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Inside the 2016 OFC Conference and Expo

The OFC show will mirror a dynamic and growing industry say organizers of this year’s event.

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“With escalating bandwidth needs each year and the constant change in data rates from 10G to 40G to 100G, if you don’t attend even just one year of OFC, you are actually missing out. You are missing the latest trends, the latest developments, and the latest technologies.” – Martin Birk of AT&T Labs, the OFC 2016 program chair

OFCThe Optical Fiber Communications Conference and Exposition is set for its biggest year yet and should exceed last year’s tally of 560 exhibitors; 1,100 presentations; and 12,375 attendees from around the world. We sat down with the show’s organizers as well as some of its exhibitors to find out what we can expect of this year’s event.

Q: What technologies do you expect to take center stage this year?

A: We expect this year’s event to showcase a multitude of technologies including new research and product focus on SDN and data center optics. Specific to cabling professionals is the recent introduction of the RCx Muilti Source Agreement (MSA) – a new standard for short network cables. 

Q: What’s new with the show this year?

A: We are excited about this year’s conference. Like in past years, we host some of the most innovative names in telecom, optical communications, and datacom and offer our attendees a one-stop shop – the best technical presentations and the latest in market trends and predictions.

However, there are a few “must-sees” that you just can’t miss! Featured on our exhibit floor is a session developed by the Ethernet Alliance and entitled “Ethernet Fiber Optic Cabling Trends.” The panel, featuring speakers from Corning, CommScope, Panduit, and Amphenol, will discuss the latest trends in Ethernet fiber optic cabling. From structured cabling with low-loss connectivity to 400GbE cabling, the panel will focus on connector loss and how cabling affects the optical module standards.

Also new to OFC in 2016 is the Data Center Summit featuring a session organized by Cisco and Finisar, entitled “Next-Generation Data Center Optics.” Experts from Intel, Avago, and Broadcom will address the emerging optics needs of the data center market and the discussion will compare and contrast the needs and solutions for the hyperscale and enterprise data center markets, for both the next wave of deployments at 25GbE and 100GbE, as well as the next generation based on 50GbE, 400GbE, and possible derivatives (for example, 200G).

On Thursday, the Plastic Optical Fiber Trade Organization (POFTO) is organizing a POF Symposium that will cover recent developments in POF technology, applications, technical standards, industry progress, and new markets. Speakers from around the world will review opportunities for POF in areas such as Gigabit POF, 4K/8K ultra high-definition television (UHDTV), home networking, IPTV, consumer devices, aerospace and automobile applications, POF sources and sensors, and high-temperature POF, among others.

Q: What should attendees plan to take away from OFC?

A: Through diverse technical programming and special sessions, we designed OFC to empower industry thought leaders and executives with compelling and dynamic content. Our exhibit floor and conference features global leaders, diverse programming, interactive workshops, and unique technical sessions making it a “can’t-miss” event for the optical communications industry. There is truly something for everyone – from optical components to optical transport systems.

Q: Is there any one thing in particular that you think the show floor will be buzzing about?

A: With a gathering of 12,000 optical communications professionals, we see OFC as the critical event for the industry. Early discussion among industry thought leaders and analysts indicates there will be a great deal of buzz about 100G, SDN, and silicon photonics.

For more information on IFC’s program this year, watch the video below:

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We also spoke to some of the exhibitors at this year’s event to find out what they’ll feature as well as what they hope and expect to see.

AMETEK Electronic Components & Packaging (ECP) will showcase its hermetic packaging, glass-to-metal seal (GTMS), and high-temperature co-fired ceramics (HTCC) capabilities. It will also emphasize its RF expertise by introducing Craig Vieira, the newly hired RF design engineer, who will be able to discuss the RF innovations taking place at the company, including updates on last year’s OFC launch of the S-BEND Ceramic Feedthrough.

“We believe that the next-generation 400G systems, including modulator, TOSA/ROSA modules, and coherent receivers, will dominate the exhibition hall,” says Ildar Bekbay, business development manager for AMETEK ECP. “We believe that this year’s OFC exhibition will continue the momentum towards higher-bandwidth 400G systems with new hardware being introduced. The 400G deployments are expected to jump as a result of service providers being more comfortable with advanced optical modulations and with customers pushing for higher speeds and bandwidths.”

FCI will showcase both optics as well as copper products at its booth, including high-speed copper and optical cable assemblies and some new connectors and cable assembly solutions. There also will be a 25Gb/s Optical Interop Live Traffic demo with AFCI’s OBT300G and TE’s Coolbit MBOM. As for what FCI’s team would like to see at the show, Evelyn Wee says, “We are interested to see how silicon photonics is coming along, as well as PAM-4 encoding for optical links.”

Fiber Optic Center will host a technical discussion at its booth (2308) at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 23. Discussions will include optical coatings, optical cable and optical cable assembly problems, adhesives options, and new announcements in lapping film. Randall Elgin will speak on low refractive index coating with simple application for antireflection films, fiber, and waveguide cladding in optical coatings; Wayne Kachmar will lead interactive discussions on demonstrated practical experiences ranging from invention to full production of cutting-edge cable designs in optical cable; both Kelly Barker and Mario Goduco will be on hand to discuss FOC’s extensive work to ensure the correct epoxy amounts in the connector, packaging options, and epoxy rings with visual inspection; and Donna Brodie will lead the discussion on lapping film and the latest Ultimas-P, a cost-effective protrusion-producing film that meets Telcordia specifications. Samples of this new high-performance final film will be available upon request.

The major focus at the Hirose booth will be waterproof optical connectors, high-speed board-to-board connectors, and RF connectors available up to 65GHz. Products on display include a waterproof bayonet lock connector with built-in standard LC duplex connectors; multi-channel waterproof optical fiber connectors; high-speed (10Gb/s and 25Gb/s) BGA mezzanine connectors; screw-lock 65GHz coaxial connectors; 65GHz push-on lock connectors; and a small-sized optical active connector.

Bill Kysiak, product marketing manager at Hirose, says he is excited to learn more about the latest trends in optical components at the show: “We believe the major trends will be multi-channel optical modules and optical backplane with MT ferrule connectors for multi-channel modules. These items meet the upcoming market requirements of the increased optical channel lines, maintaining the original components size or even contributing to the downsizing of components. We also expect outdoor-usage waterproof connectors will be an upcoming trend.”

Kysiak adds that “lens-type MT ferrule is a major change among many developments considered. Lens attachment enables operators to eliminate the cleaning process on the component mating face, which has long been a process that operators need to perform regularly. Connector performance is reduced when dust occurs between the connectors’ mating faces. Lens attachment resolves this issue, providing higher reliability of signal transmission.”

Molex will feature new product demonstrations plus a product showcase of innovative solutions for optical communications and networking applications. Live demonstrations in the Molex/Oplink booth will include its Impel Plus Backplane Connector System, which will be operating in compliance to OIF CEI-56G-LR on various channel lengths using advanced hybrid dielectric materials and Credo Semiconductor’s PAM4 test silicon. The live demonstration will provide critical channel output through a complete high-speed link, leveraging Credo’s PAM4 SerDes technology to transmit 56Gb/s PAM4 data through the Impel/Impel Plus copper backplane solution from Molex.

Additionally, Molex will showcase its MXC Optical Interconnect Solution with its FlexiBend Boot Cable Assemblies. Enabling superior scalability, the MXC Optical Interconnect with Versabeam expanded MT technology is combined with FlexiBend boots to alleviate cable management issues. Also on display will be the High-Density Multiport Optical EMI Shielding Adapters, which address mechanical design requirements that limit EMI and radio frequency interference (RFI) emissions from front panels or enclosures.

TE Connectivity will demonstrate its latest innovations including the world’s first microQSFP optical transceiver and new microQSFP high-speed I/O solutions; Advanced Mid Board Optical (MBO) Modules that feature its award-winning Coolbit optical engines; and premium QSFP and QSFP28 active optical connectors and cable assemblies. The company will also be featured in a number of panels and sessions, including a panel on signal integrity moderated by Nathan Tracy; an OIG Workshop on 100G serial electrical links; a panel on optics inside the data center; and others.

Ironwood Electronics will display high-performance IC sockets and adapters at its booth this year, featuring a 75Ghz-bandwidth BGA socket. COO Ila Pal says he is looking forward to seeing the next generation of pluggable, integrated devices for optical communication on the show floor, and expects that 5G, RADAR, and 100G Ethernet will dominate the event. He also believes the product area that will have changed the most since last year’s OFC is Ethernet applications and components to support data rates of 100Gb/s to 400Gb/s. “In this era, data transfer is expected to happen instantaneously. Everyone wants everything at their fingertips.”

Samtec will focus on its mid-board and panel optical systems. Its booth will feature a number of products including the FireFly system, which enables chip-to-chip, board-to-board, on-board, and system-to-system connectivity at data rates up to 28Gb/s; the new FQSFP Series, a flyover QSFP assembly that improves signal integrity by flying critical data over lossy PCB materials to provide more flexibility in the system architecture; and its advanced IC packaging capabilities through Samtec Microelectronics. The Samtec Microelectronics Group offers advanced IC packaging and assembly capabilities, as well as the ability to assist in choosing the best technology and materials for a specific application.

Two demonstrations will be set up at the booth: The first is a system-level demonstration of high-speed signal transfer rates at 28Gb/s, FireFly high-speed optical links at 28Gb/s, and signal quality performance of the ExaMAX backplane connector; the second is a demonstration of a FireFly 14Gb/s optical link in a FMC VITA 57.1 form factor for FPGA applications for the high-performance computing, rugged military, and industrial markets.

“I think we will see a lot of 100G Ethernet (4X25 applications) and hear a lot of talk about silicon photonics,” says Glenn Dixon, of Samtec Optical and IC Packaging Groups. “I’m not sure how much silicon photonics we will actually see, but it will be a hot topic. I think these will be two prominent topics because they are the next steps in speed, cost, and channel count/density in optical technology. I think we will see more actual 28G deployment, whether in QSFP 28G or mid-board optic applications. This will be the breakout year where we see more of them in applications and production.”

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Patricia Staino

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