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equipped with commodity switches, thus reducing the associated capital expenditure. With hybrid schemes, the overall intra-DCN capacity can be significantly increased at reduced cost. Most of these hybrid schemes rely on large-scale fibre/space cross-connects (FXC) or multiple wavelength- selective switches (WSS), based on micro-electro- mechanical systems (MEMs) or liquid-crystal-on- silicon platforms, which are readily available (although not necessarily at the price targets required for this application). Te second approach, comprising all-optical

schemes, consists of switching all data with packet or near-packet (i.e. burst) granularity in the optical domain, doing away with electronic switching and optical circuit switching completely (although of course hybrid approaches are possible). A number of research projects have explored this option including, for example, Proteus, Petabit, DOS, LIONS, and CAWG-MIMO (see Further reading), Tese architectures require ultra-fast optical switching technology based on semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOAs) . It should be noted that all-optical and packet/

burst based approaches proposed to date are still not ready for commercial deployment, and will require the development of new photonic devices,

such as ultra-fast optical packet switches and ultra-fast wavelength selective switches. In fact, most of these proposed approaches require complete replacement of commodity electrical switches, meaning that they must provide significantly improved characteristics compared to ethernet switching, in order to justify the cost of the replacement. Terefore, only the partial replacement of ethernet switches with hybrid optical/electrical architectures seems possible in the short term before the end of this decade. But I certainly hope that I will be proved wrong! Te optical networking community recognised

early the huge potential that optical technologies have to solve the scaling problems in data centre networks. At OFC 2011, I served as the founding chair of the newly formed ‘Datacom, Computercom and Short Range and Experimental Optical Networks’ subcommittee (now track DSN6 in the OFC 2016 technical programme). Since that time, the topic of optical

communications for data centres has become mainstream and many other major conferences have adapted their coverage accordingly. In addition, over the last couple of years, major funding agencies, including the European Commission, and companies like Facebook,

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Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoſt, and Oracle, have made significant investments into research on the relevant topics. Inevitably, we will soon see some of those developments moving in the commercial world. For this reason, under the auspices of IIR

Telecoms (Informa), we are introducing a new conference dedicated to this topic. Te Optical Data Centre Interconnect 2016 (ODCI) conference will take place on 28 June – 1 July 2016 in Nice, France, and is co-located with the 18th annual Next Generation Optical Networking (NGON). Te event mission is to enable executives from data centre operators and service providers to exchange ideas, develop expertise and share best practices on this exciting topic, in order to continue taking it forward.l

Dr Ioannis Tomkos is head of the Networks and Optical Communication (NOC) research group at AIT (Athens Information Technology), Greece

Further reading

C. Kachris, K. Kanonakis and I. Tomkos: Optical interconnection networks in data centers: recent trends and future challenges, IEEE Communications Magazine, 51 (9), p39-45, 2013

Los Angeles

Convention Centre, California

22 - 24 March 2016 Visit ProLabs on Booth 2705

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