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Pure Optical Switch a reality?

By Signal 11 in Internet
Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 02:04:49 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

EDTN is reporting that Trellis Photonics has created a pure optical switch. This could have huge rammifications for the computer industry - specifically networking and routers.

The initial posting into the queue by elucidus was killed. However, I feel it is sufficiently important to warrant that I resubmit it.

The article is short on details, so take this with the proper level of scientific skepticism - but Trellis Photonics is claiming they have created an all-optical switch using a newly-discovered form of photorefractive material (read: it's a mirror). Current technology uses microminature mirrors embedded into CMOS circuitry and they are adjustable. The problem is the signal is sufficiently attenuated that the reflected signal off these micromirrors can't leave the router - it will have lost both temporal and beam coherency by that point, so it needs to be converted back to an electrical signal and retimed and amplified before being sent out again. This introduces latency as well as bandwidth limitations. A pure-optical switch would be able to bypass these concerns, reducing the cost of deploying fiber by billions of dollars annually across the US. The biggest cost of fiber is not in laying it, but rather at the relay points, where the signal is retimed and boosted. A fiber layed from Madison to Minneapolis may required a half-dozen such points, and each unit is in excess of fifty thousand dollars. A unit capable of boosting a broadband signal without an electrical network to retime and resend the signal would mean that only the end-points would need to be replaced.

Another possibility for this technology would be as an infrastructure component in an all-optical computer. Trellis cunningly avoids discussing the actual bandwidth of the device - something which is usually an indicator that electrical systems are working directly on the signal. Intentional or not, it was a good PR move. But is it really 100% optical? The article doesn't say, and the website has alot of buzzwords and marketing - but no whitepapers.

The big question is: Can Trellis deliver?


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Optical technology will:
o replace electronics. 22%
o die out - it's just a fad. 1%
o be used mainly in telecommunications. 27%
o be eaten by a grue. 49%

Votes: 85
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o reporting
o Trellis Photonics
o elucidus
o Also by Signal 11

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Pure Optical Switch a reality? | 13 comments (3 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
regarding the poll... (4.16 / 12) (#4)
by fluffy grue on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 07:36:02 PM EST

"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

optical switches (2.50 / 6) (#6)
by boxed on Thu Dec 07, 2000 at 07:47:35 PM EST

I'll believe a pure optical switch when I see one. As of now though I believe it just as much as I believe in cold fusion.

the *effects* of optical switching (4.00 / 3) (#13)
by DigDoug on Fri Dec 08, 2000 at 01:13:17 AM EST

The big question is: Can Trellis deliver?

Actually, I think that's the small question.

Lots of companies are spending lots of research dollars these days on optical switching. They know how important (and profitable) a really good optical switch would be, and they also know that some first-generation optical switches have already been produced (check out Sycamore or Lucent or Ciena ). It's only a matter of time before the bugs are worked out and all-optical switches become common.

But that's not all. Tremendous bandwidth and dropping prices have fiber optic cable selling faster than anyone can make it. Every business and every home will soon have fiber internet connections, because the economics finally support it. Service providers don't want to construct, maintain, and administer three data networks (phone, cable TV, data) when they can do the same thing with one.

So that brings up the big question: As optical communication technology matures, how will it affect us?

For starters, it'll mean bigbig bandwidth, from a few dozen megabits and to several gigabits before long. After we knock ourselves out downloading a few dozen MP3s at breakneck speed, the novelty will wear off. We'll quickly take super-high-speed data for granted, as a natural part of the interface. We'll flip through thousands of TV channels or download movies whenever we want, leaving little reason for video stores, VCRs, or even DVD. Ditto for CDs and radio.

Separating out the different signals (telephone, video, and data) will mean having an electronic box in every house, and that will give a natural place for a network hub. Since people like to move their computers and TVs and phones around, network jacks will be in every room. That, in turn, will pave the way for all these smart appliances we've been hearing about, like refrigerators that talk to your Palm Pilot or thermostats that coordinate your windowshades.

Oh yeah--remember analog signaling? Fiber-to-the-home will be the end of it. Once all the information coming in and out of our homes is digital, we won't have any reasons left for analog. Forget audio tapes, videocassettes, analog telephones, all of that.

So those are my predictions. What do other people think about widespread optical networking? How will it affect our lives, and especially our culture? (And in case you were wondering, I do indeed work for an optical cable company.)

Pure Optical Switch a reality? | 13 comments (3 topical, 10 editorial, 0 hidden)
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