Even in a year as tumultuous as 2020, investment in higher-speed Ethernet switches remained strong, largely driven by demand from hyperscale data centers and cloud providers. According to the IDC Quarterly Ethernet Switch Tracker, Q3 2020 port shipments for 100 GbE switches rose 35% year over year. The most popular 100 GbE transceiver options have been 100G-CWDM4, a single-mode two-fiber solution with a two-kilometer reach, and 100G-SR4, a 100-meter multimode solution.
At the same time, 100 Gb/s transceiver costs continue to decrease due to competition among manufacturers. The September 2020 High Speed Ethernet Optics Report from analyst LightCounting found pricing of 100G-SR4 transceivers dropped below $1/Gbps in 2019, and 100 GbE PSM4 reached the same price milestone in 2020, with DR1, FR1, and CWDM4 not far behind. The 100 Gb/s options will continue to see strong adoption in the short term but are expected to peak in the next several years as they make way for 400 Gb/s switches.
The $1/Gbps figure is now also used as a benchmark for 400/800 GbE modules, which will contribute the most to market growth in 2021-2025. While new 400 Gb/s switches come at a significant cost, they will also likely drop in price as early adopters in the cloud service provider and telecom industries purchase more 400 Gb/s switches over the next several years.
More edge computing adds pressure on central data centers
The growth of 5G – and IoT applications over 5G – means that data center networks need to reduce latency and support growing bandwidth requirements. Processing and analyzing data in closer proximity to the client will become a key endeavor for cloud providers. This is where edge computing comes in, with more high-density "near edge" data centers close to users – i.e., smaller traditional data centers – as well as mass deployments of micro data centers at base cell towers or customer locations at the far edge.
Even with the rise of edge data centers, more strain well be placed on core computing back in large consolidated and cloud data centers that edge data centers integrate with. These centralized data centers are still where roughly 90% of data is processed today. Over the next five years, we will see more migration to 400 Gb/s and even 800 Gb/s in these core data centers.
Choosing a forward-looking migration path
With so many transceiver options for 100, 200, and 400 Gb/s, it is important to plan for a cabling infrastructure that can handle multiple tech refreshes. Single-mode and multimode cabling systems from Leviton have been designed to provide this flexibility. They help reduce costs and installation time by using the same fiber backbone through multiple generations of upgrades. They also include high density patching, solutions for fast deployment, and customizable trunks and cable assemblies that give data center managers the exact solution they need.
Gary Bernstein, RCDD, CDCD, is the Senior Director of Product Management, Fiber & Data Center Solutions, at Leviton. He has more than 20 years' experience in the communications industry, with extensive knowledge in fiber cabling infrastructure and data center architectures.