Understanding the applications of optical modules in a data center

Optical modules such as transceivers perform the role of connecting Ethernet ports of networking devices to fiber optic networks. These modules are designed according to Ethernet cabling standards 10GBase-SR, 10GBase-LR, 10GBase-ER etc. to deliver data reach ranging from a few meters to several kilometers.

The optical modules prove their utility in expanding and upgrading the data center networks and are widely used in in-premise, inter-building and co-location networks. The functional roles that an optical module plays are that of traffic over the cable monitor and failure detector. These also maintain the integrity of the transmission while ensuring conformation to the standards like SFF 8472.

Networking is not restricted to establishing a single data center only; expansion is the natural course of any networking program. Specialists need making the data centers future-ready as well as fully supportive of adding newer users to the resource pool without causing too much increment in cost and energy. So, here are top 4 applications of optical modules that can add to the efficiency of the data center.

  • Increase the speeds of the networks: When the existing infrastructure delivers data transfer speed ranging from a few Mbps to 1Gbps and your requirement goes beyond it, say up to 100Gbps or more, and then an optical module can help you achieve the better speed without adding additional cost. QSFP form factor transceivers are the ideal solution for upgrading the data center networks from 10Gbps or 40Gbps to 100Gbps or 400Gbps. The use of fiber patch cables and optical jumper cables further ease the process.
  • Extend the reach of data centers: The makers are delivering better to best options for extending the reach of data centers. They have introduced 40G QSFP optical transceiver modules that are capable of delivering data connectivity to a span of 400m; earlier it extended only up to 100m to 300m on a multimode fiber. Similarly, with the help of QSFP28, 40G QSFP and CFP2-ACO modules, one can achieve the data connectivity ranging from 20km to 80km. The last one is designed to deliver data connectivity beyond 400km. Thus, it is possible to achieve extended reach of the data center by using hot-pluggable transceivers that can do the upgradation without bringing the system to a stand-still.
  • Make data centers more power-efficient: Optical modules with lower power dissipation can help in maintaining optimal temperatures at data centers negating the use of power-consuming cooling devices. Heat management is a crucial matter to solve when it comes to data centers as it can lead to unwanted instances like connector failures or undue contamination of the fibers. Since the optical modules can work optimally at extended temperature range without consuming extra power, these help develop power-efficient data centers. 100G QSFP28 optical modules of all types such as SR4, LR4, and CWDM4 etc support high performance at power consumption as low as 3.5W.
  • Ensure the relevance of existing infrastructure: Cabling and giving data centers a complete makeover is neither a practically possible nor a cost-effective solution. Though the technologies like 40G/100G have hit the stands, most of the data centers still rely on 10GBase Ethernet modules for delivering the expected results. Some makers have introduced modules like CFP series optical modules for supporting 100G connectivity, but heat and other issues do raise questions on the utility of the existing cabling infrastructure. So, QSFP+ LM4 transceiver modules are providing workable solution to prevent the existing set-up from going obsolete. These modules can work on duplex multi-mode fibers for achieving 40G speeds, which demanded the ribbon multimode fibers or duplex single mode fibers otherwise.
  • Make ports denser without generating much heat: 12 x 25G Tx/Rx modules or 4 x 25G modules making use of MTP connectors help achieve higher port density without overheating the systems. Thus, the optical modules are proving to be of great help in achieving denser ports enabling data transmission at higher rates with minimal alterations in infrastructure.
  • Moving data centers beyond 100G: Optical modules are witnessing stupendous growth in data transmission ability. The optical modules are being designed for better network coverage as well as increasing the data transfer speed so that better content delivery services demanded by real-time downloading, cloud computing etc. can be delivered satisfactorily. The data centers are planning to enter 400G domains after 100G, and these plans are best supported by QSFP and CFP modules, along with certain SFP+ modules and corresponding connectors.
  • Bringing cost-effectiveness to growing networks: Optical modules are designed with features like tamper-proof packaging, simplified test procedure, temperature-controlled operation and flexible specifications. All these features make optical modules relevant across wider choice of equipment, and also allow the IT managers to leverage these features for the betterment of network at low cost per Gbps achieved. Thus, optical modules are bringing in cost-effectiveness in overall working of a data center, with added benefit of minimal maintenance requirements. Since optical modules are provided with the intelligence features such as DDM function, it has become easier for the manager to detect faulty connections and replace only the affected part without putting the whole system off.

Generally, the link lengths in data centers are less than 2km in coverage. Therefore, the next generation optical modules are designed to deliver data connectivity up to a distance of 500m or 2 km over the single mode fibers.

Since the multi-mode fibers are not proving to be power-efficient solutions, the makers are focusing on developing technology that complements single mode fiber networks. Optical modules, therefore, are doing their unignorable bit by making data centers readier for future changes.