Amphenol (NYSE: APH) has expanded its high-speed 10-Gigabit and 40-Gigabit product offering to now include active optical cable (AOC) assemblies from 3M (NYSE: MMM). Precision-engineered by 3M Interconnect Solutions, the new optical QSFP/QSFP+ cable series is available online through Amphenol's Cables on Demand division.
The active optical cables for CX4 and QSFP/QSFP+ applications are in addition to Amphenol's line of high-speed copper cable assemblies. Nick Blas, product marketing manager for Amphenol Cables on Demand, notes, "There are upwards of half-a-million Amphenol brand passive copper cables deployed worldwide for CX4 and QSFP/QSFP+ applications." Blas adds that, despite the popularity and cost-effectiveness of using copper-based interconnect systems, there are distinct design limitations that must be considered.
See also: Amphenol perfects QSFP InfiniBand cable design
Perhaps the most critical design limitation of copper interconnect technology is cable length. Blas emphasizes, "Amphenol's passive copper CX4 cables, operating at 10-Gigabits per second, are designed to operate at distances no longer than 15m (50 feet) in length. Passive copper QSFP/QSFP+ Cables, operating at quadruple that data-rate (40-Gigabits per second), are designed to operate at distances of 7m (23 feet) max. These lengths work great for intra-rack cabling applications, but modern data centers often demand lengthy cable installations between racks or clusters."
Amphenol says that its partners at 3M Interconnect have addressed such challenges by leveraging their expertise in electro-optical circuit design and high-speed I/O devices. While the active optical cables (CX4, QSFP/QSFP+) offered by 3M appear to have identical connectors to their Amphenol copper counterparts, they bear far more advanced opto-electronic circuitry underneath for translating high-speed signals across fiber-optic cables.
Each 3M connector for QSFP/QSFP+ applications (one per cable end) consists of a directly attached, individual fiber-optic transceiver module. Each module is responsible for transmitting data at 40 Gigabits per second down a designated length of OM2+ multimode fiber-optic cabling. Due to multimode OM2+ fiber optic cabling's extremely high native bandwidth, signals that were once constrained by copper's length limitations can now be transmitted successfully up to 100 meters away (330 feet) via AOC technology from 3M.
Amphenol Cables on Demand presently stocks 3M Active Optical Cables in three primary configurations:
AOC Configuration #1, QSFP to QSFP active optical cables which may also be utilized/listed as QSFP+ to QSFP+ AOCs, are available now in lengths ranging from 10m (32.8') to 100m (328'). The most technologically capable of the three AOC configurations, this cable features an SFF-8436 compliant connector on each end. This ensures universal compatibility with both QSFP ports, generally installed on QDR InfiniBand equipment and QSFP+ ports, generally installed on 40-Gigabit Ethernet equipment.
AOC Configuration #2, QSFP to CX4 active optical cables, which may also be utilized/listed as QSFP to CX4 hybrid or converter cables, are available now in lengths ranging from 10m (32.8') to 50m (164'). This cable is essentially a hybrid of two distinct generations of technology - allowing users to interface newer QSFP/QSFP+ enabled gear running at 40.0 Gbps or higher with legacy CX4 enabled gear running at approximately 5.0 Gbps per channel.
AOC Configuration #3, CX4 to CX4 active optical cables, which may also be utilized/listed as SDR/DDR InfiniBand or 3.125-Gigabit Ethernet Active Optical Cables, are available now in lengths ranging from 10m (32.8') to 50m (164'). This cable is intended specifically to link up similar legacy network/storage devices equipped with SFF-8470 style CX4/InfiniBand ports. Optimized for Double Data Rate (DDR) signal-sets; ensuring high data throughput up to 20.0 Gbps.
As a special introductory offer for prospective AOC customers, Amphenol Cables on Demand is making available for a limited time only an exclusive $100 off coupon code that can be applied toward a customer's first 3M AOC purchase. Enter coupon code 'AOCSALE' at checkout through 2/28/2013 to redeem this special offer.
Related: Analyst: AOC market doesn't ebb and flow, it spasms