25 years in Optics, 150 million VCSELs and Counting…

By March 12, 2013

Today’s blog post comes from Craig Thompson, Director, Strategic Marketing at Finisar.

Happy 25th Anniversary Finisar!

Finisar reached two significant milestones recently. Last month, the company celebrated its 25th anniversary and the shipment of its 150 millionth VCSEL. I was fascinated to hear the stories of the company’s founding and early years from our co-founders, Jerry Rawls and Frank Levinson. The focus is and always was on serving the customer, being profitable and being respectful to employees. From the early days of building a scuba diving computer (a good example of customer focus!) to today’s optical transceivers with microcontrollers (the grandchildren of that dive computer), the focus hasn’t changed. We continue to serve our customers as best we can, in the most fiscally responsible way, while delivering the industry’s most innovative optical products. But, of course, first and foremost are the people behind the company. I’ve been here barely a year now and already feel part of the family.

Finisar’s shipment of its 150 millionth Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) is particularly exciting for me. This is highly significant for a few reasons. First, there is no other technology quite as prolific in optical communications as the VCSEL. Second, the technology has really only been around for 15 years and only deployed in significant quantities for just over 10 years. It’s amazing to me what has been achieved in our industry in this short amount of time. VCSELs have enabled the optical interconnect market that we know today, but are still a highly underrated technology that doesn’t get quite the attention and recognition it deserves.

I think of VCSELs as the Rodney Dangerfield of laser technologies – “I don’t get no respect!”. Largely the technology has suffered from ill-informed perception, rather than reality, of just ‘good enough’ performance and reliability. Paired with multimode fiber, VCSELs did a great job of going short-distances, but no one was ever satisfied. Every man and his dog has had a solution for replacing VCSELs or coping with their short-comings, but in the end they have served us extremely well covering the vast majority of enterprise, campus and data center optical links. Tens of millions of VCSELs are manufactured each year for the optical communications market at ever-improving yields, costs and reliability. That’s not to mention the hundreds of millions of VCSELs that have been made for other applications, such as optical mice, printing, sensing and now gesture recognition (more on that in a later blog). No other coherent optical source comes close to the importance and success of VCSELs. And it’s that solid foundation of volume, infrastructure and know-how that will ensure VCSELs remain the leading laser solution for optical communications for some time to come.

If you interested in continuing this discussion, please comment to this post or contact me at MyVCSEL@finisar.com.