Juniper Networks grabs silicon photonic developer Aurrion

Optics are the most expensive bits of a switch these days and Juniper hopes vertical integration changes that

Juniper Networks is jumping into the silicon photonics business, with the acquisition of fabless designer Aurrion.

Founded back in 2008 by Intel/IBM alumnus Dr Alexander Fang, Aurrion has spent the last eight years developing and commercialising indium phosphide-based (InP) transceivers.

Integrating InP into silicon manufacturing processes is designed to cut the cost of the optoelectronics in a switching system.

As Juniper founder Pradeep Sindhu blogs, the cost of optical systems hasn't fallen as fast as the rest of switching: as a result, the optoelectronics now represent far more than half the cost of a high-capacity switch.

Aurrion, Sindhu writes, should improve Juniper's cost per bit, per second, give it higher capacity interfaces, and more flexible switches.

The manufacturing process is what Juniper's after, because that's the tough part of silicon photonics. Aurrion's CTO Greg Fish described that in a 2013 article in Compound Semiconductor (here as an Adobe Flash article, heaven knows why).

“Our process features a bonding step to add InP functionality to photonic circuits at the wafer scale,” he writes. In the process, Aurrion places InP chiplets on the silicon photonic circuit, and these are processed into lasers, optical amplifiers, modulators and photodetectors “using standard semiconductor lithography”.

If the process works as well as Juniper hopes, Sindhu reckons “we can make significant improvements to the foundations of all of our networking products within a relatively short time”. ®

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