FAQ: How 800G and 1.6T Optical Engines Impact Hyperscale Data Centers

October 28th, 2022

On October 27, 2022, POET Technologies announced that it will use Directly Modulated Lasers (DMLs) from a market-leading laser designer and manufacturer for 800G and 1.6T solutions. The DMLs with integrated drivers will be key components in POET’s transmit optical engines and high-speed photodiodes and integrated Transimpedance Amplifiers (TIAs) for receive optical engines. With this scalable, elegant solution, POET can provide its industry partners with the critical ability to extend the use of pluggable transceivers in data centers to 1.6T and even 3.2T.  

Here are further details of what this breakthrough innovation means for the photonics and semiconductor industry:


1. Why does POET describe its 800G and 1.6T products as “photonics chiplets”?

“Chiplets" have become a common term in semiconductor electronics these days. Rather than a design with a single monolithic chip, integrated-circuit manufacturers are incorporating multiple smaller chips — called “chiplets” — to create more efficiency and maximize performance. So we’re creating chiplets using our unique, proprietary design based on the Optical Interposer, which sandwiches optical waveguides between electrical connections— thereby creating a photonics solution for the semiconductor industry. It’s a reason we say our process provides a “semiconductorization” of the photonics industry. Our hybrid-integration approach makes it easy for established companies in the industry to adopt our solution into their existing networking infrastructure and, as we’ve mentioned numerous times, our reduction in bill of materials leads to immense cost savings.

POET is the first company to talk about “photonics chiplets” in terms of a practical application in pluggable modules. These transmitters are designed as 400G chiplets that can be either doubled or quadrupled to generate 800G or 1.6T options. Our “photonic chiplets” present a scalable, elegant solution that can extend the use of pluggable transceivers for years ahead as we can even reach 3.2T with our designs.  


2. Why is it important for POET to focus on a solution for 800G and 1.6T?

The industry has been unable to find a workable technology that extends performance beyond 800G — and even at 800G there are challenges for many companies that have successfully launched 100G, 200G and 400G products. POET’s Optical Interposer has the capability to be the de facto platform for next generation network computing for data centers.

Extending pluggables to these speeds with industry-standard form factors was previously thought to be impossible, but because of the small size and extent of integration of devices in our Optical Engines,  data center customers will have more flexibility in network design than ever before.  As we continue to integrate more devices on our platform we build more value into our Optical Engines, increase transceiver module performance, reduce power and cost, and provide unparalleled levels of flexibility for data center customers.


3. Why is it important to have a “market-leading designer and manufacturer of lasers” as POET’s DML supplier?

POET can confidently say to current and potential customers that we are truly part of the best-of-breed ecosystem in the industry. All of our most recent DML and CW (Continuous Wave) laser suppliers are globally recognized for their high-quality, reliable and proven solutions. Having more than one of them as part of our supply chain immediately removes any concern a customer might have about our ability to deliver a product on time and with a functioning laser solution.

Another very important point is the fact that all the laser providers we are working with are going to be supplying us with qualified lasers. This is an improvement on the situation we were in previously. We were making custom lasers and we had the burden to first qualify the laser—which is 5,000 hours or six months of testing—and then qualify it on the engine—which is another significant period of time—that adds risk, cost and time. Whereas now, having modified the Optical Interposer to use more commercially available solutions, were able to get more predictability with our schedules and more accurate performance forecasting.


4. What are the key reasons why POET’s DML solution is superior?

Including DMLs in our solution eliminates the need for a separate modulator, and reduces the overall power consumption of the module. Because of the small size and extent of integration in our chiplets, there is plenty of room in the industry-standard module to accommodate more laser cooling features than conventional InP or SiPh-based modules. Our initial designs of the module using DMLs will put us on par with EMLs (Electro-absorption Modulated Lasers) that are incorporated in 100% of todays 400G module offerings from other suppliers, both needing active thermal cooling. We expect that our roadmap for these high-speed DMLs will include an uncooled chip in the future.

Our products also have good signal integrity with direct access to PCBs. By mounting more electronics on the Optical Interposer we eliminate wirebonds, which improves performance, lowers power consumption and enables compaction, which is critical for any high-density pluggable or co-packaged optics.

Our engines can be located on the PCB to minimize the electrical trace lengths inside the module. Our roadmap includes the addition of through silicon vias (TSVs) to allow the Optical Engine to be directly connected to the PCB, eliminating the last of the wire bonds in the module. At 800G and beyond we see the possibility of enabling direct-drive capabilities from the switch, eliminating the DSP and also the need for a gear box between the switch and the module. This leads to a 6-8W reduction in power usage per module.


5. Why can’t POET announce the name of its market-leading DML supplier?

Some of our partners on both the supply side of our operations and the purchase side have asked us to maintain confidentiality. There are a number of reasons why they don’t want their name revealed at this time and those reasons are largely to do with retaining an edge over their competitors and maintaining the sales performance of their products currently in the marketplace.


6. POET expects to start sampling 800G/1.6T Optical Engines in the first half of 2023. Does that mean the company will not make revenue until those products have been evaluated by customers?

No. As we have stated, POET will release four products into production by the end of 2022. Those products are: 100G CWDM4 TX, 100G CWDM4 RX, 200G RX, and 400G RX. And then there will be another four products released for production in the first half of 2023. The status “Released to Production” means that POET has frozen the design (usually in connection with a module maker after all the required or requested tweaks have been made). The module maker then orders POET Optical Engines to include in its initial samples that go to its customers for evaluation. Then there is qualification, then purchase orders. During that period there will be some production of inventory and revenue associated with that work. Meanwhile, our customer engagements and design-in activities continue to gain momentum, with at least two customers in China to get into production early next year. And we have multiple design-in activity with other module customers.

We also have a lead customer for our 800G receivers with integrated TIAs, and we will be sampling to them in Q1 of 2023. And we will be supplying our light sources to our AI customer, Celestial AI, in the new year as well. We expect additional customer engagements to become formalized too.

What the achievement of 800G and 1.6T Optical Engines with pre-qualified DMLs means is we have a roadmap to gain more and more market share as our technology finds traction in the industry. Getting the 100G, 200G, and 400G products into the market before the 800G and 1.6T solutions are ready for mass production allows us to integrate with partners in 2023. That way we become an incumbent supplier of Optical Engines that will make it easier for us to upsell them to our 800G and 1.6T,which will propel our growth for years to come.


7. What does the 800G and 1.6T Optical Engine advancement mean for the company’s financial outlook?

We have set the company up for success over 2022 and that success will begin to be realized as we head into 2023. The 800G and 1.6T positions us to be at the forefront of one of the world’s most important and profitable industries, which is also in need of a platform that will allow for next generation engineering solutions. Financially, POET is in a prime position to capitalize on the demand for high-performance pluggables, chiplets, transceivers, and modules.

Check our latest presentations for more details.

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