Highlights from OFC 2017


LightCounting Releases a Research Note on OFC 2017



Early 400GbE products showcased

OFC has always been about showing developments that are three years away. 2017 did not disappoint with plenty of demos and discussion on 400GbE. The Ethernet Alliance booth was live-linked to four other booths using eight Finisar 400G-LR8 CFP8 modules. Traffic was generated from Xilinx FPGAs and test equipment from Ixia, Viavi and Spirent, showing that the 400GbE ecosystem is beginning to come together. Oclaro and Sumitomo also had an operating 400G CFP8 transceiver, using their EML lasers and supporting 2km and 10km reaches claiming good margin over IEEE optical specs.

Source Photonics demonstrated a 400G-FR8 module in an OSFP form factor. It was running at 12W, gated by the PAM4 IC. They also showed a 100Gb/s lambda demo using the MACOM/AppliedMicro PAM4 serdes. MACOM had a similar demonstration in their both, including high bandwidth EML provided by Sumitomo.

During the conference, LightCounting noted multiple references to “400G-FR4/LR4” with 4x100G lambdas rather than the IEEE standard of 400G-FR8 using 8x50G lambdas. A new MSA appears to be in the works.

FIT showed a QSFP-DD DAC that can reach 1.6m with 30AWG conductors in separate send/receive jacketed cables [upper cable in photo below]. It is surprisingly flexible compared to the single fat cable in the photo below. Cisco demonstrated a retimed DAC in QSFP-DD. These developments suggest that optics to the server isn't going to be necessary for a long time.


The 400G form factor battle impossible to miss.

Cisco has done a good job promoting QSFP-DD with its feature of backwards compatibility. But in the “battle of the MSA membership lists”, OSFP is winning with 80 members according to Andy Bechtolsheim. Cisco had a 32x400G thermal demo with 12W per module. Some see OSFP products coming out first, followed by QSFP-DD.

As LightCounting expected, 200GbE modules were on display in a number of booths. Google made it clear in multiple sessions that their next speed is 200G as it is about time-to-market. While Facebook is standing firm on wanting 400GbE, they won't deploy it if it consumes 3X the power of a 100G module. They are willing to wait until after 2020 to get what they need.

2 in 1 modules in QSFP-DD and OSFP form factors? This is a topic LightCounting will be following closely. OEMs are interested in higher density 100GbE in EoR switches. InnoLight demonstrated a “2x200G “LR8” (4x50Gx2) in an OSFP form factor, effectively a dual LR4 in an OSFP form factor with two LC duplex connectors. FIT and Hisense each had dual 100G-SR4 modules in a QSFP-DD form factor.

Co-packaging optics and ASICs

On-board optics and co-packaged optics/ASICs were big topics of discussion in the conference sessions. Several such sessions were standing-room-only in very large rooms, with no shortage of differing opinions. Some predicted the end of pluggables based on increasing power consumption at the ever higher data rates. On the show floor, Kaiam had an operating demo of an optical engine co-packaged with an ASIC. The business issues for co-packaged ASICs and optics may be as challenging as the technical issues.

LightCounting will focus on this in an upcoming research noted following the IEEE Optical Interconnects conference.

Finally, the industry had its usual rowdy rump session debating when we will see “Sub $0.25/Gbps Optics”. The exchange tended to wander off track and the question was hardly settled, but the wit of moderators Chris Cole and Dan Kuchta kept it fun.

LightCounting subscribers can access the full version of the research note at:






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