Er-based optical amplification continues to be the ideal low noise, WDM crosstalk free, broadband candidate for waveguide amplifiers. Design analysis of the applicability of Er-Doped Waveguide Amplifiers (EDWAs) for micron-scale integrated photonics in a planar lightwave circuit concludes: (i) an >80× increase in gain efficiency, and (ii) a >40×increase in device shrink can be realized, for a high index contrast EDWA (with a core-cladding index difference of δn=0.1↔0.7), compared to a conventional Er-doped fiber amplifier. The materials challenge now is to establish a robust materials system which meets this high index difference design requirement while simultaneously leveraging the capability of silicon (Si) processing: a host platform for EDWAs must be found which can integrate with Si Microphotonics. Silicon nitride (Si3N4), silicon oxide (SiO2) and a miscible silicon oxynitride alloy (SiON) of the two meet this materials challenge. We present the results of reactive and conventional magnetron sputtering based materials characterization for this high index host system. Room temperature and 4 K photo-luminescence studies for annealed samples show the reduction of non-radiative de-excitation centers while maintaining an amorphous host structure. Atomic force microscopy shows less than 1 nm peak-to-peak roughness in deposited films. Prism coupler measurements show a reliable reproducibility of host index of refraction with waveguide scattering loss <2 dB/cm. We conclude that the SiON host system forms an optimal waveguide core for an SiO2-clad EDWA. Initial gain measurements show a gain coefficient of approximately 3.9 dB/cm.