Light Reading

TE Reckons Coolbit Is Hot Stuff

Carolyn Mathas
News Analysis
Carolyn Mathas

It's no secret that datacenters are hungry energy consumers and their appetite is insatiable. While most today operate at 10 Gbit/s level, at the next increment of 25 Gbit/s, the high-speed data rate energy drain dramatically worsens.

According to a recent TE Connectivity (NYSE: TEL) white paper, approximately 50% of a datacenter's energy consumption is generated by networking equipment. Air movement and cooling adds another 37%; transformers and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) 10%; and such elements as lighting, 3%.

A major challenge for datacenter operators is that while energy consumption presents something of a roadblock to upgrades, increasing demand for the next wave of services, fuelled by advances in core networking and virtualization, makes an upgrade in high-speed transmission is almost unavoidable in a highly competitive market.

What's needed, then, is a combination of higher speeds and lower power consumption. And that's exactly what TE Connectivity has been working on.

It's almost four years since TE Connectivity (then known as Tyco) acquired the Optical Products Group of Zarlink Semiconductor for $15 million. The acquisition included a laser fab facility in Sweden and IC (integrated circuit) design in Phoenix, Arizona. (See Zarlink Sells Optical Unit to Tyco)

Now, after years of development, TE has unveiled its Coolbit optical engine, designed to tackle that power/speed challenge. (See TE Connectivity Unveils Coolbit )

According to Erin Byrne, director of fiber optics engineering at TE, "The company spent the last two years developing the Coolbit optical engine as a foundational element. Coolbit accommodates the demand for 25 Gbit/s and beyond while satisfying high-density and high-bandwidth requirements," she stated.

The engine, which converts data from electric signals to optical signals, will be the driving technology behind a range of upcoming TE products, including:

  • 100G QSFP28 active optical cables (AOCs)
  • 100G QSFP28 transceivers
  • 300G Mid-board optical modules (MBOs)
  • 400G CDFP active optical cables (AOCs)

Why is this product important? At 25Gbit/s there are significant signal losses, and signal compensating electronics are necessary. However, by embedding the mid-board optics (MBOs) onto line cards and switch fabrics in computers and communications systems, Coolbit enables higher I/O port densities, systems are not constrained by copper interconnect lengths, there’s greater power efficiency, and the MBOs mitigate the signal losses.

According to TE, the 25 Gbit/s QSFP28 modules, for example, perform at less than 1.5 Watts per transceiver, so that communications systems will achieve up to 60% more power savings than is currently possible. At the component level, this translates into significant system savings. For each watt saved, equipment operators achieve infrastructure operational expenditure savings.

Byrne states that the company is emerging as a challenger in the datacenter and in telecom based on solutions that are designed to counter power and density challenges. When asked what the most difficult part of the two-year development of Coolbit was, she said, "To maintain a clear vision to achieving low power over the course of the full two years of development. That meant resisting [the addition of] other features along the way."

— Carolyn Mathas, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
3/3/2014 | 10:45:54 AM
Re: Renewable can help a bit
I sometimes cover data centers for different pubs. I had written about renewables a couple of years ago for Midwest Energy News (hence the ACT information). Emerson Electric in St. Louis has a complete solar energy roof on its data center, but that supplies ornly a portion of the energy that it needs.

I had written about data centers and renewable energy in Iceland several years ago.
User Rank: Blogger
3/3/2014 | 10:39:50 AM
Re: Renewable can help a bit
That is very cool, Phil. Where's your involvement now?
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/3/2014 | 10:09:04 AM
Re: Renewable can help a bit
I wrote an article several years ago on the use of geothermal in data centers in Iceland. At the time, they were able to run entirely on it. In the U.S., ACT, providers of the well-known college entrance exam, worked with project engineers to develop a geothermal system that helps cool their 10,000-square foot facility in Iowa City.
User Rank: Blogger
3/3/2014 | 10:03:46 AM
Re: Renewable can help a bit
Phil, You're right on. There's not doubt the needs will continue to expand.

Iceland, huh? Never been there. I think geothermal energy poses other problems there though. I read that the processing smells like rotten eggs from the release of hydrogen sulfide! I love to travel. Maybe I'll add Iceland as a placee to visit. Then I can take in the sights and smells first hand.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/3/2014 | 9:14:54 AM
Renewable can help a bit
As the data needs of businesses, government and individuals keep growing, so will data centers, and so will the centers' energy needs.

Renewable energy, such as solar and, where it is available, geothermal, can help with some of the energy drain, though primarily in conjunction with fossil energy. In Iceland, where geothermal is abundant, even the higher energy requirements as data centers expand, might be handled with litte or no fossil fuel energy.
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