In the past few years, the optical fiber cabling solutions for data centers have been continuously evolving, and solutions based on 8-core optical fibers are gradually becoming popular and even become the mainstream choice in terms of optimizing structured cabling and matching transceiver development routes. As this trend continues to develop, it is very helpful to gain an in-depth understanding of the factors behind the industry and analyze what challenges are driving the development of base-8 solutions. Looking back on the past and looking forward to the future, we can further understand the value and market potential of the base-8 solution.
To understand how base-8 solutions came to be, we have to look back in the history of data center cabling. Many who have been in the cabling industry for a longer period of time may recall the grueling days of terminating and installing fiber optics in the field, one fiber at a time. As data centers continue to grow in number and size, designers and installers are forced to manage hundreds or even thousands of single-fiber and duplex fiber connectors. However, since space and time are very precious for data centers, this traditional method is definitely difficult to meet the needs of deployment density and speed.
The History of Data Center Cabling
In 1996, the MTP (MPO type) connector appeared, which revolutionized the design and deployment of data center cabling. It accommodates 12 fibers in one cable and plug, making great strides in meeting high levels of speed, density and ease of installation.
The first common question is, when and why did base-12 solutions become widely deployed in the first place? In the mid-1990s, the industry urgently needed to develop a modular, high-density, structured cabling system, and base-12 connections emerged as the times require. port density. Since the TIA/EIA-568A optical fiber color coding standard is based on a group of 12 optical fibers, and the ribbon optical fiber is usually a group of 12 optical fibers. Therefore, it becomes very reasonable to expand the high-density connection scheme in increments of 12, so 12-fiber MTP connectors and base-12 connections came into being.
Historically, MTP-terminated trunk cables have served as the backbone of the structured cabling in the data center, exiting the main distribution room and leading to the zone distribution area. At that time, the mainstream data rate did not exceed 10GbE, so the optical ports on servers, switches, and storage devices were duplex, or dual-core optical fibers.
Therefore, while realizing high-density backbone connection through the base-12MTP connector, a 12-fiber cable to a 2-fiber cable wiring module and a branch jumper are required to provide a two-fiber interface for the two-fiber port on the device. Since the number 12 can be divisible by the number 2, this MTP cabling and distribution solution can easily provide dual-core optical fiber interfaces for network equipment and make full use of the optical fibers of the base-12 trunk optical cable. In fact, only one connector and one module are required to deploy fiber to six duplex ports using structured cabling with MTP connectors.
With the rapid development of the industry until 2009, the challenges faced by the data center infrastructure became more and more serious, and the density and speed of deployment became more critical. Prior to this, most data center solutions were based on hardware designs commonly used in the traditional LAN market. Therefore, the industry needs a solution that is specific to the data center and not just a general cabling issue. As the data center market continues to grow, specially designed pre-terminated fiber solutions are on the horizon. When such a solution emerges, it solves the data center challenge of dedicating too much valuable and limited space to cabling, while also optimizing infrastructure components, speeding up deployment, and being very easy to use and maintain. In the 10 years since its listing, the value it has brought to the industry has been continuously proven. Density, network uptime, speed, simplicity, and a clear transition path to meet future needs are key factors in its continued evolution.
From 2009 to 2013, the roadmap of optical technologies and protocols relevant to the data center continued to evolve and crystallize. Discussions with major transceiver, switch, server and storage manufacturers indicate that while many transceiver technology options are possible, all will be based on dual-fiber or eight-fiber connections. In other words, for 40G to 400G Ethernet transport, all directions lead to these solutions.
While dual-fiber and eight-fiber solutions are the way of the future, some short-term alternatives will also offer different base fiber counts. As shown in the table above, the path to 400G includes first and second generation OM3/OM4 parallel transmission proposals as base-32 and base-16 solutions. However, discussions with prominent transceiver, switch, server, and storage suppliers indicate that these solutions will not be widely deployed due to manufacturing costs and connector complexity.
Imagine a backbone infrastructure using MTP connectors in 16, 24 or 32 fiber increments. Bringing this connector into your cabling infrastructure means you’re cabling with the lowest common denominator: this transceiver technology has the lowest frequency of service and the shortest lifetime. For infrastructures based on more than 8 or 12 fibers, breakout conversions are required to interface with more common parallel transceivers such as SR4 or PSM4. While the conversion module supports optical ports and interfaces with different fiber counts, it increases the cost and link insertion loss.
The third-generation solution is aimed at 400G parallel transmission based on OM3/OM4 optical fiber, which is an 8-fiber solution and is expected to gain wide market acceptance. Since the number 8 is exactly divisible by the number 2, a base-8 backbone connection can easily work with 2-fiber transceivers just like base-12. However, base-8 connections provide the greatest flexibility for the most common 40G, 100G, and 400G transceiver types. Simply put, base-8 connectivity provides the most future-proof solution for 10G to 400G transmission.
Technology changes quickly in the transceiver world, but anyone who has installed a 40G line will know that one common transceiver type is QSFP, and it typically uses 8-fiber. Base-12 can be connected to 8-fiber QSFP ports, and in fact, many people running 40G lines now have base-12 connections installed in the backbone network. However, it is obvious that installing a 12-fiber connector in an 8-fiber transceiver means that 4 fibers are left unused.
In order to solve this problem, the supplier also provides a solution. When using parallel base-8 transceivers and base-12 optical cables, 100% of the main fiber can be utilized, which is to use a 12-core to 8-core conversion module or a branch jumper. . But solving one problem only introduces another: the conversion module increases insertion loss because the link has more pairs of MTP connectors. This condition affects the performance of the link and increases the costs associated with the conversion modules. The industry needs a better way!
To manage systems based on 2-fiber and 8-fiber technology, the solution is to use base-8 connections. This requires the design of new, 8-fiber-based pre-terminated cables for data centers. This solution provides all the value of a pre-terminated solution with the addition of superior network scalability, improved link performance and 100% fiber utilization. The base-8 solution brings added value to various network applications and at the same time facilitates the management of cabling infrastructure.
New networking applications have emerged, such as splitting high-speed ports (40G) into low-speed ports (10G) to reduce costs and increase density. Port breakout deployment has become a popular networking tool and has driven a huge industry demand for parallel optical transceivers. Port breakout is commonly used today when splitting 40/100G parallel optical transceivers into four 10/25G link operations. Branch parallel ports are beneficial for multiple applications, such as building larger spine-and-leaf architecture networks and realizing high-density 10/25G networks.
How does this application relate to the new base-8 cabling
As with native 40G or 100G network deployments, the parallel transceiver operates on 8-fiber when operating in port breakout mode. Base-8 fiber optic cables are perfectly matched to transceiver requirements, eliminating unused fibers.
In addition to addressing fiber utilization, link loss, costs associated with deploying high-density and high-bandwidth networks, and other issues, the last major challenge for base-8 is making it easier to manage the cabling infrastructure when MTP connectors are plugged directly into transceivers. become more complicated. In the past, cabling solutions used pinless MTP-to-MTP trunk cables for duplex tasks such as 10G. These backbone cables plug into the MTP to LC conversion modules, and the LC duplex jumpers run from the modules to the data center electronics. Since MTPs need a pin-to-pinless connection when they are connected to each other, the MTP-to-LC module uses an MTP connector with pins inside the module. And when migrating to a parallel optics system, the trunk cables are installed into MTP adapter panels, and the MTP jumpers are connected from the trunk cables to the electronics. This is where routing challenges can arise.
Since parallel optical transceivers are always pinned, a pinned-to-pinless jumper is required to connect the pinless MTP-to-MTP trunk cable to the transceiver. Depending on the link, two additional patch cord types are required: a pinned-to-pinned MTP patch cord for direct connection to two lengths of backbone fiber optic cable in the main distribution area, and a second type for direct connection Unpinned to unpinned MTP jumper for both transceivers. These configuration requirements triple the number of jumper types required compared to traditional duplex systems using a single type of LC duplex jumper. This jumper complexity also creates a risk for data centers, where the wrong jumper is used in the wrong place, and damage can result.
To address these issues, a new base-8 solution uses ferrule MTP connectors for MTP-to-MTP trunk cables. This change allows the use of pinless-to-pinless patch cords throughout the fiber optic infrastructure regardless of cabling design, eliminating the need for three patch cord configurations and eliminating risk.
Base-8 provides the most efficient connectivity and brings great value to the optical technology and protocol roadmap, resulting in widespread adoption globally and across all verticals. The most common customer feedback we receive is, why has there not been a solution based on 8-fiber? They really want to see some solutions that can deeply integrate technology development routes and provide them with maximum flexibility. Data center operators and owners know that with base-8 solutions, they can minimize the risk of network cabling and are already optimized for today and tomorrow.