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Everything You Need to Know About 100 Gigabit Ethernet Modules in a Nutshell

by Greg.Hankins on ‎12-15-2011 09:40 PM - last edited on ‎10-28-2013 11:31 PM by bcm1 (1,541 Views)

Since the IEEE 802.3ad standard was approved on June 17, 2010 we’ve seen a lot of development in the 100 GbE market.  Starting in 2010 and throughout 2011, shipping 1st generation media modules, test equipment, router interfaces and optical transport solutions have been available for deployment.  The technology is mature, interoperable with broad vendor support, and is running in a variety of production networks today – everywhere from Internet exchanges, to backbone networks and even out to wiring closets.


A variety of standards-based 100 GbE optical modules give network operators several choices for media and distances.  As I talk to people about 100 GbE, I’ve found that most aren’t aware of what different modules are available, and how they differ from each other.  Here’s everything you need to know in a nutshell.


First, the most widely-used 100 GbE transceiver is a new module that was specifically designed for 100 Gb/s rates, called the C (for 100) Form-factor Pluggable (CFP).  The CFP is a large module, about twice as wide as a 10 GbE XENPAK module, or slightly larger than an iPhone.  It is large enough to dissipate the power consumed by the various electrical and optical components inside the module needed to reach long distances.  The CFP is also large enough to house a Wavelength Division Multiplexer (WDM) within the module, so that all wavelengths are multiplexed onto one fiber.  None of the 100 GbE modules today, or for the foreseeable future, use 100 Gb/s serial signaling.  Since the CFP module specification is an industry standard, the modules are designed to work with any network device interface that supports a standard CFP module, giving you the flexibility that you have with GbE or 10 GbE pluggable modules today.


Now let’s talk about what 100 GbE modules are available in more detail.


100 m OM3/150 m OM4: 100GBASE-SR10


100GBASE-SR10 is a short reach module designed to run 100 GbE at up to 150 m on OM4 multi-mode fiber or 100 m on OM3 fiber.  It uses a high density 24-fiber cable with a connector called a Multi-fiber Push On (MPO), also called MTP by Corning, and 10 x 10 Gb/s optical lanes each for transmit and receive, which each run over a separate fiber in the bundle.  It’s ideal for short reach distances in the same building.  If your data center is larger than 75,000 square feet, then single-mode fiber solutions will probably be needed to connect different areas within the data center at 100 GbE.


2 km SMF: 10x10-2km


The 10x10 MSA module is a lower cost solution than the IEEE 100GBASE-LR4 10 km module, and was designed to bridge the gap between the IEEE 150 m and 10 km specifications.  The 10x10 MSA standard was developed by an industry group of component manufacturers, equipment vendors, and network operators.  It uses simpler 10 x 10 Gb/s optical signaling and supports distances of 2 km on a single-mode fiber pair.  The 10 lanes are multiplexed so that only one transmit and one receive fiber is needed.  The 2 km reach allows this module to be used in warehouse scale data centers and between buildings on a campus.


10 km SMF: 100GBASE-LR4 and 10x10-10km


The 10 km 100GBASE-LR4 module is quite a bit more expensive and complicated than other 100 GbE modules.  It has a component called a gearbox that converts 10 x 10 Gb/s electrical signaling into 4 x 25 Gb/s, and a 4-wavelength WDM which uses one single-mode fiber pair, with one transmit and one receive fiber.  The 10x10-10km module is a lower cost solution that uses simpler 10 x 10 Gb/s optical signaling and also supports distances of 10 km on a single-mode fiber pair.  The longer reach is designed for small metro networks, links between buildings or POPs, and other applications that need to support a longer distance. 


40 km SMF: 100GBASE-ER4 and 10x10-40km


For the longest reach applications, the 100GBASE-ER4 module is designed to support distances up to 40 km.  It uses the same signaling as 100GBASE-LR4, and multiplexes 4 x 25 Gb/s waves onto a single-mode fiber pair.  The 10x10-40km module is a lower cost solution that uses simpler 10 x 10 Gb/s optical signaling and also supports distances of 40 km on a single-mode fiber pair  Neither modules are quite available on the market yet, but should be sometime early 2012.


The table below summarizes the media together side by side (click on the table to enlarge it).


So what’s next for 100 GbE?  Stay tuned to the Brocade Blogs, I’ll be writing about 2nd generation 100 GbE projects soon.


For more information on Brocade’s high density 100 GbE solutions, please visit the Brocade MLX Series product page.