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It's more like they're battering down for a period when PC sales aren't so bad,” said Roger Kay, an analyst atIDC, Framingham, Mass. [It's] like treading water. Just surviving is hard enough; to try to win is harder.”


It's more like they're battering down for a period when PC sales aren't so bad,” said Roger Kay, an analyst atIDC, Framingham, Mass. [It's] like treading water. Just surviving is hard enough; to try to win is harder.”

But sampled-grating techniques also got a boost last week, when Network Photonics Inc. (Boulder, Colo.) announced a broad development pact with Agility Communications Inc. (Santa Barbara, Calif.) under which customized versions of Agility's new sampled-grating DBR laser will be developed for Network Photonics' upcoming CrossWave metropolitan transmission systems.

The Agility and Iolon moves are the first of what is expected to be a month's worth of OFC-related announcements.


Iolon uses standard silicon wafer manufacturing steps for micromachined mirror elements with external servo actuator mechanisms. It creates its 3-D microelectromechnical system structures through a deep reactive ion etch process.

Distributed Bragg designs may still prove useful in some applications, Turkatte said, but she believes the Iolon product will largely displace fixed-wave distributed-feedback lasers. While you could thermally tune a distributed-feedback laser, the fact that you tune them thermally makes them power-hungry, and they can't be tuned over a broad range.”

Interesting work is under way in academia and industry on sampled-grating DBR devices, Turkatte said, but the approach requires a complex monolithic chip that must be co-packaged with a modulator or semiconductor optical amp, yielding a structure that is both expensive and difficult to manufacture.


Iolon also faces competition from external-cavity laser developers that use arrays of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs). Companies like CoreTek (now part of Nortel), Bandwidth 9 and Novalux are developing some interesting tunable arrays, Turkatte said, but they must confront the manufacturing challenges of moving VCSELs to the 1,550-nanometer range while putting tuning mechanisms on top of the arrays.

Iolon uses Fabry-Perot lasers and integrates the light sources with actuator structures developed at the former Seagate facility. Iolon claims a tuning range greater than 40 nm, in a window between 1,527 and 1,562 nm. The continuous-wave output power of the laser module is 20 mW. Typical relative-intensity noise is –145 dB/Hz.


Turkatte said the new generation of devices will find use in metro and super-metro DWDM and in optical add/drop multiplexers and specialized access systems. Iolon is working with system manufacturers that want to combine the Iolon laser substructure with an external modulator, and the startup says it will soon collaborate with photonic component manufacturers in the markets for electro-adsorption modulators and optical amps.

Meanwhile, Agility's work with metropolitan optical startups indicates that some equipment manufacturers are undaunted by the complexity of monolithic DBRs.

The A2B solution comprises a device framework, an enterprise platform and a suite of applications connectors. The device framework is a small amount of software that implements the A2B messaging system on the device itself. The fully scalable software supports 8- to 32-bit devices.

The platform is basically enterprise middleware, based on the J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] environment, and is a messaging system based on XML or standard URL encoding,” said Canosa. The latter applies to simple 8-bit devices that don't have an XML parser.

The enterprise middleware provides a set of Web services that could be looked at as appliance-based communities that have both people and devices interacting,” Canosa said.

The applications connectors enhance and extend the capabilities already provided by such approaches as the Siebel field-service automation system. We're enhancing and extending that to let the device enter its own service request,” said Canosa. The goal is to allow both the enterprise middleware and the attached devices to communicate intelligently with the enterprise application, whether e-commerce or CRM systems.

Canosa drew contrasts with current attempts to capitalize on Internet connectivity. Enterprise systems to date are pushing information to cell phones and pagers, and on the other end, you have a smaller number of companies that are Web-enabling devices, but what they're typically providing is a point solution,” he said. Point solutions imply that the customer buys the application to manage, modify and diagnose the devices: They're not tightly integrating those devices into the business applications.


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