Optical LANS Starting to Move From Cloud Giants to Data Centers

By Jeff Burt  |  Posted 2014-04-21 Print this article Print

Tellabs is one of those vendors making the push, saying that the same benefits that carriers and companies like Google see from optical networking can also work for other organizations.

"What if we took a product that offers very high speed … and made it an enterprise product?" Tom Ruvarac, director of product management at Tellabs, told eWEEK. Ruvarac noted that when Sandia National Laboratories replaced 600 traditional switches with 14 Tellabs optical terminals, the agency saw a 70 percent improvement in total cost of ownership, 80 percent power reduction and 90 percent space savings. Such benefits could be attractive to any organization, he said.

A year ago, a group within the IEEE organization was unable to come up with a standard for 100 gigabits-per-second optical networks, spurring a the rise of new efforts among vendor-driven organizations. Earlier this month, Intel and Arista Networks launched the 100G CLR4 Alliance, a consortium that also includes such vendors as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Brocade, Oracle and eBay.

The consortium is working to develop a standard of 100G bps optical links for data center switches that can support distances of up to 2 kilometers and address the need to more quickly and efficiently manage and move data around and between data centers.

The 100G CLR4 Alliance wants to address the underserved middle area between the current 10G and 40G networking products currently in the data center and then 100G system currently on the market that are focused on telecoms and are too costly for most data centers.

"Data centers are becoming massive in scale, requiring longer and longer reaches for connectivity," Mario Paniccia, an Intel Fellow and general manager of Intel's photonics research at Intel Labs, said in a post on the chip maker's blog. "This leaves an enormous opportunity to bring high-speed, low-power, optical links that can span up to 2 kilometers in modern data centers operating at data rates up to 100G bps. That's more than 20 football fields.

"Yes, there are telecom-centric optical transceivers today operating at 100G bps, but their power, size and costs are non-starters for the new data center. Thus, there is a huge gap that needs to be filled for reaches that span from, say, 100m to 2km. And that's the problem we are trying to address here."

Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder, chairman and chief development officer at Arista, said during a press conference that the failed effort by the IEEE group has increased the urgency to come out with a standard, given the increasing pressure data center networks are under.

"There is an explosion of [network] traffic, and most of the traffic is confined in the data center," Bechtolsheim said. "The key thing is that we cannot wait another nine months for a specification to come to fruition. We need those optics now. We really can't wait. … We are simply out of time to fuss around."

The Intel-Arista-led consortium is not the only effort underway. The day before the 100G CLR4 Alliance was announced, the CWDM4 MSA Group—created by such vendors as Avago Technologies, Finisar, JDSU and Oclaro—was announced.


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