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Infinera signs up component suppliers for 'disruptive' networking scheme

26 Feb 2020

II-VI and Lumentum collaborate with the optical communications hardware firm on 'XR' approach for multipoint links.

Infinera, the Silicon Valley developer of optical networking equipment, has signed up two key providers of photonic components for what it believes may become a revolutionary approach to high-speed network architectures.

Last week, the company announced deals with both II-VI and Lumentum. II-VI is set to provide integrated laser technology that, along with Lumentum’s high-speed coherent and pluggable modules, will feature inside Infinera’s “XR optics” approach.

Revealed in September last year, XR is described as a fundamentally different and potentially disruptive approach to optical networking. Instead of offering conventional point-to-point links, the idea is to create a so-called “hub-and-spoke” architecture that better matches the typical patterns of data traffic in existing networks.

“XR optics is a revolutionary technology purpose-built to break the inherent limitations of traditional point-to-point optical transmission solutions,” claims Infinera on its web page dedicated to the new approach.

It says that the novel take will pave the way for “disruptive network economics”, just as technologies like 5G and hyperscale cloud connectivity impose new challenges on operators.

“With game-changing innovation in coherent optical sub-carrier aggregation, XR optics introduces a new pluggable and software-enabled architecture designed to radically reduce the cost of deploying and operating optical networks,” adds the Sunnyvale firm.

Speaking during a February 25 investor conference call to discuss the company’s latest financial results, Infinera's CEO Tom Fallon said:

“XR optics is industry's first point-to-multipoint coherent optical sub-carrier technology, designed to break the inherent limitations of traditional point-to-point optical transmission solutions.”

San Diego showcase

Suggesting that the novel approach could usurp the “ZR” and “ZR-plus” point-to-point architectures currently being defined by rival hardware firms and the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF), Fallon added that Infinera would be showcasing its XR technology with a live demonstration at next month’s Optical Fiber Conference (OFC) event in San Diego, California.

Responding to investor questions about the development, Fallon said that among mobile networking companies there was a clamor for a new and more efficient approach, with major players apparently describing the economics of the current situation as “life-threatening”.

Although XR optics will not be generating revenues for Infinera for at least a year, Fallon reported an extremely strong customer response to the idea.

“They are fundamentally viewing this as an opportunity [to] actually re-architect their networks and save somewhere between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of costs moving forward,” he told the investor call.

“They start with a degree of skepticism and within a few meetings - meetings that they're insisting on having from a follow-up perspective - they are deeply encouraging us to hurry this up.”

Commenting on the hook-up with II-VI, Infinera’s founder and now its “chief innovation officer”, Dave Welch, also noted that customer pull. He said:

“We are experiencing growing interest from our customers in XR optics, and collaborating with a leader like II-VI underscores the value of this innovation and our commitment to bring it to market with a broad-based coalition of top-tier suppliers.”

Beck Mason, general Manager of Lumentum’s telecom transmission business, added: “The XR optics concept aligns with our core strategy to provide scalable and flexible coherent optical network solutions that enable higher speeds for next-generation transport networks.”

Covid-19 prompts OFC pull-outs

Lumentum and networking systems giant Ciena have decided to skip this year's OFC 2020 event citing “an abundance of caution” with regard to the continued spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Ciena’s CEO Gary Smith announced that the US firm had decided to pull out of all industry events for the next 30 days, meaning that the company will also miss the Capacity Middle East 2020 show in Dubai next week.

OFC organizer The Optical Society (OSA) had previously stressed that the event was “going strong” and would take place as planned March 8-12 at the San Diego Convention Center.

“OFC Management is fully committed to taking appropriate precautions to provide a safe and healthy environment for attendees,” it announced. “We expect moderate impact to the conference as strict US government border controls will limit access to people traveling from China, or who have traveled through China, in the last 14 days.

“Management will continue to work with vendors to ensure a high-quality experience for attendees. Updates can be found here.”

Update February 27th - Infinera withdraws from OFC 2020

Infinera today announced its decision to withdraw from participation in this year’s Optical Networking and Communication Conference & Exhibition (OFC) due to the ongoing public health concern over the novel coronavirus. In lieu of the company’s attendance at OFC, Infinera is planning a virtual event to showcase its latest innovations.

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