I had the pleasure to attend OFC in Los Angeles this year and be one of the panelists on the conference’s “The Buzz” panel.

There were a few highlights from the conference that I believe were especially interesting, particularly as my research coverage areas include Routers and Passive Optical Networks (PON):

  • Upcoming high-speed client-side interfaces including CFP4 and QSP28,
  • Next generation PON technologies, and
  • Software Defined Networking.

High-speed client-side interfaces

In the Service Provider Router world, 100GE interfaces thus far have been dominated by C Form-factor Pluggable (CFP) and more recently CFP2 and CPAK by Cisco. Originally when CFP came out, the high power and size requirements limited deployments as service providers were required to take expensive line card real estate in their Routers, and to only allow one, maybe two CFP ports per line card. When CFP2 and CPAK (which are smaller and more power-efficient than CFP) came out, we started to see an uptick in demand for 100GE ports. But now, the QSFP world has produced its own solution: the QSFP28 – with its four channels (hence the Q for quad) of 25 Gbps, each pluggable can get you to 100GE at a slightly smaller size and lower power than CFP4. Plus, there are plans to introduce LR4, or long range (10 km) variations.

I expect the QSFP28 to be the primary 100GE choice in data centers, but for Service Provider Routers, I’m not sure just yet–CFP4 may be out a little earlier than QSFP28, but service providers may opt to wait if the proper line cards and benefits present themselves.

Next generation PON technologies

In 2014, PON recorded impressive growth. And while deployments into China continued to grow, maintaining over 50% of worldwide deployments, we saw an even higher growth rate out of Europe, Middle East, and Africa. In 2014, the PON market was nearly $5.5B. Going forward, operators are looking at 10G-PON or WDM-PON as the successor, but the return on investment doesn’t seem to be there. Instead, it looks like TWDM-PON will likely be the next mass-deployed version of PON.

As the two of the largest PON vendors—Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei—are already onboard with TWDM-PON, the technology is likely to see even faster adoption. I don’t envisage this happening until the 2017-2018 timeframe, but by then there will be a greater need for it as residential broadband demands ever higher speeds, and network elements such as small cells are deployed in greater quantities.

Software Defined Networking

Software Defined Networking, or SDN, was once again a big topic of conversation. The big difference we saw this year is that Service Providers were actually doing something with it rather than just talking about it. The three current paths seem to be:

  • Traditional Vendor (e.g., Cisco, Juniper)
  • Third-party Vendor (e.g., Sedona Systems), or
  • ‘Homebrew’ systems that the service providers make themselves.

It was an exciting conference that truly showed progress in a variety of technologies that have been discussed over the past few years. Now for some real deployments!


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Posted by Alam on March 31, 2015

About Alam

Alam Tamboli joined Dell’Oro Group in 2012 and is responsible for the Broadband Access, and Router & Carrier Ethernet Switch market research programs. Prior to joining Dell’Oro Group, Alam spent seven years in Financial Analysis and Engineering.