Industry Vendors Form CLR4 100G Alliance for 100G Optics Specification

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At Interop 2014 in Las Vegas this week Intel (INTC), Arista Networks and many other key industry vendors announced the 100G CLR4 Alliance. With the goal of creating a new, open, multi-vendor 100G optics specification the alliance brings together end customers, system companies, and optical companies, and focuses on the market requirements of large data center customers.

Cost-effective 100G Optics for the New Data center

The data explosion coming from mobile, social, big data and the cloud brings into focus the problem of pent up demand for cost-effective 100G optics, which isn’t addressed by telco-focused 100G solutions to date. The open specification will design a low-power 100G-CWDM Optical transceiver in QSFP form factor, with a reach of up to 2 kilometers over duplex single-mode fiber. Preliminary supporters of the specification include Dell, ebay, HP, Brocade, Oracle, Ciena, and many others.

The 100G CLR4 alliance solution achieves four primary functions: it achieves the smallest 100G QSFP form factor, it reduces fiber by 75 percent, it enables low power (<3.5 watts) and long distance (1-2 km), and it enables high density, with 36 100G ports in 1 rack unit. The power, size and costs associated with 100G optical transceivers geared toward telecom players don’t meet the needs of large data center companies. The need for longer reach addresses the large gap that exists between 100 meters and 2 kilometers. The proliferation of 10G and 40G solutions has also brought about large and numerous form factors for 100G. Data centers require the smallest form factor possible, for maximum port density.

“There are telecom centric optical transceivers today operating at 100Gbps, but their power, size and costs are non-starters for the new data centre. Thus, there is a huge gap that needs to be filled for reaches that span from say 100m to 2km. And that’s the problem we are trying to address here,” said the director of Photonics Research at Intel Labs, Dr Mario Paniccia.

“Arista is excited about the 100G CLR4 Alliance,” said Andy. “We need to accelerate the time-to-market for cost effective low-power, 100G CRL4 QSFP form factor optics that address the 2km reach requirements of large data center customers. We believe an open multivendor effort is the best way to bring this to market.”

The alliance expects to move fast, with a preliminary spec yet this month and a published consensus spec next month. The group is open for anyone to participate in, with the goal of getting the industry to build and deploy 100G CLR4 products.

About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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