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Revolutionizing Data Center Connectivity: The Role of Network Cabling in Addressing Data Hypervelocity



As the digital landscape evolves with advancements in bandwidth-intensive applications, data centers are facing major challenges. A sharp increase in power consumption, especially as data center providers adapt to the gradual deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) clusters, is resulting in a need for ever higher-density server configurations. This trend is putting pressure on the existing network infrastructure of today’s data centers, particularly at the foundational Layer 1 level. Delving into the critical role that high-density cabling solutions play, we can understand how data center operators can address their high density challenges to ensure they can meet the demands of today's technology-heavy environment.

Density Developing

As end-user interest in high performance computing, AI, machine learning (ML), high-definition streaming and low-latency gaming continues to surge, the demands being placed on data center network infrastructure are only increasing. These factors and more are contributing to an increase in the power consumption per rack in data centers.

At first, the increase in rack density was gradual. In recent years, however, the rise has been abrupt. The jump in average rack density was significant between 2019 and 2020, moving from 7.3 kW to 8.2 kW per rack, a notable increase compared to the minor rise from 7.2 to 7.3 kW observed from 2018 to 2019. This nearly 1 kW increase per rack over only a single year signals a trend towards even sharper rises in the future. In 2020, approximately 29% of data centers reported average densities of 10 kW or more per rack. By comparison, projections for 2025 suggest that densities of a staggering 15 to 20 kW per rack will become standard. To provide perspective, average data center racks required just 2 to 5 kW a decade ago with 10 to 12 kW per rack being considered high density. Today, however, it’s not altogether unusual to see servers necessitating 30 to 50 kW per rack. In fact, the rise of high capacity setups has caused around five of every 100 racks to need an astounding 100kW.

The Layer 1 Impact

High-density server environments significantly impact the demands placed on Layer 1 network infrastructure, especially within the data center environment. The adoption of next generation technologies is driving the need for higher bandwidth, lower latency, and more flexibility, all of which necessitate innovations and adaptations at the physical layer of networking. To accommodate present and future demands, data center operators need to equip themselves with advanced cabling solutions. Let’s look at some of the main areas data center leaders should be focusing on to properly support the new world of ever-increasing density.

First and foremost, managing the increased density of connections in a way that maintains signal integrity requires high density fiber solutions, such as multi-core or hollow-core fibers. Upgraded deployments, though, require more than just high fiber-count cables. For instance, they require advanced cable management systems to efficiently manage these types of cables to ensure they are accessible and protected. As such, the use of solutions like modular optical distribution frames (ODFs), which allow for more efficient cable management and easier scalability in data center environments, will become increasingly important.

Another important aspect revolves around transceivers and the interfaces that connect them. Use of high-density servers will require faster and more efficient network connectivity solutions to accommodate anticipated exponential increases in data traffic. As a result, data center operators will increasingly shift towards future-proofing their networks by installing optical transceivers capable of supporting data rates of 400 and even 800 Gbps. That will mean increased demand for high-capacity connectors to link these new transceivers with various network devices like servers, switches, routers and external connectivity points.

Some of the best connectors for the job include multi-fiber push-on (MPO) connectors or multi-fiber termination push-on (MTP®) connectors. They fit seamlessly between the transceiver and the fiber optic cable and support a high number of fiber connections in a single interface. Because they are so good at reducing space and increasing flexibility in fiber routing, MTP® and MPO solutions are ideal for data center applications like spine-leaf switch fabrics, storage area networks (SANs), and traditional three-tier network designs. The very best MTP® and MPO solutions are plug-and-play and come in a full range that includes base-8, base-12 and base-16 options.

In addition to MTP® and MPO connectors, newer, higher-density, very small form factor (VSFF) connectors such as MDC and MMC connectors are emerging as crucial components in evolving data center networks. With its innovative two-fiber design leveraging proven 1.25mm ferrule technology (the same as industry standard LC connectors), the MDC connector offers unparalleled density and simplicity. Three port MDC adapters fit directly into standard panel openings for duplex LC adapters, allowing for three times the fiber density. Similarly, the MMC connector sets a new standard for high-density connectivity by combining a new, reduced size, MT-style ferrule (TMT) with a VSFF connector embodiment. By enabling the highest functional fiber density available, the MMC connector empowers data center operators to maximize space utilization and streamline cabling infrastructure, essential for supporting the complex interconnections required by the AI, ML, and HPC workloads becoming increasingly prevalent in modern data centers.

The Opticonx Advantage

With server density growing every year and so many cabling aspects to consider, data centers need a supplier that can cover all their needs for now, and into the super-dense future. Opticonx designs and manufactures a broad portfolio of passive network optical cabling systems and solutions for Layer 1 network infrastructure applications, from ready-to-install panels and fiber optic patch cords to jumpers, trunks and fanout harness cables—all specially designed for the highest density racks and cabinets in the marketplace today. All our assemblies and equipment pieces are ready for pre-terminated fiber systems so they can improve quality and reduce installation time. Our standard 15-year limited warranty ensures years of worry-free service.

We know that, for data centers, the future is dense. By leveraging our ability to design and manufacture our products under one roof, Opticonx can quickly prototype and speed time-to-market for our custom solutions, keeping you on the cutting edge of next generation technology. In addition to our standard product offering, we can custom manufacture to any requirement or specification.

Curious to know more? To view our full selection of network cabling solutions for data centers, click here.

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