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Active Optical Cable for High-speed Transmission

Dec 16th 2015 at 10:48 PM

There is no question that we live in a high-speed world. Active optical cable (AOC), especially parallel multi-lane cables using QSFP+ modules, is one of the most important devices used by high-speed interconnects, such as InfiniBand, and accurate cable testing is necessary to ensure reliable data transmissions and interoperability. What do active optical cables specifically bring to the table and why are they the way to go? Here is some detailed information about active optical cables.

What Is Active Optical Cable?

What is active optical cable? Let's start with the basic definition that you would stumble upon if you happen to plug the term into a search engine: A specialized optical cable that uses electrical-to-optical conversion on the cable ends to improve speed and distance performance of the cable without sacrificing compatibility with standard electrical interfaces. A picture of Cisco QSFP-4X10G-AOC1M QSFP+ to 4SFP+ AOC is shown below.

Cisco QSFP-4X10G-AOC1M QSFP+ to 4SFP+ AOC

Advantages of Active Optical Cables

There are a number of reasons users are jumping to active optical cables. Primarily, these cables offer both higher bandwidth and a longer reach with a better footprint than current copper cables. Active optical cables provide lighter weight, smaller size, EMI immunity, lower interconnection loss, and reduced power requirements. Five meters of copper cabling weighs in at roughly a kilo. Ten meters of AOC weighs less than 150g. That weight difference means significantly less chance of damage to switch ports, less maintenance and better server utilization. Lighter and thinner cables are also easier to manage, require less space, and are easier to maintain.

Secondly, a key difference between copper, whether passive or active, and active optical is in bit error rates over distance. Beyond five meters, passive copper begins to suffer excessive bit error rates. Active copper improves range to around 15 meters, for roughly the same cost as active optical cable. Active optical cable for its part can operate reliably up to 100 meters, while the latest AOC products are extending their reach to 1km.

Thirdly, in comparison with transceiver products, active optical cables have the advantage of much greater simplicity, and potentially of reliability, as they are factory terminated, and there is no risk of mis-matching polarities, dirt entering the assemblies, or different manufacturers' tolerance mismatching.

Applications of Active Optical Cables

Industry-leading active optical cables can achieve 40Gbps data rates over long reaches up to 10km, using a fraction of the power while providing streamlined installation. Low-power AOC integrated cable solutions provide less expensive, reliable transport for aggregated data rates up to 40Gbps. The active optical cables offer customers the flexibility of traditional optical modules by interfacing to systems via a standard QSFP MSA connector. QSFP+ to MPO optical cables allow an easy connection to separately installed single-mode fiber through the attached MPO connectors. Both product versions are electrically compliant with the QSFP+ interface InfiniBand, SDR (single data rate), DDR (double data rate), QDR (quad data rate), Ethernet (10 and 40Gbps), Fibre Channel (8 and 10Gbps), SAS (6Gbps) and other protocol applications. QSFP+ AOC can be used as a direct replacement for traditional copper cables with the added benefits of a lighter weight and smaller diameter solution for cable lengths from 1m to 100m. It can also be used to replace a pair of transceivers proving equivalent performance at a lower price.

Fiberstore is a professional manufacturer and supplier, which offers a large amount of cables and transceivers for your 40GbE applications. Fiberstore provides a large variety of active optical cables branded by major brands, like Cisco, HP, Juniper, Brocade and Finisar. For example, Juniper JNP-QSFP-DAC-10MA QSFP+ to QSFP+ AOC, and Finisar FCBG110SD1C03 SFP+ to SFP+ AOC, they both are suitable for very short distances and guaranteed with a limited lifetime warranty.

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