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A 24-fiber interconnect solution: The right

migration path to 40/100G


September 1, 2012
From the September, 2012 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine

Maximum fiber use, reduced cable congestion and increased fiber density make a 24-fiber trunking and
interconnect a preferred option to prepare for next-generation speeds.
By Kam Patel, TE Connectivity
Video views on YouTube climbed from 100 million per day in 2006 to well over 4 billion per day in 2012.
Song downloads from iTunes increased from 5 billion in 2008 to more than 16 billion by 2012. According to
Ciscos Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update 2011-2016, average smartphone
use tripled in 2011 and forecasts estimate that by the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will
exceed the number of people on earth. Over the next two years, our world will create, process and store more
data than in the entire history of mankind.
In conjunction with the media demands of todays Internet and the mobile network boom, the amount of data
transmitted at the enterprise business level is also rapidly climbing as networks need to support more devices
and advanced applications than ever before. The Cisco Visual Networking Index forecasts that business data
traffic will grow 22 percent between 2011 and 2016, with business videoconferencing alone increasing sixfold.
In fact, it is estimated that by 2016, the gigabyte equivalent of all the movies ever made will cross global IPbased networks every three minutes, with North America accounting for 3.3 exabytes per monthor more than
3 billion gigabytes.

For typical 40-GbE applications (left) the 4 right


and 4 left fibers of a 12-fiber MPO connector are
used for transmit and receive while the inner 4
fibers are left unused. For 100-GbE applications
(right), the middle 20 fibers of a 24-fiber MPO are
used to transmit and receive 10-Gbits/sec while the
2 fibers on the left and 2 fibers on the right are left
unused.

Data centers are at the heart of the tremendous amount of business data needing to be transmitted, processed
and stored. In the data center, fiber-optic links are vital for providing the bandwidth and speed needed to
transmit huge amounts of data to and from a large number of sources. More bandwidth is also needed to support
the use of virtualization that consolidates multiple computer platforms onto single physical servers to reduce the
amount of equipment and improve space utilization. As data center managers strive to provide the bandwidth
they need, transmission speeds at core switches are increasing and backbone infrastructures are experiencing a
significant upsurge in the amount of fiber-optic cabling. Typical transmission speeds in the data center are
beginning to increase beyond 10 Gbits/sec. In 2010 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
ratified the 40- and 100-Gbit Ethernet standard, and already leading switch manufacturers are offering 40-GbE
blades and more than 25 percent of data centers have implemented these next-generation speeds. It is
anticipated that by the end of 2013, nearly half of all data centers will follow suit. Todays enterprise businesses
are therefore seeking the most effective method to migrate from current 10-GbE data center applications to
40/100-GbE in the near future.
A 24-fiber data center fiber trunking and interconnect solution allows enterprise data center managers to
effectively migrate from 10-GbE to 40/100-GbE. By leveraging 24-fiber trunk cable technology, such a system
offers the right 10-40-100-GbE migration path with the following characteristics.

Support for 10-, 40- and 100-GbE


Maximum use of deployed fibers
Space savings and reduced congestion
Better airflow and energy efficiency than other cabling options
Increased density in fiber panels
An easy, cost-effective migration scheme
Overall better return on investment

What standards say


In 2002, the IEEE ratified the 802.3ae standard for 10-GbE over fiber using duplex-fiber links and verticalcavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) transceivers. Most 10-GbE applications use duplex LC-style connectors;
in these setups, one fiber transmits and the other receives. Standards efforts aimed at finding a cost-effective
method to support next-generation speeds of 40- and 100-Gbits/sec, and in 2010, the IEEE ratified the 802.3ba
standard for 40- and 100-GbE. Similar to how transportation highways are scaled to support increased traffic
with multiple lanes at the same speed, the 40- and 100-GbE standards use parallel optics, or multiple lanes of
fiber transmitting at the same speed. Running 40-GbE requires 8 fibers, with 4 fibers each transmitting at 10Gbits/sec and 4 fibers each receiving at 10-Gbits/sec. Running 100-GbE requires a total of 20 fibers, with 10
transmitting at 10-Gbits/sec and 10 receiving at 10-Gbits/sec. Both scenarios call for using high-density multifiber MPO-style connectors.

For 40-GbE, a 12-fiber MPO connector is used. Because only 8 optical fibers are required, typical 40-GbE
applications use only the 4 left and 4 right optical fibers of the 12-fiber MPO connector, while the inner 4
optical fibers are left unused.

A single 24-fiber trunk cable provides 12, 10-GbE links, 3, 40-GbE links and a single
100-GbE link.

To run 100-GbE, two 12-fiber MPO connectors can be usedone transmitting 10-Gbits/sec on 10 fibers and
the other receiving 10-Gbits/sec on 10 fibers. However, the recommended method for 100-GbE is to use a 24fiber MPO-style connector with the 20 fibers in the middle of the connector transmitting and receiving at 10Gbits/sec and the 2 top and bottom fibers on the left and right unused.
To keep costs down, the objective of the IEEE was to leverage existing 10-GbE VCSELs and Om3/Om4
multimode fiber. The standards therefore relaxed transceiver requirements, allowing both 40- and 100-GbE to
use arrayed transceivers containing either 4 or 10 VCSELs and detectors, accordingly. This prevented the cost
of 40-GbE transceivers being 4 times that of existing 10-GbE transceivers for 40-GbE, or 10 times the cost of
existing 10-GbE transceivers for 100-GbE. According to the IEEE 802.3ba standard, multimode optical fiber
supports both 40- and 100-GbE over link lengths up to 150 meters when using Om4 optical fiber and up to 100
meters when using Om3 optical fiber.
It is important to note that singlemode fiber can also be used for running 40- and 100-GbE to much greater
distances using wavelength division multiplexing (WDM). While this is ideal for longer-reach applications like
long campus backbones, metropolitan area networks and other long-haul applications, the finer tolerances of
singlemode fiber components and optoelectronics used for sending and receiving over singlemode are much
more expensive and are therefore not feasible for most data center applications of less than 150 meters. Copper
twinax cable is also capable of supporting 40- and 100-GbE but only to distances of 7 meters.

Shown here is a migration scenario for TE Connectivitys data center fiber trunking
and interconnect solution. With this system in place, 24-fiber trunk cables remain
permanent for 10-, 40- and 100-GbE applications.

According to a data center study conducted by Building Services Research and Information Association
(BSRIA; www.bsria.co.uk), which surveyed 335 respondents in 6 countries, 29 percent of respondents plan to
use Om3/Om4 multimode fiber for 40-GbE and 41 percent plan to use Om3/Om4 for 100-GbE. On the other
hand, only 11 percent plan to use copper twinax for both 40- and 100-GbE applications. The table (p. 14) shows
the 40- and 100-GbE standards with their associated cabling media and link lengths.

Why 24 is the right migration path


Knowing that 40- and 100-GbE are just around the corner, and already a reality for some, many data center
managers are striving to determine which physical-layer solution will support 10-GbE today while providing the
best, most-effective migration path to 40- and 100-GbE. While many solutions on the market recommend the
use of 12-fiber multimode trunk cables between core switches and the equipment distribution area in the data
center, TE Connectivity recommends and offers a standards-based migration path with the use of 24-fiber trunk
cables.

The use of 24-fiber trunk cables between switch panels and equipment is a common-sense method. In this
scenario, 24-fiber trunk cables with 24-fiber MPOs on both ends are used to connect from the back of the switch
panel to the equipment distribution area. For 10-GbE applications, each of the 24 fibers can be used to transmit
10 Gbits/sec, for a total of 12 links. For 40-GbE applications, which requires 8 fibers (4 transmitting and 4
receiving), a 24-fiber trunk cable provides a total of three 40-GbE links. For 100-GbE, which requires 20 fibers
(10 transmitting and 10 receiving), a 24-fiber trunk cable provides a single 100-GbE link. Why is this more

advantageous than using 12-fiber trunk cables? It all comes down to a better return on investment and reduced
future operating and capital expense.
Maximum fiber use. As mentioned previously, 40-GbE uses 8 fibers of a 12-fiber MPO, leaving 4 fibers
unused. When using a 12-fiber trunk cable, those same 4 fibers are unused. For example, three 40-GbE links
using three separate 12-fiber trunk cables would result in a total of 12 unused fibers, or 4 fibers unused for each
trunk.
With the use of 24-fiber trunk cables, data center managers actually get to use all the fiber and leverage their
complete investment. Running three, 40-GbE links over a single 24-fiber trunk cable uses all 24 fibers of the
trunk cable. This recoups 33 percent of the fibers that would be lost with 12-fiber trunk cables, providing a
much better return on investment. At 100-GbE, which requires 20 fibers, a total of 4 fibers are left unused when
using either two, 12-riber trunk cables or when using a single 24-fiber trunk cable. However, additional benefits
come into play for 100-GbE, and 12-fiber trunk cables are not the recommended configuration for 100-GbE.
Reduced cable congestion. Another benefit to using 24-fiber trunk cables is less cable congestion in alreadycrowded pathways. Space is premium in the data center, and congested cable pathways can make cable
management more difficult and impede proper airflow needed to maintain efficient cooling and subsequent
energy efficiency.
Our 24-fiber trunk cables are only appreciably larger than 12-fiber trunk cables at 3.8 mm in diameter,
compared to 3 mm. That means that 24-fiber trunk cables provide twice the amount of fiber in less than 21
percent more space. For a 40-GbE application, it takes three, 12-fiber trunk cables to provide the same number
of links as a single 24-fiber trunk cableor about 1.5 times more pathway space.
Increased fiber density. Because 24-fiber MPO connectors offer a small footprint, they can ultimately provide
increased density in fiber panels at the switch location. With todays large core switches occupying upwards of
one-third of an entire rack, density in fiber switch panels is critical.
Our data center fiber trunking and interconnect solution consists of the 24-fiber trunk cables from the back of
the fiber panels to the equipment distribution area. With the rack or cabinet, hydra cables plug into the 24-fiber
MPO ports on the front of the fiber panel and connect to individual switch ports. Hydra cables feature a single
24-fiber MPO connector on one end and either 12 duplex LC connectors on the other end for 10-GbE
applications, 12-fiber MPO connectors for 40-GbE, or a 24-fiber MPO connector for 100-GbE. With a single 1RU fiber panel able to provide a total of 32 MPO adapter panels, the density for 10-GbE applications is 384
ports in 1 RU (duplex LC connectors) and 96 40-GbE ports in 1 RU (12-fiber MPOs). The table (p. 16)
demonstrates the various densities the system offers.
Easier, cost-effective migration path. The 24-fiber data center fiber trunking and interconnect solution offers a
simple and cost-effective migration path from 10-GbE to 40- and 100-GbE, providing future-readiness for three
generations of active equipment. With 24-fiber trunk cables effectively supporting all three applications, there is
no need to recable the pathways from the back of the switch panel to the equipment distribution area; all that
cabling remains permanent and never has to be touched.
That means that data center managers can easily migrate to higher speeds, with less time and complexity. With
24-fiber trunk cables that offer guaranteed performance for 10-, 40- and 100-GbE, upgrading the cabling
infrastructure is as simple as upgrading the hydra cables or cassettes and patch cords to the equipment.

Improving ROI
The 24-fiber data center fiber trunking and interconnect solution is ideal for medium- to large-size data center
customers and markets, from healthcare and finance to broadcasting and governmentessentially anyone that
foresees the need to update from 10- to 40/100-GbE in the future. With guaranteed support for all three
applications, the ability to use all the fiber deployed, reduced cable congestion and better airflow, higher port
densities in fiber panels and an easy migration scheme, the data center fiber trunking and interconnect solution
with 24-fiber trunk cables offers lower future capital and operating expense.
Unlike other solutions on the market that leave one-third of the fiber investment stranded, impede airflow with
overcongested pathways, and provide inadequate port densities, a 24-fiber data center trunking and interconnect
solution helps data center managers effectively and efficiently support todays high-speed requirements. With
permanent 24-fiber trunk cables that eliminate the need for complete and complex reconfigurations all the way
from the switch to the equipment, the solution offers an easy, cost-effective method for upgrading from 10-GbE
to 40- and 100-GbE.
As the amount of data being created, processed and stored reaches an all-time high, data center managers need
to prepare themselves today to migrate to 40/100-GbE tomorrow. With increasing concerns about the cost to
upgrade and the complexity involved, data center managers need a solution that simplifies the process and
provides better return on investment, while meeting both current and future needs. A 24-fiber data center fiber
trunking and interconnect solution is the right migration path to 40/100-GbE.
Kam Patel is business line manager for enterprise data center solutions with TE Connectivity
(www.te.com).