23 March 2010


Emcore’s active optical cables show five failures in 1bn hours of operation

Emcore Corp of Albuquerque, NM, USA, which makes components and subsystems for the broadband, fiber-optic, and solar power markets, has announced reliability results for its fielded 20Gb/s active optical cables.

High-performance computing systems require guaranteed reliable, high-bandwidth, low-latency communication paths to connect up to thousands of processing nodes, says Emcore. Traditionally, these pathways are implemented using copper cables. But, due to their bulk, weight and limited transmission distance, copper cables often constrain the physical size and performance of these server clusters. In contrast, Emcore Connects Cables' active optical cables are compact, lightweight, and allow greater reach between processing nodes than traditional copper cables.

According to a recent report by LightCounting, sales of active optical cables in the last three years were more than 150,000 units, with Emcore shipping most of that volume. The reliability of Emcore Connects Cables over that period was better than 5 FITs (five failures in 1 billion hours of device operation), demonstrating the suitability of 850nm vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) array technology and multimode optical fiber for high-performance data computing applications, the firm says. 

“Our current generation of 40Gb/s active optical cable is based on the same technology, and we expect the same high-reliability performance of these newer products,” comments Chris Wiggins, director of Emcore’s Enterprise Business Group. 

Emcore Connects Cables are bidirectional communications links converting four lanes of electrical signals into optical ones by modulating four monolithically integrated VCSELs operating at 850nm wavelengths. The optical signals are carried by thin multimode optical fiber strands to the opposite end, where they are converted back to electrical signals by a four-channel photodetector array. The use of high-bandwidth, low-loss optical fibers allow the information to be transmitted at distances of more than ten times greater than that of copper cables. 

The Emcore Connects Cables product family with CX4 and QSFP interfaces is currently being sold in high volume for applications including InfiniBand, Ethernet, Fibre Channel and PCI. The cables come in lengths up to 100m and operate at speeds of up to 40Gb/s. In April, the firm expects to sample the next-generation 150Gb/s CXP form-factor optical cable based on the same technology platform.

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