Member News - March 2013

Industry Member News

01 March, 2013

Industry News

OIDA’s Workshop on Data Centers at OFC

The topic of optics in data centers heated up in January with an announcement by Intel that it is collaborating with Facebook with a silicon photonics solution for next-generation server racks, in Facebook’s Open Compute Project. This is timely, with OIDA’s workshop on the topic coming up on March 17, collocated with OFC.

Cloud services—which are based on data centers—are becoming increasingly important. One of the challenges of cloud services that do “correlative” processing (such as for search, and social networking) is that they drive demand for massive volumes of optical links for cost- and energy-efficient interconnects. Cisco projects that the growth in traffic associated with cloud data centers is growing at greater than 100x per decade, with over ¾ of the traffic occurring within the data center itself (see figure, from Cisco’s Global Cloud Index, 2012).

IBM is on the record that it makes supercomputers with over 500,000 VCSELs. The number of lasers in a large “warehouse computing” data center may be even more. Rows of racks can interconnect with other rows of racks, row upon row, with perhaps 1 million lasers or more per data center (the operators won’t say). That’s assuming the optical links are only outside the rack. Inside the rack may still be all copper. If optics replaces copper within the rack, the number would go up some more.

There is still more pressure to increase bandwidth, and reduce power and cost—that is, to reduce the $/mW/Gbps and other metrics—but the current solutions may have run out of steam. Is silicon photonics the answer? We know what Intel and Facebook think, with the January announcement. Others say that it’s not so clear. One comment was that some of the seeming differences in approach are exaggerated by people seeking venture financing. Is a lot of the battle really over patents, not sheer cost and performance? Meanwhile, OIDA commissioned Karen Liu of Ovum to ponder the actual market opportunity for optics in the data center, to see if it’s enough to drive a new market segment, or if it’s too narrow to merit heavy investment.

FREE Registration for all OIDA Members! Click here to register!

Not an OIDA member? We still hope to see you there! Register here!

OIDA is co-hosting the workshop with the U.S. National Science Foundation, and NSF’s Center for Integrated Access Networks (CIAN), which is led by the University of Arizona. For more information, contact Brooke Hirsch.

Key U.S. Photonics Companies Grow 3% in 2012

Been wondering how the U.S. photonics industry did last year? The figure below shows the performance of selected large U.S.-based photonics companies. The strong recovery in 2010 and 2011 slowed in 2012 to 2.8% for these companies. This chart extrapolates for the 4th quarter results, and excludes solar cell and panel suppliers. The solar sector is extremely volatile, skewing the other results.

Last month OIDA noted that economists project 2% growth in the U.S. economy. There’s talk that if sequestration sticks, it could bring down the economy one-half point in the first year. (Many of the effects hit later.) That would take the economy to about 1.5% growth, assuming nothing else happens.

For the selected U.S. photonics companies, 2013 is shown here with 4% growth, although the performance depends on each company’s exposure to key markets. A slower U.S. economy would bring that down a little. With luck, only a point or two.

Government News

OIDA and Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the new buzz word in Washington, DC (besides sequestration). Congress had hearings last year on the issue. There were reports in January from three major U.S. newspapers that they had been hacked from sites offshore. On February 12, President Obama released an executive order on the topic, aiming to do within the power of the executive branch what Congress couldn’t do itself last year. It is now a major concern among policymakers.

It sounds like material for spy movies—and some of it is—and the optics industry is in the middle of it. Here’s why.

The U.S. is large enough that it can have secure, domestic sources for a lot of its security needs, such as fighter planes or night vision cameras. Securing sources for weapons and blocking adversaries from domestic soil is as old as civilization. What’s new is that everything relies on modern communication networks: the national security apparatus, the power grid, the entire economy. Yet, the network equipment is not necessarily manufactured domestically. Meanwhile, U.S. equipment vendors struggle against market conditions, unfair trade practices, and theft of intellectual property. One can imagine a day when there are no remaining U.S. competitors, and the U.S. government (not to mention the network operators) has to buy network equipment from an adversary.

This is a novel issue in part because communication networks became so pervasive in the last few years. At the same time, the U.S. supply chain was essentially dismantled and much of it was reassembled in other countries. This process began with the divestiture of AT&T. Whatever else that did, many unforeseen results ensued, including the weakening of the U.S. communications equipment industry.

Solutions to this challenge are not straightforward. Policymakers prefer to let the communications industry operate in a free market as much as possible; for example, without trade barriers (although they aren’t out of the question). And in the coming years, limited budgets will make it more difficult than ever to solve the problem by throwing money at it. The current problem can be ameliorated, but it will take time.

OIDA has multiple efforts that relate to the cybersecurity issue. For more information, contact Tom Hausken.

OIDA Upcoming Events

Congressional Visits Day

Want a say in the upcoming FY 2013 budget process? Worried about the looming “sequester” and cuts to science? Looking for an opportunity to educate your member of Congress about the important work you are doing in their district? Participate in the annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD)! On March 12 and 13, OSA will be joining the Science, Engineering, and Technology Working Group to arrange meetings between OSA members and U.S. senators and representatives.

These meetings give the scientific community a voice in the halls of Congress - calling on elected officials to recognize the importance of science and technology and continue to support research and education initiatives. OSA organizes all aspects of the visits, from scheduling individual appointments to providing participants with training, detailed background information and talking points. No previous experience is necessary and training will be provided.

Mark your calendars to join us in DC for this unique opportunity! For more information, visit OSA’s CVD webpage, or contact Sarah Cogan ( Sign-up information will be posted online soon, so check back often!

Future Needs of “Scale-Out” Data Centers Workshop
Co-located with OFC/NFOEC 2013
17 March, 2013 – Anaheim, CA, USA

FREE Registration for all OIDA Members! Click here to register!
Not an OIDA member? We still hope to see you there! Register here!

Complimentary Program on Industrial Lasers
Co-located with OSA’s Advanced Solid-State Lasers Congress
28 October, 2013 – Paris, France

FREE Registration for anyone interested! Simply register for the Advanced Solid-State Lasers Congress as an Exhibit Attendee.