Looking Back at ISC 2015 in Frankfurt

This blog post was authored by Sando Anoff, Finisar RSM.

Finisar was a participant at the recent ISC 2015 High Performance Conference and Tradeshow in Frankfurt, the premiere annual Supercomputing event in Europe. We set up a live demo of a 100 Gb/s Quadwire® active optical cable, which attracted a lot of attention. This product is based on our advanced in-house device technology and consists of four VCSELS operating at 25 Gb/s each on the transmit side and the corresponding PIN receivers on the receive side (all integrated in a single cable).

If you are a newcomer to the field of supercomputing, you might wonder what optical communication has to do with it, but the fact is that high-speed and low-latency communications have always been an essential part of high-performance computing designs, due to the huge amounts of information that need to be transmitted quickly and with a minimum of delay within the different parts of the system. For such demanding requirements, and except in cases where the distances covered are relatively short, optical transmission is the way to go. Another increasingly important factor, as the supercomputers get even larger, is power-efficiency, especially as the industry moves towards exa-scale computing. There were a whole range of interesting technologies on display at the show: IC’s placed in bubbling liquids, entire PCB’s submerged in barrels of fluid, etc. This trend towards energy efficiency may partly explain the considerable interest shown in our optical engines (Board-mount optical assemblies) that we had on display. These are compact, high-bandwidth optical interconnects that can be mounted directly onto a host board and reduce power consumption.

Something that really caught my eye as I wandered through the exhibition area was a booth that showed how a supercomputing infrastructure can be extended to encompass our globe. It allows an InfiniBand fabric – normally a short-range network used in supercomputers and data centers – to be securely extended via optical fiber over global distances. This was presented by a company called Obsidian Strategics and I was very pleasantly surprised when the friendly gentleman there pulled out the transceiver installed in his systems, and, lo and behold, it was from Finisar! That definitely made my day, not to mention the great conversation we had about sending huge chunks of data across transoceanic links at light speed!

So where do we go from here? The fastest supercomputer in existence today (Milky Way 2) is about 10 thousand million times faster than the first supercomputer that was built in 1964. I am certainly looking forward to the future as the industry pushes the envelope of what is possible.

OFC 2013: Finisar Parallel 25Gbps Board Mounted Optical Assembly (BOA) Demonstration

ECOC 2012 Video: Finisar in the News

ECOC 2012: Monday Report from Simon Poole

The process by which the trade show goes from an empty hangar to the clean, professional environment that greets the attendee when it opens, never ceases to amaze me. The Finisar booth (#500) is right in front of the show entrance and has undergone its usual transformation from an ugly duckling on the Sunday before the show to the beautiful swan that it is when the show opens. As with all swans, the graceful exterior hides the frantic activities below the water and it is a credit to all the engineers who have put in huge efforts to get the demos all working come opening time.

At the Finisar booth we’ve a range of demonstrations and product releases (read our ECOC 2012 show announcements). On the WaveShaper front, we’re demonstrating a range of new capabilities as discussed in previous posts – polarization processing, power splitting, etc. as well as demonstrating the WaveSketch app for quick generation of simple filters. There is also a demonstration of the capabilities of Finisars Board Mounted Optical Engine (or BOA) which is designed for high-speed optical interconnects both between chips and between circuit boards.

The biggest demonstration, however, is a demo of a 2x1xN two-slot ROADM line card with Flexgrid(TM) capabilities. This includes a high port-count WSS together with a high speed multi-port Flexgrid Optical Channel Monitor. This isn’t immediately visible from the booth entry, but have a chat with our friendly booth staff to schedule a chance to see this excellent piece of engineering.

I managed to fit in a few talks amongst the days customer meetings and general meet and greets. Highlight of those that I saw was the review by S J Ben Yoo from UCD on his groups work on arbitrary waveform generation – a real technological tour de force with over 1200 active optical devices integrated onto a single 3″ InP wafer.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more reports from the technical sessions!

OFC 2012: Finisar Board Mounted Optics Technology Demonstration