II-VI expands its 400G and 800G transceiver portfolio

II-VI has showcased its latest high-speed optics. The need for such client-side modules is being driven by the emergence of next-generation Ethernet switches in the data centre.

The demonstrations, part of the OFC virtual conference and exhibition held last month, featured two 800-gigabit and two 400-gigabit optical transceivers.

We have seen the mushrooming of a lot of datacom transceiver companies, primarily from China, and some have grown pretty big,” says Sanjai Parthasarathi, chief marketing officer at II-VI.

But a key enabler for next-generation modules is the laser. “Very few companies have these laser platforms – whether indium phosphide or gallium arsenide, we have all of that,” says Parthasarathi.

During OFC, II-VI also announced the sampling of a 100-gigabit directly modulated laser (DML) and detailed an optical channel monitoring platform.

We have combined the optical channel monitoring – the channel presence monitoring, the channel performance monitoring – and the OTDR into a single integrated subsystem, essentially a disaggregated monitoring system,” says Parthasarathi.

High-speed client-side transceivers

II-VI demonstrated two 800-gigabit datacom products.

One is an OSFP form factor implementing 800-gigabit DR8 (800G-DR8) and the other is a QSFP-DD800 module with dual 400-gigabit FR4s (2x400G-FR4). The DR8 uses eight fibres in each direction, each carrying a 100-gigabit signal. The QSFP-DD800 supports two FR4s, each carrying four, 100-gigabit wavelengths over single-mode fibre.

These are standard IEEE-compliant reaches: 500m for the DR8 and 2km for the dual FR4 talking to individual FR4s,” says Vipul Bhatt, senior strategic marketing director, datacom at II-VI.

The 800G-DR8 module can be used as an 800-gigabit link or, when broken out, as two 400-gigabit DR4s or eight individual 100-gigabit DR optics.

II-VI chose to implement these two 800-gigabit interfaces based on the large-scale data centre players’ requirements. The latest switches use 25.6-terabit Ethernet chips that have 100-gigabit electrical interfaces while next-generation 51.2-terabit ICs are not far off. “Our optics is just keeping in phase with that rollout,” says Bhatt.

During OFC, II-VI also showcased two 400-gigabit QSFP112 modules: a 400-gigabit FR4 (400G-FR4) and a multi-mode 400-gigabit SR4 (400G-SR4).

The SR4 consumes less power, is more cost-effective but has a shorter reach. “Not all large volume deployments of data centres are necessarily in huge campuses,” says Bhatt.

II-VI demonstrated its 800-gigabit dual FR4 module talking to two of its QSFP112 400-gigabit FR4s.

Bhatt says the IEEE 802.3db standard has two 400G-SR4 variants, one with a 50m reach and the second, a 100m reach. “We chose to demonstrate 100m because it is inclusive of the 50m capability,” says Bhatt.

II-VI stresses its breadth in supporting multi-mode, short-reach single-mode and medium-reach single-mode technologies.

The company says it was the electrical interface rather than the optics that was more challenging in developing its latest 400- and 800-gigabit modules.

The company has 100-gigabit multi-mode VCSELs, single-mode lasers, and optical assembly and packaging. “It was the maturity of the electrical interface [that was the challenge], for which we depend on other sources,” says Bhatt.

100-gigabit PAM-4 DML

II-VI revealed it is sampling a 100-gigabit PAM-4 directly modulated laser (DML).

Traditionally, client-side modules for the data centre come to market using a higher performance indium phosphide externally-modulated laser (EML). The EML may even undergo a design iteration before a same-speed indium phosphide DML emerges. The DML has simpler drive and control circuitry, is cheaper and has a lower power consumption.

But as we go to higher speeds, I suspect we are going to see both [laser types] coexist, depending on the customer’s choice of worst-case dispersion and power tolerance,” says Bhatt. It is too early to say how the DML will rank with the various worst-case test specifications.

Parthasarathi adds that II-VI is developing 100-gigabit and 200-gigabit-per-lane laser designs. Indeed, the company had an OFC post-deadline paper detailing work on a 200-gigabit PAM-4 DML.

Optical monitoring system

Optical channel monitoring is commonly embedded in systems while coherent transceivers also provide performance metrics on the status of the optical network. So why has II-VI developed a standalone optical monitoring platform?

What optical channel monitors and coherent modules don’t reveal is when a connector is going bad or fibre is getting bent, says Parthasarathi: “The health and the integrity of the fibre plant, there are so many things that affect a transmission.”

Operators may have monitoring infrastructure in place but not necessarily the monitoring of the signal integrity or the physical infrastructure. “If you have an existing network, this is a very easy way to add a monitoring capability,” says Parthasarathi.

As we can control all the parts – the optical channel monitoring and the OTDR – we can configure it [the platform] to meet the application,” adds Sara Gabba, manager, analysis, intelligence & strategic marcom at II-VI. “Coherent indeed provides a lot of information, but this kind of unit is also suitable for access network applications.”

The optical monitoring system features an optical switch so it can cycle and monitor up to 48 ports.

With operators adopting disaggregated designs, each element in the optical network is required to have more intelligence and more autonomy.

If you can provide this kind of intelligent monitoring and provide information about a specific link, you create the possibility to be more flexible,” says Gabba.

Using the monitoring platform, intelligence can be more widely distributed in the optical network complementing systems operators may have already deployed, she adds.