The Embedded Optics Market: COBO and its Alternatives – 2017-2026


CIR believes embedded optics is creating a major business opportunity for optical components, modules and communications chips companies. Embedded optics has been available as a niche technology for many years, but the recent success of the Consortium for on-Board Optics (COBO) has transported embedded optics into the limelight and has made embedded optics a key focus of firms expecting to build their businesses around next-generation optics.
It is tempting to treat COBO as just another MSA.  However, CIR believes that something more important is going on here.  As we see it, COBO is more similar to the old ATM Forum; an organization that took data communications and telecommunications in a whole new direction. We have been told for more than 15 years that an essential for high-speed modules is that they be pluggable, while embedded optics teaches completely the opposite doctrine.  Embedded optics also imply an entirely new direction for switch design – one in which the optics and electronics are positioned in close proximity.
This is the first industry analysis that looks at the market opportunities that the COBO standards will bring in their wake.  It includes:
  • An assessment of the likely role of the COBO standards in creating a healthy market for embedded optics going forward.  Will other organizations challenge COBO or will pluggable optics find a way to move to much higher data rates without embedded optics?  To what degree will integrated optics play a role in the transition in optical datacom that COBO says it will address
  • An analysis of networking supply and value chain in the embedded optics space.  We discuss which firms in the switch and router business are likely to be early adopters of embedded optics and why. We also examine how these OEMs can profitably message the advantages of embedded optics to data center managers, telecom companies and other end users.
  • Based on such analysis, we build a roadmap for embedded optics and discuss alternative technology and market scenarios that will impact revenue generation from embedded optics over the coming decade.  This roadmap will consider the pattern of adoption for embedded optics by equipment makers as embedded optics technology gradually transitions from the largest routers all the way down to the server level. 
  • A detailed ten-year forecast of the primary products and markets that will be impacted by the COBO standards and embedded optics more generally.  The forecast is both in terms of unit shipments and revenues, with breakouts by the type of embedded optics, underlying technologies, equipment in which embedded optics is used, and the type of ultimate end users for this equipment
  • A discussion of how important firms in the transceiver space and IC space are likely to adapt their product/market strategies to the embedded optics future.  We will also look at how those firms plan to drive embedded optics into smaller data centers and then into telecom.  Several important module firms have already said how they plan to leverage the COBO standards and more will follow
This report is designed for marketing, business development and product managers in components, modules and related businesses.  It will help them understand the technological potential of embedded optics, how the COBO story will be sold to customers and how components firms will build their strategies for the COBO/embedded era – the “post-pluggable era” – as some people are calling it.  The report will also be useful to professional investors in the optical networking sector who want to better understand what embedded optics will mean to their investments.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
E.1 Analysis of COBO and its alternatives
E.2 Summary of emerging opportunities
E.2.1 Lasers and transceivers: moving beyond VCSELs
E.2.2 ASICs
E.2.3 Cooling systems
E.2.4 PCB-related opportunities
E.3 A product and market roadmap for embedded optics
E.3.1 Patterns of Adoption of embedded optics by switch and router vendors
E.3.2 When will embedded optics enter the server market?
E.3.3 Messaging embedded optics to the data center manager
E.3.4 Embedded optics for telephone companies
E.4 Key firms shaping the embedded optics
E.5 Summary of ten-year forecasts of the embedded optics/COBO market
Chapter One   Introduction
1.1 Background to this report
1.2 Scope and objectives
1.3 Methodology of this report
1.4 Plan of this report
Chapter Two:  COBO and other Embedded Optics:  Drivers and Specifications
2.1 How COBO will create the market for embedded optics
2.1.1 The COBO use case
2.2 Market drivers for embedded optics
2.2.1 Elimination of the front panel density bottleneck
2.2.2 Elimination of packaging bottleneck
2.2.3 Reduction in power requirements
2.3 Flexible configuration of embedded optics
2.4 Technologies for on-board and board-to-board interconnect in a COBO world
2.5 Evolution of the COBO standards
2.5.1 Connectors
2.5.2 Use of coherent optics
2.5.3 COBO views on ASICs and cooling
2.6 Alternative scenarios and the disadvantages of embedded optics
2.6.1 Challenges to COBO from within embedded optics
2.6.2 COBO vs. pluggables or hybridization?
Chapter Three: Markets for Embedded Optics Products: A Ten-Year Forecast
3.1 Forecasting methodology
3.1.1 How COBO might shape the embedded optics market
3.2 Ten-year forecasts of embedded optics by product type
3.2.1 Forecast of switches using embedded optics
3.2.2 Lasers and transceivers/modules
3.2.3 Integrated circuits
3.2.4 Fiber and interconnect technology
3.2.4 Connectors
3.2.5 Cooling devices
3.3 Ten-year forecasts of embedded optics by type of end-user equipment
3.3.1 Data center routers and switches
3.3.2 Servers
3.3.3 Telecom boxes
3.4 Ten-year forecasts of embedded optics by market
3.4.1 Hyperscale data centers
3.4.2 Smaller data centers
3.4.3 Telecom applications

Chapter Four: Key Firms that will Shape the Embedded Optics Market
4.1 The role of leading switch, server and router companies
4.2 Acacia Communications
4.3 Amphenol
4.4 Centera
4.5 Finisar
4.6 Furukawa Electric
4.7 Hitachi Cable
4.8 Huawei
4.9 Huber + Suhner
4.10 Inphi
4.11 Intel
4.12 Luxtera
4.13 MaCom
4.14 Mellanox
4.15 Microsoft
4.16 Molex
4.17 NEC
4.18 Neophotonics
4.19 Oclaro
4.20 Ranovus
4.21 Rockley Photonics
4.22 Samtec
4.23 Sumitomo Electric
4.24 TE Connectivity
4.25 US Conec
4.26 Xilinx

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