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Active optical cable (AOC) is a high-performance communication cable used for short-range multi-lane communication and interconnected applications. An Active Optical Cable transforms the data signal into a laser light, which is communicated over an optical fiber. The conversion of electronic data is done by an optical transceiver connector. This allows for the fiber to disconnect from the transceiver. At the transceiver’s end, Active Optical Cables bond the fiber connection, which in turn creates a cable assembly like a DAC cable.
Active optical cable has four functional parts.
1. High-density QSFP+ connector allows for the cable to be plugged into a router or switch.
2. 4- Channel full duplex active optical cable transceiver is embedded inside the shell and is responsible for electrical- optical conversions, making AOCs a lower cost solution in comparison to other transceivers.
3. MPO optical connector is a permanent attachment to the shell and fiber, protecting the interface from the end users (consumers) and environmental contamination.
4. Flexible ribbon optical fiber cable
Advantages of AOC
Active optical cable assemblies offer several potential advantages. In comparison to heavy copper cables, AOCs are lighter in weight and thinner. Therefore, they do not suffer from the length restrictions of copper cables. AOCs have longer reaching potential. Additionally, to address bandwidth issues, copper cables become bulkier and harder to manage and these cables risk more power delivery issues.
Therefore, the bulkiness and weight of copper cables make a terribly inelegant system communication solution. Copper cables may be a somewhat feasible solution for small data centre clusters. However, for large clusters, the link distance and the actual layout of the cluster makes it physically challenging to manage and operate. Overall, copper cables make for a messy and complicated data centre design solution. In addition, due to the nature of electrical signals, electromagnetic interference (EMI) limits both the performance and overall reliability of copper.
Active Optical Cables were initially invented to replace this limited copper technology across data centres. AOCs are far superior in performance and their advantages are undeniable. Some super computers have completely shifted from using coper cables to AOCs. The electrical to optical conversion improves the speed and increases the distance performance of its predecessors, while remaining compatible with standard electronic devices.
How AOCs Differ from Other Interconnect Solutions
Permanently attaching the fibres is a seemingly simple change but yields a surprisingly large number of technical benefits and cost advantages; enough to create an entirely new category of interconnect products. Since the optics are contained inside the cable, designers do not have to comply to IEEE or IBTA industry standards for transceiver interoperability with other vendors. This gives designers complete freedom to pick and choose the lowest cost, best performing technologies since the cable is a closed system and has a predefined cable length. All of this results in dramatic cost and price reductions. Here are some of the results this simple change enables:
Lowest priced optical interconnect available: Near half the price of a single optical transceiver – much more than just the cost of deleting the optical connectors
Plug and play: Ease-of-use cable features – like DAC cables only with longer optical reach
Long reach: Up to 100 and 200-meter reach depending on the technology
Lowest optical power consumption per end: Significantly lower than connectorized transceivers – saves operating expenses in power consumption and cooling
No optical connectors to clean and maintain: Saves operating expenses and increases reliability
Optical isolation: Isolates electrical systems from ground loops as with copper DAC cables – a reliability advantage