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The AI Advantage of Moving Away from Data Center NEMs

Data center operators may achieve optimal performance in their AI tools by choosing third-party transceivers over traditional NEM options.

4 Min Read
Fiber network switch with some yellow optical network cables

In today’s data-driven landscape, data center operators are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools. Delivering the enhanced speeds and low latency required to overcome market demands, these tools play a crucial role in optimizing existing data center infrastructure, enabling accurate data analytics and faster decision-making, alongside greater automation of operations.

According to a survey from the Uptime Institute, 57% of data center owners recently advised they would trust an AI model to drive operational decisions. One reason for this is that AI/ML gives operators the tools to better understand the success of processes within the data center.

As a result, they can develop new strategies and models capable of making their output more financially and operationally successful. AI/ML tools also enable real-time maintenance within facilities, making operations more energy-efficient by cooling overheating hardware.

Innovation in the Market

If these tools are to be used successfully, the same operators require the latest solutions on the market. We are now seeing 400 and 800G optical transceivers capable of underpinning AI/ML tools.

For example, these can enhance the handling and processing of bandwidth-intensive data flows when migrating from serial central processing unit (CPU)-based architecture towards parallel data flow in the graphics processing unit (GPU).

Once these are implemented within existing data center infrastructure, the transmission of data can be accelerated, while offering additional capabilities to increase the storage and compute capacity available to operators.

Of course, many businesses are already aware of how 400G and 800G transceivers can enable AI/ML tools, and the demand for these has been almost insatiable. Stock prices for optical component and module companies rose by 200-300% last year as companies began rolling out these solutions to the market.  However, the amount of bandwidth required for these to operate successfully, alongside the lack of compatible solutions in the market, makes selecting the most ‘suitable’ optical transceiver a challenge.

An Attractive Alternative

On paper, buying these transceivers from established network equipment manufacturers (NEMs) seems a sensible option. There is no doubt over the ability of their transceivers to support AI/ML, yet the size of most NEMs makes a ‘personalized’ service impossible. They often lack the resources to develop tailored solutions and have oversight on the entire delivery process.

This is where third-party suppliers come to the fore. Typically smaller than their NEM counterparts, these businesses can offer optical components that are equal to traditional offerings, but with faster delivery times and greater support.

The best of these third-party suppliers carry out 100% testing to guarantee their solutions will mirror a customer’s data flow before it is used in their data center. This means operators can utilize transceivers tailored to their unique requirements, without the fear of being ‘locked in’ to a specific manufacturer and an unsuitable product range.

This testing process can also help mitigate concerns over performance. Premium third-party suppliers parallel test their optical solutions in customer environments to guarantee an equal – if not greater – level of performance operators have become accustomed to through established, ‘big name’ manufacturers. This allows customers to trust the transceivers used in their operations will deliver the necessary performance required to utilize AI/ML tools effectively.

Delivering Optimal Performance

Should the right third-party supplier be selected, customers will not only benefit from a best-in-class transceiver, but a best-in-class service too. All too often, businesses purchasing AI/ML enabling optical transceivers will encounter long lead times and delayed deliveries when ordering directly from NEMs. Using a third-party supplier empowers operators to avoid these unnecessary complications, and benefit from a compressed timeline from order to delivery. In an industry where operations live or die on the availability of parts, third-party suppliers are making a massive difference.

This service also extends to supporting operators post-delivery, with some third-party suppliers offering customers round-the-clock access to support teams and engineers. By ensuring customer products are in working order and continue to meet requirements after the initial sale, the consistency and reliability of the 400G and 800G transceivers – and by extension, the AI/ML tools – can be easily maintained.

AI/ML tools hold the key to many benefits. They can reduce an organization’s carbon footprint or the manual labor required in data center facilities. The automation afforded through AI/ML can even free up operators’ time to build out strategic business plans. However, this will only be achieved if the right transceiver, and the right provider, is chosen.

Third-party suppliers are now giving businesses greater choice when it comes to their optical components and should be considered a viable alternative when it comes to data center infrastructure.

George Ashwin is UK Channel Director at AddOn Networks.

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