Tiny fiber optic connectors are helping to determine the size and energy efficiency of Hyperscale Data Centers.
What is a Fiber Optic Connector?
In simple terms it's a passive, highly polished, end of line termination for each fiber optic strand in a cable that 'mechanically' connects to either active equipment or through a mating coupler to another connector. These connectors come in various shapes and sizes. Each of these connectors has attributes that make them ideal for their application such as low dB loss, high pressure connections, vibration resistant, multiple fibers in one connector (MPO/MTP), etc.
What we are finding is that these connectors are too big (relatively) and have too much loss to provide the efficiency of light (laser) transmission from the Transmitters to Receivers (commonly called SFP Optics) that could be up to 120km-160km away from each other.
The lower the loss of the channel (end to end) the lower the amount of power the Transmitters need to emit, the lower the power transmitted and lower loss of the fiber the less noise introduced into the signal being transmitted, therefore lower power needed at the receive end to have to boost the signal or correct it. The size of these connectors may seem small (10.7mm x 13mm), but when you have hundreds of thousands of these connectors in racks in a single data center you start to run out of rack space pretty quick.
Next Generation Fiber Optic Connectors
What is on the horizon is two new connectors (CS and SN also called MDC) that are 3.3 and 3.8 times smaller respectively than the smallest connectors (LC) in use today. The advantage of these connectors is not only size, they are designed to have 4x less power loss and 4x the bandwidth (400Gb/s) than current standards allowing for much less power required by each of the transmitters (3.6W each down to ~1.3W). (Waystream, 2021)
There may be 0.5-1 Million transmitters in a Hyper scale Data Center. Implementing these new connectors and lower energy optics reduces down the amount of optics power required by 66% or -1.15 to -2.3 megawatts helping reduce the overall power and heat dissipation required in the Data Center and reduce the amount of electrical and HVAC equipment needed. Also, you can fit up to 2.3 to 3 times the amount of connectors in a 1RU rack space vs LC.
All of these advantages add up to reduced footprint of equipment and square footage required as well as increased efficiency of the equipment's operation.
Waystream. (2021, January 20). Low power optics - saving the planet one link at a time. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.waystream.com/en/solution/low-power-optics-saving-planet-one-link-time
Randy Gruberman PE, RCDD, CxA
FL Southeast Market Leader/Low Voltage Service Leader