A few days ago, market research organization Yole Développement (Yole) released the latest market report. According to the report, in 2019, the shipment volume of silicon optical modules used in the data center reached nearly 3.5 million, generating three point six four Billion dollars in revenue.

“It’s true that this growth is quite impressive because most products appeared in 2016 and 2017,” explains Dr Alexis Debray, technology and market analyst at Yole. “Silicon optical modules are reported to be more reliable and cheaper than optical modules using traditional optical technologies. We have observed that many emerging companies are focusing their business activities on optical module research and development to break into the silicon photon field of telecommunication / data communication applications. “

 Potential applications drive market growth

 Yole expects this growth to continue in the next few years. So what makes this market so successful?

Yole pointed out that the main reason is the global network data flow. Thanks to the applications in cloud computing, video and IOT, the global network data traffic doubles every three years, so the market of silicon photon transceiver is directly and beneficially affected. Yole analysts expect that in the data center market alone, silicon optical modules will be shipped 24 million in 2025, worth 3.6 billion US dollars. By then, the overall market size of silicon photons will reach 3.9 billion US dollars.

With the development of silicon optical module industry, its shipment volume has reached millions, which has given birth to an ecosystem, including process design kit (PDK), design rules, simulation software, test equipment and wafer foundry.

This ecosystem makes it easy for new entrants to take advantage of this technology and develop new applications. Genealyte, based in California, USA, will release silicon photon immunoassay this year. KVH released a fiber optic gyroscope using silicon photon technology this year. Products such as electronic nose, lidar and OCT based on silicon photon devices are also under development, and are expected to come out in the next few years.

Intel leads

For optical communication, silicon photons is a cutting-edge technology, which can bring more reliable and cheaper products, and can achieve the high data rate density required by the switch in five years. It has attracted important manufacturers in the field of data communication infrastructure.

Cisco in 2012 two point one seven $100 million acquisition of Lightwire in 2019 Six point six $billion for Luxtera and $2.6 billion for Acacia. Luxtera has a 35% share in the market of silicon optical modules for data communication, while acacia is the main player in the market of long-distance silicon optical modules.

Intel’s main push server accounts for 60% of the market of silicon optical modules for data communication. Intel is undoubtedly one of the leading silicon photonics companies. Indeed, in just a few years, Intel’s 100g pluggable silicon optical modules have shipped more than 3 million. “With its cwdm4 100g technology, Intel has become the first company in the world to provide a silicon photon solution that can realize direct detection up to 10km,” explains Sylvain Hallereau, senior technology and cost analyst at system plus consulting Psm4 and cwdm4 represent their first step, while Intel’s 200g and 400g products are expected to enter mass production in the second half of 2020. “

Intel’s optical modules once again take advantage of part of the psm4 technology, but many other aspects still represent the new approach of the leading company.

This optical module has multiple chips and two lines. The silicon photon chip of the transmitter integrates InP lasers for four wavelengths in a configuration different from psm4. A Mach Zehnder modulator is added to the same chip to modulate the signal, but the CWDM Mach Zehnder interferometer (MZI) is more complex. Light extraction is done by the edge of the chip rather than by the mirror. In addition, other components are added for focusing or isolating signals. Data processing uses a four channel 25g CDR component from MACOM.

The function of the receiver is realized by four germanium photodiode chips and a TIA circuit. The Ge photodiode chip is made on a special SOI substrate, and an optical demultiplexer is also assembled between the SiGe photodiode and the optical fiber.

Analysts at system plus consulting introduced Intel’s potential in packaging and photonics. Intel has successfully integrated four lasers, a photon driver, multiple optical modules, CDR functions, multiple high-performance photodiodes, two advanced substrates and optical materials in a very small size range.

Chinese players continue to emerge

“The trend of vertical integration continues, and silicon photons seem to be an opportunity for systems companies to enter the transceiver market,” said Dr. Eric Mounier, an analyst at Yole. “That’s what happened with Juniper Networks, which is the leader in router and switch fields. In 2016 one point six five It acquired Aurion for us $100 million and is preparing to launch the 400zr silicon photon transceiver. Nokia acquired Elenion in April 2020. “

At the same time, diversified layout is the key to the smooth operation of enterprises. For example, Inphi and Neophotonics have introduced silicon optical modules with powerful technology. HPE is working with a number of partners to develop a platform for the development of silicon photons.

China is also ambitious for 5g and cloud data centers. Several Chinese companies are entering the silicon photonics market, usually by working with Western companies. Alibaba cloud is cooperating with Elenion, Hengtong optoelectronics and Rockley photonics, and will launch 400g silicon optical digital communication module during this year’s OFC 2020, while Botron technology will cooperate with Sicoya.

Silicon photonics industry has formed a market scale of million optical module shipments. It is expected to become the key technology of network switch in the next five years. The number of companies interested in silicon photons is considerable. Silicon photons have become a solid industry and will be used in the next few years.