Happy Optical Networking Thanksgiving
It is November, and in the USA that means that thoughts turn to the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays where, in the midst of all of the overeating, family gatherings, and football, we are encouraged to give thanks for the good things in our lives. This has been a good year in optical networking as well, and we in the industry would be well advised to step away from our perpetual worries about the future and stresses over numbers and take a moment to give thanks for the good things that are happening in our industry.
1. Data Center Operators are interested in optics
Sure, one can complain about the data center operators and their lack of vendor loyalty, their disdain for industry norms, and their general bull-in-a-china-shop approach to networking, but data center operators are making optics cool again. The demands that data center interconnections are putting on the industry are raising all of the boats in the water. Whether a data center is using a network provider for their interconnect or building their own optical network, the benefits flow downward and outward to fund R&D for all networks. Without data centers, what would we have to be excited about?
2. 5G is coming, and everyone’s getting ready
What we would probably be excited about (and should be excited about) is the approach of 5G. While 5G is not an optical technology, the demands that 5G puts on the backhaul network will be good for anyone building transport equipment. There will be antenna site upgrades and a move to put hardware closer to the edge of the network. New applications will be developed to take advantage of the new wireless networks, which will be exciting to experience and support. Even though 5G is not here yet, we should be grateful for the network operators and standards writers who are pushing it hard, giving us all something to look forward to.
3. China makes the numbers look good
Take a look at any industry analysts’ numbers recently – whether they are counting optical ports, hardware, or switching – and you’ll see that the growth in our industry is largely being funded by growth in China. Without that growth, we would be in an industry on a downturn, and no one wants to be in an industry on a downturn. While not everyone is benefitting from the China market nearly as much as the local vendors, there is money flowing – to components suppliers, to materials suppliers, and even to a few competing traditional vendors. Sure, there are some things to worry about with the Chinese dominance of the numbers, but in this season of Thanksgiving we should be grateful for all that Chinese telecomm expansion has given us.
4. High speed optics keep getting faster
It look a long time to get from 10G to 100G. It’s taking no time at all to get from 200G to 400G and more. New experiments and product preview announcements are coming out almost every quarter about higher and higher speeds. And the new higher speed optics are, in general, cost-effective as opposed to hero experiments of the past. For those who are still fascinated by the fundamentals of what a laser can be made to do over a fiber, these advances are very exciting and certainly something to be thankful for. If nothing else, advances and announcements like these keep our industry trade shows in business.
5. Social media keeps us connected
No, this is not a section talking about the impact that Facebook, Google, and the others have had on the optical industry, although that would be a good topic. This is a reminder to be thankful for sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and the like that allow us to keep in touch with former colleagues. Over the last few years there has been a lot of consolidation in the networking industry. In the past, it would have been very difficult to keep in touch with colleagues who have moved companies, been let go, or taken new opportunities within and outside of the telecomm industry. As the holiday season approaches, this is a good time to look through those contact lists and be grateful for everyone who has made this industry profitable, interesting, and enjoyable for the last year. May the next one bring even more for us to be thankful for.