Monday, August 30, 2010

How the 40/100G Ethernet Shift to Parallel Optics Affects Data Center Cabling

by Lisa Huff

Most data centers are cabled with at least Category 5e and some MMF. To upgrade to 10G, data center managers need to either test their entire installed base of Category 5e to make sure it is 10G-worthy or replace it with Category 6A or 7. And their MMF should be of at least the OM3 (2000 variety or the 300m optical-reach is in question. Unless, they want to use 10GBASE-LX4 or LRM modules that are about 10x the price of 10GBASE-SR devices. But what happens when you want to look beyond 10G to the next upgrade?

Last month I talked about how at 40/100G there is a shift to parallel-optics. Unlike today’s two-fiber configurations, with one send and one receive, the standards for 40G and 100G Ethernet specify multiple parallel 10G connections that are aggregated. 40GBASE-SR4 will use four 10G fibers to send and four 10G fibers to receive, while 100GBASE-SR10 will use ten 10G fibers in each direction.

What this means to the data center operator is that they may need to install new cable. Unless they’ve started to install pre-terminated fiber assemblies using the 12-position MPO connectors – these can be re-used if polarity is chosen carefully. Polarity is the term used in the TIA-568 standard to explain how to fiber (wire) to make sure each transmitter is connected to a receiver on the other end of a multi-fiber cable.

There are three polarity methods defined in the TIA standard and each has its advantages and disadvantages, but only two of the three will allow you to easily reuse your installed pre-term assemblies for 40/100G – methods A or B. I’ll explain why in my subsequent posts.

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