Colleagues pay tribute to Jane M. Simmons, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Optical Communications and Networking, who passed unexpectedly on 25 August 2021.
© 2021 Optica Publishing Group
With the untimely passing of Jane Marie Simmons on 25 August 2021, the optical networking community lost a giant. She worked in this field for almost three decades with unbounded energy and unmatched enthusiasm. She advanced and nurtured the field as a visionary researcher, pragmatic practitioner, and inspiring teacher. She left a legacy that will not be forgotten.
Jane started her work on optical networks in the mid-1990s while she was at Bell Labs/AT&T Labs Research. At that time, she focused on the network architectural aspects of Optical Regional Access Networks (ORAN), which was a part of the highly influential, DARPA-supported, Multiwavelength Optical Networking (MONET) program. The purpose of this program, which included the US telecommunications giants AT&T, Lucent, Verizon, SBC, and Telcordia, was to advance the vision of all-optical backbone and regional networks. Concurrently, ORAN spawned another program on Optical Networking for Regional Access with Multiple Protocols (ONRAMP), which was an off-shoot of the earlier, consequential, DARPA-supported All-Optical Networks (AON) program, which included AT&T, MIT, and DEC. In the early 2000s the vision pioneered by these and other research programs was turned into reality by the Corvis Corporation, which was the first company to commercialize all-optical, backbone networks by introducing a fiber-optic transport system having thousands of kilometers of optical reach, together with the associated optical switching equipment. Jane played a key role at Corvis as an Executive Engineer and later as the Chief Network Architect, where she developed novel network designs and highly efficient and scalable networking algorithms that fully exploited this technology and made it a practical reality. This culminated in the first commercial deployment of a national-scale all-optical network (the Broadwing network). Jane also performed all-optical network designs for a broad array of North American and European carriers, where she demonstrated that, in these diverse and real environments, all-optical networks are much more efficient and economical than their conventional counterparts, which were based on optical-to-electrical-to-optical (OEO) conversion. While some commercial system vendors at that time had introduced optical switching in their networks, they still had excessive OEO conversion in their backbone network implementations because they did not have ultra-long-reach optics. Today, all national and international carriers and service providers are installing all-optical networks, or more accurately, “optical-bypass-enabled networks”—a term that Jane previously introduced.
In 2003, Jane founded her current company, Monarch Network Architects (http://www.MonarchNA.com), which provided optical network architectural services and tools for carriers, system vendors, and the government. In 2006, she played a crucial role as a subject matter expert in creating the DARPA-supported Core Optical Networks (CORONET) program, which had two performing teams involving major US telecommunications companies (one with AT&T and Telcordia and the other with Verizon and BBN). The aim of this program was to advance the state of the art of next-generation, highly dynamic, and highly resilient, multi-terabit, core all-optical networks. The program made several important advances in fast provisioning and restoration in IP-over-optical, national- and global-scale networks.
In 2008 she wrote a book on Optical Network Design and Planning (published by Springer), in which she summarized her vast acquired knowledge in optical network design and the associated networking algorithms. The book proved to be popular among expert and beginning researchers and practitioners, which resulted in her updating the material and publishing it as a second edition in 2014. She also published many journal and conference papers, wrote two book chapters, and holds several patents, all on optical networks, networking algorithms, and related photonic technologies.
Jane received a B.S., Summa Cum Laude, from Princeton University in 1985, and S.M. and Ph.D. degrees from MIT in 1990 and 1993, respectively, all in electrical engineering. She attained the grade of Fellow of the IEEE in 2011 “for contributions to optical network architecture and algorithms.”
She always believed strongly in the importance of providing volunteer services to professional engineering and scientific societies, and she practiced what she preached in a big way: She served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Optical Communications and Networking (JOCN) from 2017 until the time of her passing, and was previously an Associate Editor of JOCN from 2009–2012. She also served as a member of the JOCN Steering Committee since 2013. She served as an Associate Editor for the Optical Communications and Networking series of the Journal on Selected Areas in Communications (JSAC) from 2004 to 2009. She was a member of the Optical Fiber Communications (OFC) Conference Steering Committee from 2007 to 2012, then again from 2020 till the present time. She served on the IEEE Photonics Society Fellow Evaluation Committee from 2013 to 2017, including two years as the Chair and one year as the Vice-Chair. Moreover, for more than 15 consecutive years, she gave a popular course at OFC on “An Introduction to Optical Network Design and Planning,” which was based on her iconic book.
As the sole Editor-in-Chief of JOCN (before her term, the Journal always had two co-Editors-in-Chief), she had to confront a number of tough challenges. While she understood the need for quick reviews, she would not sacrifice quality of peer review for expediency. She also had good judgment on what constitutes good and useful research. Her insights into what is “useful” research helped guide her appointment of associate editors and the publishing of several special issues on important topics. Her strong will was a rare asset, and she channeled her positive energy and determination to fight for what she thought was the best for the field. The community owes her tremendously for building JOCN into a first-rate journal and sometimes acting as the conscience of the OFC Steering and Program Committees.
Throughout her career, her dedication to her work, her friends, and for making the world a better place had no limits. She was hard on herself, her standards were high, and she stimulated others to follow her example. Whenever she undertook a task, she gave it her all. And if you happened to be involved in the same task, you better do the same, else she will let you know about it. She was an enthusiastic follower of many sports, but particularly baseball. She enjoyed walking, running, and travelling throughout the US and around the world. She liked many places, but she always loved the Jersey Shore, from Cape May to Sandy Hook, particularly in the summer.
Jane, thank you for stopping by to brighten and enrich our lives, for outstanding service to our community, and for generously providing us with your treasured friendship and guidance. You will be sorely missed by your many friends, colleagues, and students. Your legacy will not be forgotten. May you rest in peace.
Jane M. Simmons (1963–2021)
University of California Santa Barbara
Patrick P. Iannone,
Nokia Bell Labs
Vincent W. S. Chan,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology