One hundred gigabits. How fast is that really? When we consider that just one gigabit (1,000 megabytes) can prompt a two-hour HD movie to download in just 25 seconds , speedy is more of an understatement.
In 2010, the IEEE introduced the 802.3ba standard for 100G, the networking technology that transmits Ethernet frames at rates of 100 gigabits per second (100 Gbit/s), in response to the ever-increasing data center demands for bandwidth required by network operators.
As Ethernet technology evolves and the need for faster applications spurs changes in data-carrying techniques, standards have progressed and expanded bandwidth for transporting that data.
To meet the growing demands, manufacturers of optical components and modules have had to develop and evolve by producing solutions that comply with the standards in order to support a variety of transmission distances.
The year 2016 was a year of record-level optics demand, in keeping with many expert projections for that year.
The surge was seen first in long-haul networks and then became a sensible component of metro networks. According to LightCounting, a market research and consulting company, deployments of 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) optics in mega data centers will contribute the most to market growth in 2017, while the broader market will hold steady.
So far, we have already seen 100G optics expand reach. Mobifone announced it would deploy 100G with Nokia; PSNC in Poland deployed 100G FSP 3000 that will supply 96-channel 100-Gbps capabilities to a research and education network; and Telefonica Germany and Corian teamed up to test 100G fiber networks—just to name a few instances of the growing, global technology.
With expansion of 100G capabilities comes an increase in products from optics manufacturers looking to assist customers in pushing the limits of higher data rates, evolving standards, and cutting-edge research while reducing time-to-market with high-performance solutions.
“With 100G moving into production and 400G design efforts in full swing, the test challenges around characterization, verification and debug of both silicon and system designs have never been greater,” said Brian Reich, general manager, Performance Oscilloscopes, Tektronix.
What can we expect for 100G going forward?
In essence, there are really two variations of optics we are referring to when discussing 100G. There are 100G optics for short distances, like the ones used in data centers, and 100G optics for long distances.
Looking at these markets separately, they tell two slightly different stories. The short-reach 100G optics market is currently performing very well. In contrast, the long-distance optics market is slowing down marginally. Dr. Vladimir Kozlov, CEO and founder of LightCounting Market Research, attributes some of this market lethargy to the lower than projected demand in optical networking equipment, modules, and components in China.
“It is still growing, but not as fast,” says Kozlov.
This slowdown created some anxiety in the market, but LightCounting anticipates that Chinese service providers will increase bandwidth of their DWDM networks by 40% this year, though they will still need to catch up in 2018 in order to keep on track with growth in network traffic.
This longer-reach optics market is already beginning to adopt 200G and 400G and will begin selling in this realm later this year. While Kozlov does not anticipate that 100G will slow down over the next five years, he admits some applications will find a better fit in 200G and 400G.
When it comes to shorter-distance optics, it is important to remember that this type of Ethernet began selling just last year, so it is still fairly new and holding steady.
But what comes after 100G? Market analysts are witnessing some uncertainty as to where this segment of the industry will go. Will it begin to ship 400G, which could take years, or will it use 200G as the interim solution?
According to Kozlov, companies like Google are already adopting 200G and plan to implement it by 2018-2019, while others, like Microsoft, plan to skip directly to 400G as a solution. However, one hindrance in the nearer future to the implementation of 400G may be that it is not truly feasible at the prices and power consumption it will be available in.
Technological limitations are likely to limit the latest increase in spectral efficiency for per-channel data rates beyond 100G. Even still, 400G- (and dare we say 1,000G?) based systems will offer new opportunities to enrich network efficiency.
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