Board-level optical interconnect sales will generate $5.6 bn by 2022

Created March 2, 2017
News and Business

Market analyst CIR forecasts that sales of board-level optical interconnects will reach $5.6 billion by 2022, up from $696 m in 2017. Its report “Opportunities in Board-Level Optical Interconnects: Optics-Enabled Circuit Boards, Optical Engines and Optical Backplanes”, the analyst says much of the growth will come from an entirely new class of MSA-compliant optical boards that will provide massive backbone capacity for routers and switches compared to today’s conventional electrical backplanes and motherboards.

CIR commented, “The huge amount of data flowing internally in servers, routers and switches can no longer be handled by copper interconnects. The demand is currently being met by semi-proprietary optical links and optical engines and some active optical cable solutions. We see opportunities for standardised optical boards as part of a larger trend towards embedded optics.”

Some of the report’s key conclusions are:
· Optical engines meet data centre needs in terms of data rates and small footprint and will be the biggest addressable sector of the board-level optical interconnect market. CIR believes that if the industry can arrive at standards for optical engines then the market can potentially reach $1.2 billion in sales by 2022, commenting, “The absence of standards has caused held back the market and caused major optical components firms to exit the optical engine space or avoid it altogether.”

· Optical backplanes, which have been used for supercomputing applications for many years, are now finding a new market in routers and switches. By 2022 revenues from optical backplanes will have reached $864 m, says the analyst.

· The current generation of optical interconnect products are still very expensive compared to their electrical equivalents. To reduce costs, a considerable amount of technological development remains to be done. Most early products are based on glass or polymer fibre media. Future products will reduce costs and increase interconnect densities by using waveguides, polymer optics and free space optics.

· The mainstreaming of the optical board concept will initially give advantage to firms that have been working in this space for years: IBM, Cisco, Juniper, and Oracle. CIR notes, “In the next few years startups will emerge challenge these giants with optical boards based on new materials, free-space optics and innovative embedded optics/laser designs.”

The report is designed to identify and quantify these opportunities and provides both technology assessment and 10-year market forecasts of AOCs, optical engines, backplanes and motherboards, proprietary board-level links and other boards. Breakouts in the forecast are by servers vs. routers/switches, board-to-board vs. on-board, data rate, types of media, and geographical location of addressable market.

It also offers an assessment of the product/market strategies of key optical firms active in this area. Suppliers covered in the report include Amphenol FCI, Ericsson, Finisar, Foxconn, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Luxtera, Mellanox, Molex, Oracle, Reflex Photonics and Samtec.

More information on Communications Industry Researchers is at

Matthew Peach

This article was written
by Matthew Peach

Matthew Peach is a freelance technology journalist specialising in photonics and communications. He has previously worked for several business-to-business publishers, editing a range of high-tech magazines and websites.