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What is an Active Optical Cable?

With the sheer range of devices that are connected to the internet at any one time, bandwidth usage and connectivity demands between devices is skyrocketing. To meet these growing demands, Active Optical Cables (also known as AOC Cables) are available and are being widely deployed, but what are they and how do you use them?

What Are Active Optical Cables?

An AOC cable is built to help reach high data transfer rates between 1-300m for the purposes of short-range multi-lane data communication and interconnect applications. It does this by translating standard data signals into lasers light pulses. This light is carried over an optical fibre that is directly connected onto the AOC module and translated back into data on the other side. This helps us build communication systems that are still compatible with standard electrical interfaces and when compared to standard direct attach copper cables, the distance they can achieve is significantly greater. Active Optical Cables are being deployed extensively, especially in datacenters, helping them to continually evolve their interconnect capacities.

Active Optical Cables consist of a range of connectors types. SFP+, SFP28, QSFP+, QSFP+ to SFP+, QSFP28 and QSFP28 Breakouts are available as well as QSFP-DD interface for 200G connections over DSR4.

How Active Optical Cables Are Used

AOC cables were created as an alternative to conventional Direct Attach Copper (DAC) cables to offer an increased distance. They are primarily deployed in datacenters and High-Performance Computing (HPC) applications where the combination of distance and value is required. More and more businesses are relying on both high-performance computing and interconnected storage solutions, meaning that Active Optical Cables are primed to become much more common in the years to come, making their copper predecessors obsolete.

Active Optical Cables: The Advantages

As indicated above, the most notable advantage of using AOC cables is the superior performance in both speed and distance compared to limited copper technology. Large amounts of data can be sent much more quickly across longer distances, increasing the efficiency of computing and storage across the board. That’s not the only advantage, however.

Active optical cables are also significantly lighter than their copper counterparts, as well as being much thinner. Those two factors combined means that they don’t abide the same length restrictions and they are much easier to organise and store. Furthermore, they don’t suffer the same downfall as copper cables, which become bulkier and more difficult to manage as they cover longer distances.

Copper cables may work well for smaller reach interconnects that don’t have to transmit data as quickly or over as long a distance. However, for larger clusters, they soon become wieldy and inefficient, meaning that Active Optical Cables can simplify setup. What’s more, they aren’t at as much risk of power delivery issues or electromagnetic interference as copper.

Should You Consider Active Optical Cables?

If you’re running a high-demand datacentre or using high-performance computing applications, then Active Optical Cables can not only help you make data transfer more efficient and easier to manage, but they can significantly reduce your chances of suffering downtime and interference. The improved performance, lighter weight, reduced bulkiness, higher bandwidth, and low power consumption all make them a superior product in any environment, and they are fast becoming essential in settings that have high bandwidth demands.


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