Data centers are processing tons of data and need to retrieve the data at record speeds. This situation requires that every aspect of the design be optimized, including optical transceiver technology. Since most data centers are connecting at 100 Mbps or higher, all optical transceiver technology, including 10 Gbps, must meet the increasing demand for bandwidth. The technology needs to meet the bandwidth requirements not only for storage and switch applications but also for server applications. Here is what you need to know about optical transceivers and server technology.
Optical Transceivers: Smaller, More Affordable and Less Power Hungry
High port density became the “name of the game” in 2003. Designers then needed optical transceivers that could consume less power and cost less while being smaller in size. Optical transceivers that met these requirements are typically recognized in the technology world through the XFP multisource agreement (MSA).
Packages for optical transceivers are shrinking. They evolved from a 4" x 3.5" footprint to a 2.3" x 0.68" package. This is a significant change that has allowed the overall footprint of servers to decrease, making data centers smaller and more streamlined.
In addition, optical-transceiver power consumption has dropped 10 W to 3 W or lower—a significant stride that has enabled designers to get more out of transceiver technology. Lower power consumption means lower prices in the design and in power costs. These savings are incredible for people in the technology field.
Silicon advancements have made all of these benefits possible. Manufacturers introduce optical components that will enable development of new transceivers. Advancements can help clients achieve 10 Gbps and move from 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps at decreasing prices. That's why it is so important for designers to remain progressive and to continue to seek new solutions to old problems.
Port density is one of the single most important factors in transceiver design. Most data centers consist of multiple racks of switching equipment that can achieve high speeds. To control costs, designers have refined their designs and tried to improve their manufacturing process technologies to assist with this effort. Increasing port density is just one way to decrease system costs.
XFP optical transceivers support up to 16 channels, which can plug into a standard server equipment rack. Although high port density is necessary to reducing costs, addressing heat dissipation has become a critical issue as well. Power requirements can be met using VCSEL technology and also using the latest silicon. XFP 10 Gbps optical transceivers have greatly accelerated and converged in terms of development efforts.
XFP optical transceivers have been designed to conform to the requirements of servers and to the performance and distance requirements of 10 Gbps Ethernet. The desired server transmission rates and encoding qualifications can easily be met by an XFP optical transceiver. As server technology evolves, optical transceivers follow its lead accordingly. When designers moved digital functions out of transceivers and into ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits), the efficiency of the transceivers improved.
Inefficiencies of XFP Transceivers
Overcoming the loss associated with optical transceivers is one of the primary concerns with XFP optical transceivers. Crosstalk is another concern. As technology improves and inefficiencies are minimized, servers will become more efficient. This effort requires some assistance from designers and manufacturers to aid in the evolution of servers and transceiver technology.
Keep in mind that optical transceivers in a server convert electrical signals into optical signals. This is what allows them to achieve speeds in excess of 25 Gbps. If they are bulky, however, they are more prone to transmission losses and signal degradation—another impediment to faster transmission.
To address these issues, circuit technology has emerged in conjunction with XFP transceivers to suppress reflections and increase data rates. Efforts have also been made to decrease costs and footprint by incorporating flexible printed-circuit boards and optical devices. Some companies have developed film-type lens sheets to address these issues, but they have not eliminated them entirely. Future technology may erase this impediment from existence.
Improving Transceiver Technology: What Companies Are Doing
Technology companies are emerging in an effort to develop optical transceiver technology specifically for data center use. The devices will convert electrical signals into optical signals to allow these signals to be safely and efficiently transferred from server to server on fiber-optic cables. Some companies have introduced transceiver technology that transmits data at 40 Gbps, and some are offering 100 Gbps. Some new startups are investing sums greater than $30 million to achieve these higher speeds because they recognize that the returns will be significantly greater than the investment.
As the cloud industry expands, technology experts can expect that optical transceiver technology will improve and advance to meet the speed requirements of the server technology that cloud storage relies on. This trend is promising for transceiver manufacturers that are seeking something more to improve their current transmission speeds and operability.
Major companies are seeking to advance transceiver technology by reducing costs and footprint and by increasing speeds. Achieving transfer speeds of over 25 Gbps is a goal of many next-generation manufacturers. They plan to double transmission rates using these improvements.
When transceivers can facilitate communication between high-speed, high-bandwidth CPUs in a server, companies can achieve great feats. That’s why the future of supercomputers is so promising: transceiver technology is rising to meet the demands of servers.
Virtualization technology has allowed a single CPU to run multiple processes at once. Optical transceiver technology has improved to support the amount of data being passed through CPUs and all other peripheral technology. Optical transceivers are excellent in terms of performance. They are capable of reaching 25 Gbps transmission rates. Higher data rates are becoming more difficult to achieve using electrical communications, but it’s easier when optical transceiver technology can support higher data transmission rates.
With the advancements in technology, many problems of the past have been corrected, and companies can transmit data faster than ever before. Many companies have the goal to improve their technology significantly over the next few years to help business owners make decisions faster and for a smaller investment.
Optical Transceivers and Server Technology Affect Each Other’s Performance
Increased bandwidth is the name of the game. In general, 10 Gbps speeds are possible with the proper technology from server, storage and workgroup switch applications. But every designer must find solutions that will optimize the systems they are designing or implementing.
XFP can increase port density and will reduce the costs of optical transceivers. For that reason, all designers should have a plan to upgrade their transceiver technology and server technology. With plans in place, business owners can expect to decrease processing time and also conserve space. Keep track of transceiver technology advancements and determine how it can help you achieve your long and short term goals.
About the Author
Keith Andrews is President of Blue Wave Micro, a leading wholesale distributor of quality transceivers, memory, semiconductors, electronic components, computer products and cabling in the U.S. The company carries all major brands and guarantees them to be 100% compatible. Every product is manufactured and tested under the strictest quality standards to ensure they meet customer demands.