Carriers worldwide are beginning to outgrow 100G transport networks and are taking the first tentative steps towards 400G backbones. CIR believes these ultra-fast networks will create major new revenue opportunities for optical components firms, silicon chipmakers and equipment companies alike. This new businesswill occur as 400G transport moves out of today's trial phase and 400G production networks are deployed. This shift is unlikely to happen in a big way for a few more years, but the foundations for success in the 400G space are being established now.

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Four Strategies for Pursuing Optical Interconnects

Over the next five years chip companies will experience an “interconnect bottleneck” that will cause them to create alternatives to current metal/electrical interconnects. The most likely technology direction will be optical, creating new opportunities for several different kinds of companies. For chipmakers, optical interconnect represents enabling technology for next-generation chips. Hence, Intel and IBM are already actively involved in optical interconnect development. For optical component companies, optical interconnect at the chip level promises an addressable market of billions of units.

CIR research indicates four strategies for firms seeking to take advantage of this new strategic direction in the semiconductor industry.

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Character of Chip-Related Optical Interconnection:  Players, Products and Opportunities

When CIR published a report on the optical interconnect market in 2010, the goal of the report at the time was to provide a full analysis of the entire optical interconnect business.  In this year’s CIR analysis we are covering the market in two reports, focusing primarily on interconnects in the chip-to-chip and on-chip sector in this volume (Volume II).  In the previously published volume (Volume I), we covered the rack-based and board-to-board part of the optical interconnect market.

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Big Data and the Future of Optical Interconnection

This research note is based on CIR’s new report, “Revenue Opportunities for Optical Interconnects: Market and Technology Forecast – 2013-2020. Vol. I Board-to-Board and Rack-Based”

CIR’s latest forecast for sales of optical interconnection devices used at the rack level and for board-to-board interconnection remains bullish. We are anticipating revenues doubling from $1.1 million to $2.2 million between 2013 and 2018. Several factors are leading to this growth.

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The Optical Interconnect Market Bifurcates

The reason why we have chosen to split this report into two volumes is that, while the big drivers are the same throughout the optical interconnect market, optical interconnect solutions are increasingly of two kinds considered from the supply side of the equation:

• Optical assemblies for macro level interconnection at the rack-to-rack and board to board level. Roughly speaking this means interconnection at above 50 cm and up to a 1 km; although often a few meters. The point here though is not so much the range as the technology. The optical assemblies that we are talking about here are not—by the standards of today—all that technologically sophisticated and in some ways they are not all that different from the optical data links that could be easily bought in the early 1980s.

• Photonic chips and waveguides that are suitable for chip-to-chip and some on-chip applications. This is a research area that has been explored for the past 20 years and still has yet to see much commercialization. It is much more of a technology and materials play than the “optical assemblies” sector and this is reflected in the firms and research organizations involved in this part of the business. This part of the optical interconnect business is covered in the second volume associated with this report.

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Why the Prospects for AOCs Keep Growing

It is time for a careful examination of the prospects for AOCs over the next few years. And the big question here is whether the firms that are now investing heavily in the AOC space are actually making a wise investment or are they simply chasing after pie in the sky; a now traditional sport in the optical networking space.

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