Monday, November 12, 2007

Data centers call the cable guy

Now that data centers are gearing up for 10 Gbit and faster systems, people are starting to wonder how to physically link these boxes. Standard optics are too expensive, Infiniband CX4 cables are too limited in distance (and have other issues, too) and 10GBase-T links are too power hungry.

Enter a new assortment of active optical cables including Laserwire, a 10 Gbit serial option announced today (Nov. 12) by Finisar. At as little as 500mW per port, Laserwire is much lower power than even the most optimistic 10GBase-T projections for 2008. It is rated at 10 Gbits across 35 meters and may stretch further in the future. And it doesn't have the problem of no defined standard for powering a link like the Ethernet over CX4 option.

Finisar is throwing its hat in the ring even though it is not ready to say exactly when its product ships or at what price. That's because Intel and startups Luxtera and Quellan already have rolled out three other options to solve the 10G+ cable problem. Each approach has its trade offs.

The fact that they are all jumping into the market indicates there is a clear problem with no single clear solution yet. Watch this space.

Got a beef with your cable guy? Leave a comment here or drop me a line at rbmerrit@cmp.com

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