Getting up to speed!

When the CFP MSA was released almost 10 years ago, it defined the first 100G transceivers. Today the market has pretty much fixed the QSFP28 form-factor as the standard for 100G optics, and these are widely deployed in the market and we are delivering more each day. But with the development of new solutions, form-factors and speeds, it can be hard to keep up and make the right decisions for the future. We will give you a brief overview, seen from our perspective and try to help you getting up to speed.


Welcome to the jungle

When it comes to technology we are pretty much used to changes and new developments, and a standard is only valid for a limited time. The LP records was replaced by the CDs and mp3-players, and today the CDs and mp3-players are replaced by streaming services. It is roughly the same developments we see in the transceiver market. The development is driven by performance, cost and optimization. In the 100G space we saw a launch with the CFP, followed by the optimized and smaller designs called CFP2 and CFP4. But the CFP-design was quickly overtaken by the QSFP28 form factor, which is seen as the standard today.

Today we offer QSFP28 SR4 for multimode application and CWDM4 along with LR4 are the most common types we supply for singlemode applications. The multimode application for highspeed optics like 100G and above is currently limited to distances of up to 100 meters. But when we go into 100G optics and above we see the most interesting space in the singlemode range, where CWDM4 offers a distance up to 2 kilometers and LR4 up to 10 kilometers. The ER4 and ZR4 versions that are also available today, enables users to run up to 40 kilometers and 80 kilometers on a 100G connection. These are not commonly used in the market yet, but they will definitely have a place in the future.

Connectors and existing fiber infrastructure are topics to consider as the speed of our networks increases. In the data center field, multimode has been a common application, where existing multimode fiber infrastructure has been sufficient to support installation with up to 10G per link. But when we move to 40G, 100G and above, we will run into some problematic issues. For example, the QSFP+ SR4 as well as the 100G QSFP28 SR4 both use an MPO/MTP connector that utilizes 4 fiber-pairs (8 fibers), while a traditional 10G link with SFP+ uses a 1 fiber-pair LC connector (2 fibers). The cost of changing the existing fiber infrastructure is significant, not only in terms manpower and raw fiber, but the MPO/MTP connectors also comes with a huge increase in cost compared to LC connectors. The MPO connector along the with ability to fan out a 100G connection to 4x25G still makes it interesting in many cases, but with the latest introduction of OM5 multimode fiber to support speeds up to 400G, it is difficult to design a long-term multimode infrastructure.

Just around the corner

Navigator is already supplying 100G optics to many of our customers, but we are also getting many questions about the next big thing – so what can we expect? There is no doubt now that 400G optics is the next step in the evolution. 200G optics based on the QSFP-DD form-factor is already available in the market, but most transceiver manufacturers, along with the equipment manufacturers, are quickly moving their focus to 400G. But there is not yet a fixed standard for this. We currently have several competing form-factors; QSFP-DD, OSFP and CFP8. But the QSFP-DD form-factor has several advantages that in our opinion makes it the strongest contender. The fact that QSFP-DD has the most compact design and is backwards compatible with QSFP+ and QSFP28 makes it a great fit for a market that has pretty much settled on QSFP28 as the standard for 100G. Navigator will soon be bringing 400G QSFP-DD DAC as well as QSFP-DD optics to the market.

Looking into the future

There is no doubt that next step in terms of speed will be 800G, where projects like the 800G Pluggable MSA are aiming for their first prototype by Q4 of 2021. But there are several steps between now and then. While the speed of our core and aggregation network increases, so is our edge and access part of the network. Today the 25G SFP28 is becoming more commonly used and with the 25G CWDM and DWDM optics playing a huge role in the deployment of new 5G wireless networks. Therefore, the 25G SFP28 transceiver family is expected to be a huge volume commodity in the transceiver market. But new intermediate speeds such as 50G QSFP28 is also expected to be a new product for the new 5G networks.

Please do not hesitate to contact Navigator today to learn more about what we can offer you today and in the future.


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