Active optical cable platform accelerates 10-GbE server connectivity

March 4, 2008 -- At this month's OFC 2008 in San Diego, Finisar demonstrated its Laserwire, a 10-Gbit/sec active optical cable system designed to support 10G Ethernet server connectivity.

March 4, 2008 -- At this month's OFC 2008 in San Diego, the fiber-optic networking company Finisar Corp. demonstrated what it claims is the industry's first serial 10 Gbit/sec active optical cable system designed to accelerate and support 10G Ethernet server connectivity. The company's Laserwire platform consists of the Laserwire cable, a high density electrical connector, and 10G Ethernet adapter modules designed to facilitate adoption into legacy transceiver ports.

According to the company, the Laserwire platform utilizes fiber-optic technology for the transmission of data while reducing the weight, density and power consumption of copper wire. The company notes that, today, supercomputing clusters are hampered by the physical burdens of CX-4 copper cable. The company contends that, in addition to being large, heavy, power hungry, and expensive, copper cable is limited to short distance connections, as data integrity deteriorates over long distances.

By comparison, the Laserwire fiber-optic cable assembly is small, light, and much lower in power consumption over copper assemblies. The fiber-optic cable also allows a smaller bend radius, thus providing greater flexibility during the installation of computer clusters. Further, the Laserwire electrical connector was specifically developed for high density applications and can support large cluster configurations, including 48 port 1U switches. The connector can also be mounted in space-constrained LOM (LAN on motherboard) designs.

The platform significantly reduces power in data center applications, contends Finisar. When compared with 10GBase-T solutions, the company claims that its Laserwire consumes nearly 95% less power, resulting in lower heat dissipation and reduced cooling requirements. In addition to the Laserwire cable and connector, the product family also includes transceiver adapter modules that enable connection to traditional optical transceiver ports. This capability allows system builders and data centers to use Laserwire in legacy systems for 10-GbE connectivity.

"Laserwire is the answer to many of the physical challenges plaguing high-performance supercomputing clusters today," attests Jan Meise, director of strategic marketing at Finisar. "By incorporating Finisar's two decades of expertise in the fiber optics industry, we have been able to develop a product that directly addresses end-user concerns to provide a lower cost, more power efficient alternative to copper cable. Additionally, we see Laserwire as having various practical applications beyond HPC [High Performance Computing], including Enterprise data centers, video, consumer and industrial applications."

"The server connectivity transition to 10-GbE is still in its early stages, with most 10-GbE NICs shipped into mid-range and high end Unix servers, networked storage systems, and HPC applications," adds Bob Wheeler, senior analyst with The Linley Group. "With the move of 10 GbE into high volume server platforms, users need Laserwire to provide a viable interconnect solution to address the current copper issues of port density, power consumption and cost."

Finisar expects to see first HPC installations with components of the Laserwire family in 2008.

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