The deluge of data from streaming UHDTV video, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and especially cloud services has finally created a need for circuit board-level optical interconnects as well as for optical backplanes. In the future, CIR believes that other novel services – such as those related to virtual reality and telepresence – will put even more pressure on data communications and telecommunications box makers to extend the use optics in the “guts” of their products.

This report is designed to identify new opportunities for board-level optical interconnects and optical circuit boards.  This is an area where CIR has provided coverage for many years and the forecasts and other data provided in this report are rooted in an insider experience of this interesting area. Thus, this report contains a technical analysis of the requirements of this space (issues such as power consumption, etc.) and a detailed ten-year (volume and value) forecast with breakouts by type of box (HPC, servers, routers, switches, telecom equipment, etc.), components, fiber, etc. The report also offers an assessment of the product/market strategies of key optical firms active in this area.

When CIR first began coverage of board-to-board optical interconnects, such items were mostly cobbled together in small numbers by HPC firms such as IBM.  However, what CIR is seeing now is a wave of commercialization brought on by the growing need for board-level optics in the data center.  For the past few years, much that is interesting in this area from a business perspective has been related to optical engines, with many of the largest firms in the optical components business building a interconnect product arrange around a core engine technology.  Also of growing importance in this area is the optical backplane area, which is also undergoing an area of intense commercialization.

This report provides an analysis of such activities from the perspective of revenue generation and discusses how firms active in the optical interconnect space can distinguish themselves in the market through both technology and supply chain strategies.  We are particularly interested in this report as to how the latest in optical integration/silicon photonics can benefit the optical interconnect space.  We also examine the opportunities that are presented by the high-speed electronic ICs that will be needed to support the growth of board-level optics.  In addition, we provide a critical analysis of the standards and MSA work that is being done in this space.

Table of Contents

Provisional Table of Contents

Executive Summary
E.1 Board-level optical interconnection:  Market drivers and challenges
E.1.1 Cloud services drives board-level optical interconnection
E.1.2 Optical interconnection, power consumption and power efficiency
E.2 Optical engine development:  Impact on board-level communication
E.3 Optical backplanes:  Technology options and likely product evolution
E.4 Six firms to watch in the optical interconnect space
E.5 Recent funding for optical interconnect businesses
E.6 Summary of forecasts

Chapter One: Introduction
1.1 Background to this report
1.2 Objectives of this Report
1.3 Methodology and Information Sources for this Report
1.4 Plan of this Report

Chapter Two: Current and Future Markets for Board-Board Optical Interconnects
2.1 Big data, clouds and the need for optical board-level interconnection
2.2 Technical factors driving the market for optical board-level interconnects
2.2.1 Moore’s Law and faster processors
2.2.2 System density and bandwidth scalability
2.3 Market environments for optical board-level interconnects
2.3.1 Hyperscale data centers: Faster processors and more boards
2.3.2 Board-level optical interconnection in HPC and Exascale computing
2.3.3 Server clusters:  An addressable market for board-level optical interconnects
2.3.4 VSR telecom applications
2.4 Key Points Made in this chapter

Chapter Three:  Board-Level Optical Interconnect Products and Technologies
3.1 High-performance copper interconnects: End of the road?
3.1.1 Copper cost challenges
3.1.2 Power limitations of copper interconnects
3.2 The role of optical integration
3.2.1 Silicon photonics
3.2.2 PICs
3.3 Optical engines
3.3.1 The case for optical engines: density and low power
3.3.2 Heat sink requirements
3.3.3 Connectorization
3.3.4 Substrate materials
3.3.5 Leading suppliers of optical engines
3.4 Optical PCBs and optical backplanes
3.4.1 The limits of electrical backplanes
3.4.2 Passive versus active optical backplanes
3.4.3 Waveguide development
3.4.4 Couplers and routing components
3.4.5 Major research projects and commercialization efforts
3.4.6 Current standardization for optical PCB and backplanes
3.5 Key points made in this chapter

Appendix A: Ten-Year Forecasts of Board-level Optical Interconnection Markets
A.1 Forecasting methodology
A.1.1 Sources of data
A.1.2 Modeling board-level optical interconnection
A.1.3 Alternative scenarios
A.2 Ten-year forecast of board-to-board interconnects by type of interconnect
A.2.1 Active optical cable
A.2.2 Optical engine
A.2.3 Embedded optics and other
A.3 Ten-year forecast of passive optical PCBs and backplanes
A.3.1 Waveguide
A.3.2 Fiber
A.4 Ten-year forecast of active optical PCBs and backplanes
A.4.1 Edge emitting light source
A.4.2 Vertical emitting light source

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