Thursday, July 1, 2010

VCSELs – Reducing Power Consumption in 10 Gigabit Data Center Networks

Many optical technology proponents have argued for many years that fiber is about to take over all of networking. However, time and time again we have seen copper technologies reinvent themselves to serve at least the last 100 meters in LANs. But with the complicated digital signal processing that is needed to enable the 100-meter operation of copper comes a cost – power consumption. And in data center operations, power consumption may be the single most important issue still needing to be solved.

Before the EPA performed their study on data center power consumption and before the creation of the Green Grid, data center managers were worried more about running out of space than out of power. Now, with complicated electronics and better utilization of server processing through virtualization, lowering power consumption has become more imperative.

VCSEL-based short-wavelength fiber optic networks may be the answer.   On a port-by-port basis, optical 10GBASE-SR devices consume four times less power than copper 10GBASE-T ones. And when you have thousands of these ports within your data center, the total power consumption adds up quickly.  In future posts, we'll have more quantitative analyses of copper versus fiber decisions for data center networks.

Finisar (FNSR) is the leading manufacturer of VCSELs, and they sell the short range lasers to LAN and SAN suppliers including Brocade (BRCD), QLogic (QLGC), HP (HPQ), and EMC (EMC).   While the devices generally sell at low margins, they are an essential part of keeping costs down and power consumption low in data center networks.

submitted by Contributing Analyst Lisa Huff

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