EPIC and Ethernet Alliance Form Technology Collaboration

By Dr. Ana González

EPIC Liaison


EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium) and the Ethernet Alliance are mutually motivated in activities involving industry endorsement of standards and roadmaps in Ethernet related technologies. The two associations recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the 16th EPIC Annual General Meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, UK in front of 220 photonics industry leaders, and decision makers from 25 countries.

This partnership will foster collaboration between the two organizations and their members. Members of both associations participate in joint activities such as technology meetings, articles, information exchange and promotion, to support the development of an efficient and sustainable industry.

The European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) is a non-profit association with 560 member companies and organizations in the field of photonics. EPIC aims to be a facilitator of technological and commercial innovation in photonics of which the optical communication is the largest market in this industry. Because of its unique position, EPIC helps companies understand their unique value propositions and challenges, and finding ways to connect the two. Since innovation always happens through partnerships, one company’s technology challengesmay be another company’s opportunity.

The Ethernet Alliance is a global, non-profit, industry organization dedicated to the success and advancement of Ethernet technologies. Their members include system and component vendors, test & measurement experts, and industry professionals who work together to take Ethernet standards to the marketplace. The Ethernet Alliance helps foster collaboration among Ethernet and complementary technology vendors and to support the growth and expansion of Ethernet.

Applications Driving the Ethernet Roadmap

In its 2020 Ethernet Roadmap, the Ethernet Alliance highlights the main applications that will push the evolution of Ethernet over the next 2 years. Automotive could be the next driver for Ethernet, with the need to reduce cost and weight driving innovation in this segment.

BASE-T and Single-Pair Ethernet (BASE-T1 or “SPE”) solutions are available for automation and industrial use cases that require lower speed Ethernet solutions capable of operating in harsh environments. For these applications, the Ethernet community has recently defined SPE solutions such as the IEEE 802.3cg™ standard for 10Mb/s operation plus power delivery over a single twisted pair.

Enterprise and campus applications manage the local area networks (LANs), and this is currently the area in which the entire Ethernet family can be found, including BASE-T products. For service providers and cloud providers, the bandwidth demands of hyperscale data centres and service providers continue to grow exponentially and in a similar direction, blurring the lines between the two.

To serve this large range of end-users, the Ethernet Alliance has gathered key industry stakeholders in the optical communication industry including the developers of networking solutions.

EPIC members are active in all levels of the supply chain for the development of systems and components in optical communications, including:

  • Companies developing transceivers such as Sicoya, AIOCORE, Dust Photonics, Finisar, Ruigu, Kaiam, Phoelex, PhotonX Networks, PICadvanced;
  • Companies offering WDM and switch modules such as EFFECT Photonics and Enablence;
  • Companies that offer design, software and packaging services such as Focuz, Cordon Electronics, Fraunhofer HHI, Glenair, VIS Vertically Integrated Systems, Bay photonics, vario optics, mbryonics, icon photonics, PLX, Bright photonics, Optiwave, VPIphotonics and VLC;
  • SiP and InP foundries such as LIGENTEC, Scintil Photonics, Lionix International, CNM, Fraunhofer HHI, III-V labs, Smart Photonics, CEA-Leti and VTT;
  • Companies offering optical fibers, connectors and processes such as Cailabs, CorActive, LUNA, NYFORS and OFS;
  • Companies offering microoptics such as Nanoscribe, Multiphoton Optics, Heidelberg Instruments, EVG, Axetris, SCHOTT and SUSS MicroOptics;
  • Research institutions such as Imec IDLab and PCRL.

Answering the EPIC Question

EPIC can help Ethernet Alliance members access the services of the manufacturing Pilot Lines in photonics, an initiative from the European Union’s Horizon2020 Programme in partnership with Photonics 21 (www.photonics21.org), including:

  • JePPIX Pilot Line (https://www.jeppix.eu/), providing services to scale up from prototype into manufacture of InP chips;
  • PIXAPP (https://pixapp.eu/), the world’s first open-access Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC) Assembly and Packaging Pilot line, providing companies with standardized packaging solutions for prototyping and pilot-scale production;
  • Phabulous (https://phabulous.eu/) for the manufacturing of free-form micro-optical components by UV replication technologies for high volume production.

According to Jose Pozo, CTO at EPICthe goal is to develop a forum in which the companies developing optics, photonic components, processes, and equipment can interact with key players in Ethernet standards. On the one hand, Ethernet Alliance members will get an overview of the capabilities of the physical layer and the different technologies to consider for the elaboration of roadmaps. On the other hand, EPIC members representing the physical supply chain, will learn about the Ethernet technologies, standards and applications key to the Ethernet ecosystem and promoted by the Ethernet Alliance via its roadmap, technology briefs, interoperability events and industry publications. This will create a unqiue forum for our respective members, where both parties can answer the so called EPIC question: ”How can we help each other?”

Areas for Collaboration

A series of meetings between the two associations are planned covering the following topics:

High Speed Ethernet

Data demands are growing exponentially and this tendency is set to continue due to the popularity of sensor technology and virtual reality, both of which are placing extreme demands on bandwidth. There is a need for data centres and network infrastructure to cope with speeds faster than 800G. To fulfil these requirements, the use of active material such as indium phosphide and plasmonic structures need to be considered.

Modelling for Simulation

Discussions are planned around the form factors used in Ethernet ports such as SFP and SFP DD and how packaging technologies can adapt to them. Another hot topic is the development of next-generation coherent models that are cost-effective for data center applications. This will require a collaborative effort between several levels of the supply chain, to deal with different aspects, including the need for synchronization between receiver and transmitter.

Promoting Standardization

Europe has been actively digitizing manufacturing, especially incorporating industry 4.0. The next step from the industry point of view, is that everything is manufactured locally. Data communication inside the industry will play a big role in this, and the development of standards and interfaces will be key for incorporating the ultra-fast internet that industry 4.0 needs. As every industry component is customized around 4.0, the goal will be to incorporate other technologies related to photonics such as 3D printing and subtractive manufacturing.

Regarding the automotive sector, cars of the future will be fully autonomous which will require a lot of sensors for collecting data from inside and outside the car for both assisted driving and driverless cars. It’s not just about data capacity or speed, but about data latency and the development of standards required by OEMs in automotive.

With both organizations advocating standardization for optical communications in a wide range of sectors such as the industrial environment and automotive, this provides the perfect setting for long-term collaboration and innovation.

Dr. Ana González

R&D Manager

EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium)

Dr. Ana González is currently R&D Manager at EPIC (European Photonics Industry Consortium). Her role is to understand the technology developed by EPIC members and to identify potential collaboration between them. She also participates in different EC initiatives such the Pilot Lines in Photonics in which she is involved in business development and marketing strategy. Her expertise lies in the development of optical systems and the investigation of applications such as Sensing and Datacom. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University Autonomous of Barcelona (UAB) and her PhD degree from the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2).

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