Today’s Fiber Connectors: Fast, Efficient, and Near Lossless
September 09, 2022
Rack density is always a challenge for data center operators and the need for more compute power is causing server racks to fill up fast. Unfortunately, there is only so much floor space to populate with active components to scale up for high-demand applications such as 5G, AI, and IoT.
Due to this lack of floor space and limited headroom inside the server racks, there is an extreme need to do more with less. However, addressing the restricted space and more compute power needed should not be a complicated IT design task.
International Data Corporation (IDC) states, “41.6 billion connected devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes of data by 2025.” In addition, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and hyper-convergence are pushing the need for 800Gb speeds and beyond. Because of the insatiable speed requirements, it’s becoming difficult for data center managers to deliver given the limited capabilities of their existing fiber cable infrastructure.
In fact, many of these data center managers find their existing fiber installation has reached its predefined theoretical limit and optical power budget. This leaves them with typical fiber connectivity challenges when attempting to upgrade using a cassette-based connectivity layout:
- Selecting The Correct Interface and Cable Type
- Reversed Polarity Issues
- Mismatched Connectors
- Lack of Awareness for New Standards
Understanding complex cable connectivity is crucial to the overall installation and project’s success. Most network failures start and end at the fiber connectivity level. With Lucent Connector (LC) a.k.a little connector, currently being the dominant duplex patch connections for MTP® (multi-fiber pull off)/MPO (multi-fiber push on) layouts in existing data centers, it continues to create significant density vs. performance challenges. However, there is a better fiber connectivity solution to address today’s data center needs.
The Mini Duplex Connector
The Mini Duplex Connector (MDC) replaces LC duplex patch cords to drastically increase density with simpler installation procedures resulting in significant time and cost savings. Although different in form and factor, the MDC employs a 1.25mm ceramic ferrule similar to the LC size. The big difference is the space inbetween the two ferrules of the duplex 2 patch cords – there is 6.25mm space between the duplex LC’s and a much smaller 3.5mm between two adjacent MDC connectors. As a result, the MDC offers a sensible solution for connectivity and can easily transition into existing data centers, as it uses the same port cut out sizes and doubles the fiber count.
An easy transition for connectivity is paramount because today’s racks have more complex devices with advanced modulation schemes that require a higher signal-to-noise ratio. For fiber connectivity requirements—simplicity is the name of the game. Data center designers don’t want to be locked into a particular architecture, and deal with tangled LC components or MTP/MPO in boxes. They prefer to be tangle-free and break outside of the box.
Breaking out of the box requires an Alignment Independent Multifiber (AIM) fiber interconnect system that is designed to mate an 8-fiber trunk cable connector directly to an array of twin-fiber patch cord connectors by means of a “conversion adapter.” These conversion adapters simplify and make the connectivity process faster by taking the place of traditional MPO-to-LC cassettes while offering extremely low levels of loss across the panels—due to the adapter coupled with MDC to LC patch cords.
Today’s data centers must deliver ultra-reliable connectivity to ensure information generated by 5G and IoT devices are quickly processed by AI and Machine Learning-infused applications—all while bandwidth consumption continues to grow and rack space shrinks. In addition, the accelerated turnover of port speeds and reduced fiber link budgets result in constant pressure on semiconductor and optoelectronic players to deliver reliable technologies at competitive prices. Even the highest-quality fiber optics are subjected to performance degradation if they are connected using legacy practices.
In a space dominated by the balance between cost and performance, the quality of optical fiber connectivity becomes amplified. Today’s fiber-optic density, migration, and scalability require replacing cassette-based solutions with direct fiber connections. Using direct-connection components will deliver a near-lossless link with no gender considerations. The ability to deploy a new generation of fiber connectivity is paramount to meeting the optical requirements while laying the foundation for a limitless migration path for higher compute devices.
Eric Hyland is Program Manager at Legrand with eleven years of industry experience. He has spent the last eight years obsessing over the lower layers of the OSI framework. He is passionate about innovation in the often overlooked or marginalized connectivity and infrastructure space. While much can be accomplished in virtual environments, eventually, things still need to be plugged in.