups such as Ayar Labs, Nubis Communications, Poet Technologies to more established companies like Lumentum and Coherent.
Silicon Photonics and Co-Packaged Optics remain hot topics and are seen as enablers of the next generation of optical networking. But there is a lot more going on under the surface.
Silicon Photonics is going hybrid (? – still does not lase) and the concepts of Co-Packaging are gaining ground, and will soon be used for traditional pluggables (miniaturization and keep those distances short between E and O). Speaking of pluggables, OSFP-XD received strong interest with demos and announcements from several companies showing 200G per Lambda optical signaling in multiple different technologies.
Power consumption remains one of the bigger challenges for the industry and there were a number of proposed solutions on display. These included a resurrection of Lithium Niobate with ultra-high-speed Thin Film Lithium Niobate (TFLN) modulators (Hyperlight), and the promising (but apparently not for everyone 😊) linear drive variant which seems to have a bit of an uphill battle to convince the non-believers.
Coherent optical is always on the verge of breaking into the data center but with Intel’s O-band SiPho Coherent announcement it is truly getting a step closer.
Overall, from a technology point of view, there was no shortage of excitement on the show floor at OFC’23. But to me, OFC is and always will be much more than that.
I first attended OFC at the San Jose convention center many years ago (in 1998 if we’re counting), and every year I’m still running into colleagues, customers, and competitors from that era. In some ways the conference feels like an annual reunion of old and new optical friends, and I suspect I’m not alone in looking forward to this event that is always so professionally engaging and personally rewarding.
In some of my many conversations, we reminisced about the first optical network switches, ROADMs, optical cross connects, Telcordia standards and integrated optics (silica-on-silicon, polymer, ion-exchange glass) for telecom applications. Does anyone remember the PHASAR?
Now the focus has shifted to ultra-high-bandwidth, high-density, low-power transceiver technologies (IMDD and Coherent) with IEEE and OIF (Karl rocks in so many different ways) as the key governing bodies to enable hyper-scale data centers and high-performance computing and artificial intelligence architectures.
This technology evolution is a constant force, and thankfully, so too is the connection with the people from the industry. Perhaps OFC can rebrand as the “Optical Friends Conference” to capture this spirit.
It is the people that make OFC such a great event and it is a true honor to be part of this marvelous community. Thank you, and I can’t wait to see you again at OFC’24.
Quantifi Photonics – your partner for testing SiPho, PICs and CPO.