I had a discussion recently with a Fortune 100 financial organization about the newly released IEEE 802.3bm transceiver standards. This financial organization recently built a state-of-the-art data center facility that features technology from most of the well-known network switch and storage equipment manufacturers.
The organization moved from OM3 to OM4 glass last year and has a few runs that require single-mode because of the long distances involved (around the 600-foot range). Judging by these runs, it’s clear this organization truly respects layer one and is always trying to understand upcoming technologies.
A representative of the organization expressed concerns about industry talk, where he had overheard that a 16- and 32-fiber MPO connector would be needed for 400G speeds. These connectors would not be compatible with currently installed 12-fiber MPO connectors, thus creating a significant challenge in migration to those speeds.
Skinny-Trunk® 24-fiber MPO/MTP®
Skinny-Trunk® 12-fiber MPO/MTP®
My suggestion to the organization was to stick with its current practice of using the standard 12-fiber connector. According to the latest research, it seems that optic companies are working to increase the bandwidth per fiber from 25G to 50-56G for the upcoming IEEE 802.3bs standard. If this 50G-per-fiber technology is released, it will be able to use the current 12- and 24-fiber MPO/MTP® connectors that have been in the market for years. I also recommend staying with the 12-fiber MPO/MTP® connector for the majority of connections in the data center. When 400G is released it is anticipated that it will operate over existing 12- and 24-fiber MPO/MTP® cabling infrastructures.
The April 2015 release of the IEEE 802.3bm Ethernet standards addresses 40G and 100G transceivers. It covers the LC style 40G QSFP transceivers and introduces the MPO/MTP® style 100G SR-4 transceivers. Many thought that this document would also introduce 400G Ethernet, but it did not. However, 400G Ethernet will be released in a separate standards document in the upcoming 2017 IEEE 802.3bs update.
The reason for the adoption of the new 16-fiber MPO/MTP® connector is that the new speed per fiber has increased from 10G to 25G. To achieve 400G, the connector needs to have 16 fibers X 25G to equal 400G for each connection. This new connector does not plug into or mate with the traditional or legacy 12-fiber MPO/MTP® connectors that currently dominate the marketplace. This is the reason for concern from the financial organization. If all of the organization’s current structured cabling uses the 12-fiber MPO/MTP® connector, how will it migrate to the 16-fiber connector for 400G requirements?
Unfortunately there is no crystal ball for these technology transitions and standards. There are so many factors involved that it is impossible to know exactly what technology will look like in the future. However, customer need is the engine that drives technology adaptation. Manufacturers of new technology want to sell their products, and the easier it is for end users to adapt, the more quickly it will sell. It makes sense that the 12-fiber MPO connector will remain in place for many generations of hardware upgrades to come.
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