The optical networking industry is growing, but it's doing it in fits and starts. If you took optical component specialist Oclaro (Nasdaq: OCLR) as a proxy for the industry, you'd think that copper-based networking was the next big thing. But JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU) just showed us that this is far from the truth.

In its first-quarter report last night, JDS showed some muscle with 36% year-over-year sales growth and five times fatter non-GAAP earnings per share. Gross margins expanded by nearly 2 percentage points from last quarter. There's a slight slowdown going on in the testing equipment division, but hefty sales in the optical components segment more than made up for it.

Now that we have up-to-date reports from Oclaro, Oplink Communications (Nasdaq: OPLK), and JDS, I think we can arrive at the conclusion that Oclaro's problems are unique to Oclaro. Neither Oplink nor JDS saw anything like the order drop-off Oclaro reported, and though we're still weeks away from a Finisar (Nasdaq: FNSR) update, it looks like the overall market for optical networking remains strong.

The JDS report was impressive enough to keep the stock rising on a generally down market day, and it also seems to have pulled some of the competition up by the bootstraps. Optical switch specialist Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR) is up by nearly 2% on no significant news of its own, and Finisar is soaring as high as 6.8% on nothing but JDS' report. That makes sense because it's the one major competitor in the space that hasn't yet reported earnings this season, and investors are drawing a deep sigh of relief to see others doing well.

Is this a great time to buy optical networkers on the cheap, or is JDS pointing us in the wrong direction? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.