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ECOC 2019 Trends: Coherent Pluggables, an 800G MSA, On-Board Optics, ROADMs and the Announcement of XR Optics

headshot of Paul Momtahan

October 1, 2019
By Paul Momtahan
Director of Solutions Marketing

This week a good number of Infinera employees attended the ECOC show in Dublin, Ireland, for the technical conference, Infinera’s XR optics launch, and customer/supplier/partner meetings. Personally, I found some time to attend the Market Focus sessions, wander the show floor to catch up on the latest optical trends, and gather some good competitive information.

400G Pluggables

In terms of trends, 400G coherent pluggables, based on 400ZR, Open ROADM, and ZR+, was a hot topic. 400G ZR provides low-power (<20 W) coherent 400G in QSFP-DD or OSFP pluggable form factors that use concatenated forward error correction (cFEC) to get reach of up to 120 km over amplified point-to-point links. IHS Markit expects 400G ZR to ramp in H2 2020 and achieve 15% of the 400G+ market by 2023.

Inphi announced that it would have 400G ZR QSFP-DD samples in late Q4 2019. Coherent pluggables based on the Open ROADM MSA use the more powerful open forward error correction (oFEC) and support more flexible client options (100G-400G) with a CFP2 form factor. Acacia proposed an OpenZR+ pluggable that takes the best of 400ZR (low power, QSFP-DD or OSFP form factor) and the best of Open ROADM (100G-400G client, oFEC).

While IHS Markit expects 400ZR to dominate data center interconnect and coherent access, and embedded 400G+ (i.e., Infinite Capacity Engine-type optical engines in compact modular platforms like Groove) to dominate long-haul and submarine, metro/regional is forecast to be a battle between Open ROADM/ZR+ pluggables and embedded systems.

800G MSA

Another hot topic was the new 800G MSA (QSFP-DD800), which increases the density of switch/router gray interfaces supporting 2 x 400 GbE or 8 x 100 GbE in a single QSFP-DD. Chinese vendors, including Huawei, appeared to be the key backers for this MSA. The availability of these pluggables is expected to align with the coming 25.6T generation of switching ASICs and is still several years away.

On-Board Optics (OBO)

While we in the optical transport business are having to contend with the migration from transponders/muxponders to coherent pluggables, pluggable vendors face a similar threat/opportunity with the move to both on-board optics and co-packaged optics.

Pluggables provide a lot of flexibility but have a cost in terms of density, footprint, and power consumption relative to on-board and co-packaged alternatives. This becomes more and more of an issue as switching ASICs scale with subsequent generations (6.4T->12.8T->25.6T->51.2T->100T) and as the serializer/deserializer (SerDes) connection from the pluggable to the switch ASIC evolve from 25G to 50G to 100G.

On-board optics moves the optics closer to the switch ASIC on the board, while co-packaged optics moves the optics next to the switch ASIC. Co-packaged optics is expected to first hit the market with the 25.6T switch generation, while the 51.2T switch generation is expected be about 30% co-packaged optics and 70% pluggables, according to the presenter from Intel.

ROADM Evolution

Lumentum gave an interesting presentation on ROADM evolution, with the market for wavelength selective switches (WSSs) having grown by a factor of 2.5x in volume over the last five years. Factors driving this growth include the move from pure OEO (OTN) switching to OEO/OOO (OTN + ROADM) in China, optical restoration to address the high number of fiber cuts in India, network buildouts by ICPs, more WSSs per ROADM node with route-and-select ROADM architectures and CD/CDC add/drop, and the need to light more fibers along the same routes to scale capacity, which is driving a shift to 20-port and 30+-port WSSs. At the same time, the footprint, power, and cost of WSSs keep shrinking, with a 290x density improvement over the past 17 years.

XR Optics

In case you hadn’t heard, Infinera announced a new technology initiative called XR optics at the event. Rated by many as the innovative technology at the show, XR optics is the first optical solution to be optimized for high-capacity aggregation networks.


Operating in much the same way as mobile radio antenna communications with a large number of mobile phones, a single high-speed (400G+) XR optics transceiver is capable of aggregating traffic from and distributing traffic to multiple lower-speed transceivers (25G, 100G, 200G, etc.). It’s the first major architecture shift in aggregation networks in many years and will facilitate network operators’ launch of difficult and bandwidth-intensive initiatives such as 5G, enhanced residential access, and cloud-based business services.

All in all, it was a good show with many interesting discussions.