In case you missed the announcement, IBM recently claimed a breakthrough in storage capacity on magnetic tape. Yes, the same magnetic tape that powered computers in every science fiction movie from the 1970 is still around and – at least according to IBM – still finding ways to be useful.
Magnetic tape isn’t the only technology that is staging a comeback. My teenaged daughter recently acquired not only a Polaroid camera, but also a record player. She and her friends have started collecting vinyl records again, and they aren’t the only ones. Reports have put sales of vinyl not only higher than CD sales, but even higher than streaming music sales.
The trend has even hit telecommunications. As optical networks move to higher bandwidth signals that no longer fit into the 50GHz spectrum, the term “flexgrid” is all the rage. Flexgrid will allow filters on a WDM network to be tailored to the required spectrum for high bandwidth signals. The problem with flexgrid is that it can be complicated to coordinate among different spans to ensure that the same spectrum is allocated the same way everywhere. It’s a problem that is being solved, but in the meantime at least one vendor has announced a “wideband” WDM filter that will allow these higher bandwidth signals to be carried just like the narrower bandwidth solutions were carried – no flexgrid required.
The “new” solution is a filter with 100GHz spacing – twice as large as the standard 50GHz spacing. What is funny about this announcement, at least to those of us who have been in the industry for a while, is that the ITU standard for wavelengths started with a 100GHz spaced grid. All of the original WDM deployments used 100GHz spacing. Only later did a few vendors come up with interleavers that allowed more signals to be added to the 100GHz filter at the intermediate 50GHz wavelengths. In other words, 100GHz spacing is an old technology finding new life in a modern world – just like magnetic tape and vinyl. It’s not fancy, it’s not technology that would appeal to those on the cutting edge, and it might be a stopgap measure, but suddenly the hoarders who kept their old 100GHz filters are looking smart.
Which is why I’m not planning to throw out my Walkman and collection of cassette tapes. You never know what might come back in vogue again.
Dr. Wilkinson has deep experience in the telecommunications and technical startup fields, with positions held ranging from deeply technical systems engineering to entirely customer-focused marketing leads. A recognized public speaker and writer as well as a detail-oriented team leader, Dr. Wilkinson has been successful in companies ranging from Fortune 100 to small startups with less than 50 employees. Dr. Wilkinson's career includes significant interaction with major carriers in the United States as well as experience with rural telcos, utilities, and municipalities.