Exploring the History of Active Optical Cables
The history of active optical cables has been gradually replaced by the birth of copper cables. The era of big data has arrived and cloud technology is growing rapidly. The cloud computing environment requires higher bandwidth and more applications, so active optical cables have emerged as a latecomer to the telecommunications and data communications optical module market.
Active Optical Cable Concept
The Active Optical Cable uses a section of fiber optic cable to connect two high-density connectors, the diagram below details the structure of the AOC. The AOC requires an external power supply to transmit the signal. The transmission method is electrical-optical-electrical conversion, which means that it converts the electrical signal into an optical signal in the A connector, which is then transmitted to the B connector via an intermediate fiber optic cable, and then converts the optical signal into an electrical signal in the B connector.
The AOC uses a section of fiber optic cable to connect two high-density connectors, the diagram below details the structure of the AOC. The AOC requires an external power supply to transmit the signal. The transmission method is electrical-optical-electrical conversion, which means that it converts the electrical signal into an optical signal in the A connector, which is then transmitted to the B connector via an intermediate fiber optic line, and then converts the optical signal into an electrical signal in the B connector.
History of Active Optical Cables
Active Optical Cable assemblies have been developed primarily to replace copper wire technology in data centres and high performance computing applications. It is well known that copper wire is not only heavy but also bulky, which makes it difficult to manage in data centres; in addition, electromagnetic interference from electrical signals can affect the performance and stability of copper wire. Despite its many shortcomings, copper wire has previously dominated the market, and active optical cables seem too idealistic to be a reality. However, those who developed active optical cables were still driven by the advantages of active optical cables and worked tirelessly on research that eventually broke the limitations of copper wire and played an important role in the development of high-speed data transmission. Today, the market is flooded with a wide range of active optical cables, including 10G SFP+ active optical cables, QSFP+ active optical cables, active optical cables for 10G, 40G and 100G and even 400G networks.
Passive / Active, Copper / fiber Comparison
In passive cabling, the connection at the end of each fiber optic cable is a direct electrical connection. active optical cables also perform this function, however, some of the drawbacks of active optical cables can be overcome due to the optics / or electronics embedded in the connectors of active optical cables. Passive fiber optic cables typically use copper wire, whereas active optical cables can be used with both copper and fiber optics.
The Future of Active Optical Cables
The Active Optical Cable market is expanding and more and more people, including the world’s largest suppliers of cables and telecoms devices, are joining the market. The Active Optical Cable market holds great promise for growth.
According to the latest reports, revenue generated from the sale of active optical cables for data centres will reach 1.5 billion in 2019. active optical cables are mainly used in data centres. In addition, the proportion of active optical cables used in high-performance computing, consumer electronics, high-definition multimedia interfaces and digital playback systems has increased. The future application of active optical cables in data centres will focus on high-speed transmission, such as 40G, 100G and even InfiniBand.
The following chart reflects the growth trend of the global Active Optical Cable market from 2014 to 2020 as estimated by MSA.
Why are active optical cables so popular?
In general, passive cables transmit at 10-Gb/s at a rate of up to 10 metres with very high signal attenuation, which is compensated by active optical cables. To use it, the user simply unplugs the pluggable cable interface and plugs in an Active Optical Cable transponder or connector of the same shape and size. For line card problems, the optical and electrical interfaces also play exactly the same role. Of course, the benefits of active optical cables for network transmission go far beyond this, and we will expand on its advantages below.
Low cost - Compared to optical modules, active optical cables are the most cost effective product in the data centre. Active optical cable is a product that encapsulates two optical modules and a fiber optic cable together, enabling a seamless connection between the optical module and the patch cable. As it fixes the optical fibers inside the module, the production process can use less optical components. Instead, the optical modules are usually connected to a fiber optic patch cable, the cost of which is also a significant expense. In addition, because the optical ports of active optical cables are not exposed, they are extremely reliable, so this does not allow dust or other contaminants to take advantage of them and avoids the cost of cleaning and maintaining the fiber ports.
Space saving - Directly connected cables are known to be large and bulky, making effective cable management in data centres difficult. Furthermore, the nature of the electrical signal and electromagnetic interface (EMI) has an impact on the performance of direct-connected cables. active optical cables were created specifically to replace copper cables, offering lighter weight, smaller size, greater resistance to EMI, low-level interconnection loss and also reduced power requirements for high-speed data connectivity in storage, networking and high performance computing (HPC) applications.
Easy to use - active optical cables package optical modules and fiber optic patch cables together, so they allow for fast and efficient fiber connections. In addition, it is easy to plug and unplug because of its high bandwidth and light weight. Moreover, active optical cables are generally used in data communication infrastructures and are easy to operate even for people without specialist fiber optic knowledge.
From the current point of view, the general trend of “light into copper” is clear, and the future will be the era of “all-optical networks”. Particularly in the cloud computing environment, higher bandwidth and more application requirements to promote the active optical cable technology has penetrated every corner of the high-speed interconnection market. As the active optical cable market grows, it will disrupt not only the network but also the telecommunications and data communications transceiver markets.