The AOC Advantage: How to Reduce Your Financial and Power Budget

Active Optical Cable’s (AOCs) have been quickly gaining traction and growing in popularity, especially in data center and enterprise spaces. AOCs offer a variety of benefits that will help turn up your networks faster and keep them up and running.

The Basics: What is an AOC (and what are the benefits)?

Let’s start really simple; an AOC is a fiber cable with transceivers permanently attached to either end. They are lightweight in design when compared with Direct Attach Copper cables and are widely applied in storage area networks, data centers and high-performance computing. AOCs are also immune to electromagnetic interference as they signal using light over non-conductive fiber.

When first evaluating AOC solutions, the benefits may not seem so obvious, but there are quite a few. AOCs are available in 10Gb, 25Gb, 40Gb, 100Gb, as well as higher bandwidths, and conventionally in lengths of up to 100 meters. One of the most favorable benefits is that AOCs can mix form factors. For example, you can have an AOC with a 40Gb QSFP+ on one side, that breaks out to 4, 10Gb SFP+ transceivers on the other end. This is key, because just about any combination that you’d be able to do with transceivers and jumpers can be done with an AOC.

The AOC Advantage: Reduce Your Financial AND Power Budget

The main advantages are that AOCs are less expensive, use less power, and are more reliable than detached optical transceivers.

Spend Less, Get More
First and foremost, AOCs are a cost effective method of making interconnections. AOCs are not subject to Laser Class regulation, they do not have to outperform the distance of the fiber they are connected to, and they only have to conform optically with the other side of their connections.  Because of these factors, you’ll find that an AOC costs less than equivalent two transceivers and connecting jumper.

Power Thrifty
AOCs are a great option for power budgets. A 10G SFP+ typically uses less than ½ a Watt of power, a 25G SFP28 uses less than 1 Watt, and a 100G QSFP28 requires less than 2 Watts. Less power dissipation means less cooling requirements, less redundant power supply, less battery backup, and less generator fuel during an outage. Beyond the initial purchase savings, you reap the benefits of AOCs with their substantial power savings.

Consistent Reliability
With permanently attached signal media, there are no fiber ends to clean, ever. Connector failure is not a factor and dirty optics are a thing of the past with AOCs! Ordering AOCs for the specific lengths that you need reduce the need for fiber slack management and result in tidier runs that are less prone to damage.


BONUS PERK! AOCs are Greener, Too
In a recent article we researched and illustrated the environmental disadvantages of copper-based signal transmission compared to an eco-friendlier fiber solution. AOCs not only provide that eco-friendly fiber solution, but they take it to another level with their reduced power reduced power usage and a longer, more reliable service life.

Some Things to Consider when Choosing AOC

AOCs come with a lot of favorable benefits which may leave you thinking, “why would I ever opt to use copper DACs or detached transceivers”? There are only a few reasons why you may consider DACs over AOCs.

AOCs are ordered to length, which can make installations that are subject to change a little messy. When installing AOCs into a permanent datacenter’s core and distribution, this isn’t a commonly a problem. But access runs tend to change and reorganize more. Keep this in mind when choosing AOC versus DAC.

Also, temporary connections that might be subject to damage are not great candidates for AOCs either. Damage to either end’s transceiver or the connecting fiber will require a full replacement. Nobody likes replacing a 100-meter run with transceivers affixed to the ends.

If you are deciding if either DAC or AOC solution is right for you, take a look at this in-depth comparison of the two.

Making the Switch to AOCs

There are a variety of widely used cases for AOCs. Datacenter network connectivity and enterprise spaces are the most common, but SAN, NAS, and parallel computing are all areas where AOCs can come into play. AOCs should be strongly considered in any permanent planned installations.

Integra’s AOCs are the industry’s best. They are coded and triple-tested by a team of optics experts, 100% interoperable with your OEM platforms, and available on demand, when you need them.

Ready to take a look at an AOC solution? Schedule a consultation with one of our optics experts to get the AOCs that are right for your next project.