Advances in Fiber Connectors are Improving Optical Power Budget

Industrial optical switch with cabled connectors

Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by Josh Mahan

Today, data center operators are always looking for ways to improve their rack density. Along with that, there is a need for more computing power without causing those server racks to fill up. In a server room, there is only so much floor space, meaning there is a need to scale up to meet those high-demand applications. With this limited headroom and lack of floor space in the server rack, there is a need to do more with less. But addressing the restricted area does not need to be a complicated task for your IT department. Learning about fiber connector advances improves data center operators’ optical power budgets. 

Power Budget in Optical Fiber

What is the power budget for optical fiber? This term is the relationship between the fiber links’ power losses and the system’s available input power. The manufacturer will determine the available power budget for optical fiber. A power budget will show what devices use a certain amount of energy by breaking down the usage by components. 

The optical power budget in a fiber connector is the allocation of available optical power between various loss-producing mechanisms, including splice losses, connector losses, launch coupling losses, and fiber attenuation. With a power budget, you can ensure enough signal strength (optical power) available at the receiver. 

Now that you understand the power budget, what fiber connectors are your best options?

The Need To Improve Fiber Cable Infrastructure

According to the International Data Corporation, around 41.6 billion connected devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes of data by 2025. However, connected devices are not the only issues. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and hyper-convergence will push the need for speeds of 800Gb and beyond. With those almost insatiable speed requirements, it will become a challenge for data center managers to deliver to their customers, especially if they have limited capabilities with an already stressed fiber cable infrastructure. 

Are you having issues determining your optical power budget? At C&C Technology Group, we can optimize your power throughout your data center. 

Many data center managers also have problems with their existing fiber installations, with many of them reaching their predefined optical power budget and other limits. As a result, many managers face typical fiber connectivity challenges as they attempt to upgrade using the standard cassette-based connectivity layout. Some other challenges include:

  • Using mismatched connectors
  • Selecting the incorrect cable and interface types
  • Facing polarity issues
  • Having a lack of awareness of new standards

Data center managers need to understand the complexities of cable connectivity to overhaul the installation and lead to the project’s success. For many projects, most network failures will start and end at the fiber connectivity level. The LC, also known as the Lucent Connector or little connector, has become the dominant duple patch connection for a multi-fiber pull-off or push-on layout in an existing data center. However, this connector does face many performance challenges and creates significant density. It may seem like there are few solutions in the market, but there are a few ways to address the increasing need for data centers. 

Also of note is the multi-fiber push on connector or MPO. The MPO is widely used as the connector of choice with pre terminated cassette based fiber infrastructure. Of course there have been limitations and challenges that are presented with the MPO connector. Loss is a major factor because trying to precisely align multiple fibers in one connector is a challenge and often results in light loss that can be detrimental. Additionally gender and polarity are challenges that are difficult to address through the design and procurement phases of a project and often result in human errors that must be fixed later. Cleaning the MPO is not a straightforward process and is often riddled with human error. And lastly, because of the near infinite possible configurations of fiber infrastructure, it is difficult for manufacturers to keep in inventory every possible cassette configuration desired. This makes cassettes a made to order product with long lead times in many cases.

Related: Working with Fiber Optic Cables: 5 Important Safety Measures

Electronics engineer fixing cables on server

Types of Fiber Connectors

Several types of fiber connectors can help improve your optical power budget. The mini duplex connector (MDC) is a great option. It replaces the Lucent Connector duplex patch cord, increasing density, which results in cost and time savings. While you can find them in different forms, the standard MDC will have a 1.2 ceramic ferrule similar to the LC one. There is a difference. The space between the two ferrules of this duplex’s two-patch cord is 3.5mm, while the LC has a space of 6.25mm. With that, the MDC is a better choice for connectivity, and data center managers can easily transition the room by using the same port cut-out sizes and doubling their fiber count. 

An easier transition for connectivity is virtual since modern racks often have more complex devices that require advanced modulation schemes, requesting a higher signal-to-noise ratio. When looking to meet those higher fiber connectivity requirements, simplicity is essential. Data center designers are searching for ways to improve architecture, and they don’t want to deal with common issues, such as tangled LC components or locked into boxes. Advanced technology requires spaces that can be designed out of the traditional box. 

Related: What Are Fiber Optic Jumpers? 

Consider an alignment-independent multi-fiber interconnect system for those data center managers who want to break out of the box. It uses an 8-fiber trunk cable connector into an array of twin-fiber patch cord connectors by utilizing conversion adapters. These adapters will simplify the process by not relying on the traditional MPO-to-LO cassettes. Along with that, this system offers low loss levels across all panels. 

Close up photo of hyperx ram

Choose the Right Fiber Connectors for Your Data Centers

Today’s data centers need to deliver ultra-reliable connectivity to all systems. With that, data centers will ensure that the information generated by advanced devices requiring a higher bandwidth level will continue growth without increasing the rack space. Also, the accelerated turnover of existing port speeds and reduced fiber link budget can result in optoelectronic and semiconductor manufacturers delivering more reliable technologies at better prices. With the highest-quality fiber optics on the market, there are still issues with performance degradation, especially if they are connected with legacy practices. 

Related: What is a Fiber Cassette? MPO Cassettes Importance 

Data centers are dominated by the balance between performance and costs, meaning that the quality of these fiber connections is more important than ever. Fiber optic density, scalability, and migration must find ways to replace cassette-based solutions with better fiber connections. These direct-connection components will deliver a near-lossless link no matter the gender of the existing ports. This new generation of fiber connectivity will continue to improve the optical power budget while providing a new foundation to meet the needs of higher commuting devices.

Are you looking to improve your optical power budget? At C&C Technology Group, we can offer a few solutions to help meet the needs of your data center.

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