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The three key factors that Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook consider when selecting transceivers are price, power, and size. To make their modules attractive to major players, manufacturers need to develop a platform that will keep them competitive and able to respond to large volume demands. Photonics integration is this platform. Whether it is silicon, III-V, a hybrid combination of the two, or the integration of electronics with optics, photonics integration provides companies with the ability to transition from one form factor or technology to another, scale manufacturing, control costs, and stay competitive. Companies without a strong photonics integration strategy will be left behind.
The number of companies either implementing or considering photonics integration is expanding rapidly. New companies are coming out of stealth mode and announcing products, while major vendors have been expanding their photonics integration portfolios with 100G, 200G, and 400G products and platforms. There are several factors that are leading companies toward photonics integration:
- Optical technology, form factors, and data rates are changing rapidly. For companies to stay competitive in this fast-moving market, a flexible platform is required. Photonics integration is a flexible platform, allowing for innovation and product differentiation.
- Product innovation and advancement centers on reducing cost per bit, reducing power consumption, and miniaturizing form factors. Photonics integration is an enabler for all three metrics.
- Web-scale data centers require hundreds of thousands of transceivers each. Successful suppliers will need a manufacturing platform that can scale as demand increases. Manual pick-and-place is not that platform. However, photonics integration is a technology that can scale with high volumes.
- Discrete components are on their way out. Hybrid integration is taking over and will give way to III-V grown directly on silicon in the very near future.
Optical component companies have several options when it comes to photonics integration: developing their own technology, purchasing a technology, or partnering with a design house for product development. Companies moving into photonics integration can take advantage of resources to help them get to market faster, but the time to react is now, or they risk being left behind. New technology and fabrication techniques are constantly being developed, making it harder for those not on the photonics integration path to catch up. Companies that are on that path have an opportunity to differentiate and innovate through partnering and licensing research from outside the company.
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