Seeking a path beyond pluggable modules

Enabling on-board and co-packaged optics requires photonic integrated circuits and silicon photonics, but the exact format is yet to be established, finds Andy Extance

As the pandemic underlines the value of the internet more than ever, its underlying technology is making one of its biggest transitions for years. Companies are actively developing solutions that will enable the current 12.8TbE switching capacity of network switches to double every 18 months. This is because the powerful switch application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) doing their processing are speeding up rapidly.

Likewise, transceiver data rates are set to increase from 100 to 800Gb/s by 2022 and the number of transceivers per switch will grow from 32 to 64 or 128. The resulting density of components will be difficult to integrate, and will generate a lot of heat that is hard to dissipate.

Such advances will therefore require components that focus on energy efficiency, explained Erman Timurdogan, director of optical communications and process design kit development at Analog Photonics. That will reduce thermal losses enough for coolers to keep up, he said.