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Hyperscale & cloud growth: conquering connector challenges


May 8, 2020  


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May 8, 2020 – The explosive growth of both hyperscale and cloud services has pushed network connectivity to unprecedented levels never before experienced. This has created extraordinary demands on data center connected infrastructure capacity, challenging businesses’ ability to deliver. The answer to this challenge can be found in new, revolutionary innovations in connector technology.

Why the connector is experiencing mass growth

1. Incredible investment in connected infrastructure

Connected infrastructure—fiber optics and copper cabling, cabling infrastructure (including cable trays, racks, and patch panels), and installation labour—comprises an incredible 65% of total data center spend. The typical cost to build a hyperscale data center is between $300 and $400 million. As some campuses are commonly home to five or more data center buildings, the total investment required from tech companies is staggering.

2. Fast-growing demand for connected infrastructure

Demand for connected infrastructure continues to grow at an exponential rate. In 2014, the market for fiber optics, copper cabling and cabling infrastructure components was valued at $7.72 billion. The market is expected to grow to $13.13 billion by 2020. That’s a growth rate of 9% from 2015 to 2020, with a forecast of more than $17 billion by 2022.

3. Exponential growth in bandwidth

Nielsen’s Law of Internet Bandwidth states that user bandwidth will grow by 50% every year.

4. Evolution of network architecture topologies

As investment in data centers increases and user bandwidth expands, network architecture topologies in support of both hyperscale and cloud have evolved from a central campus structure to more distributed nodes, placing even more pressure on connected infrastructure capacity. This requires remote facilities deployed at the edge to support low latency content distribution and transactions, which equates to exponentially more connected devices, cabling and infrastructure, and physical interconnects.

5. Hyper-growth of physical interconnects

With a projected connected infrastructure market growth of 9%, an annual network bandwidth growth rate of 50%, and the push toward cloud and hyperscale network topologies where data center growth is being moved to separate and remote edge facilities, the actual physical interconnects are experiencing hyper growth. A recent report by Technavio reveals a global data center connector growth rate—directly attributed to these critical factors—of more than 12% from 2019 to 2023.

Trends show that companies will rely primarily on fiber optics connectivity to support the extraordinary growth in connecters and cabling infrastructure. A comparison of the fiber connectors that are being used today can be found in Figure B.

The above chart shows the fiber connector market and install base from 2018 projected to 2022. LC and MTP/MPO connectors are the primary solutions that will be used to support the upcoming extraordinary growth in hyperscale and cloud connectivity. Remarkably, these connector technologies were all developed over 30 years ago!

Connectivity challenges caused by today’s connectors

As fiber optics connectivity has become the leading media platform that supports the extraordinary demands created by the massive growth of both hyperscale and cloud, today’s fiber connector technology is causing significant challenges.

High Capacity & Density. With the limited strand capacity offered by connector solutions today, IT space environments are becoming overwhelmed by the need to house the massive amount of cabling infrastructure being deployed.

Performance & Quality. Bandwidth requirements are growing exponentially each year and require the highest quality cabling media and materials, impeccable installation practices, and an ideal environment to achieve performance specifications.

Labour Costs. More than 20% of data center infrastructure spend is attributed to labour costs, including cabling installation, testing and operational support. This is breaching budgets, which limits service growth, product revenue and quality of service.

Time to Market. The expediency in which connected infrastructure must be deployed and turned over to production is critical in meeting online service demands. In most cases, teams are failing to meet deadlines—or are meeting deadlines, but at extraordinary costs.

Flexibility, Scalability, & Compatibility. The wide range of evolving technologies has resulted in infrastructures that are disaggregated, incompatible and unusable from one iteration to the next.

Operability & Management. Even the most advanced tech companies cannot comprehend their own cabling infrastructures. Support and manageability of all these fiber interconnects has come to a point where it is easier to discard it than fix it.

The connected components industry is overdue for a refresh and revitalization. Using decades-old technology to support today’s challenges has resulted in inefficient, unreliable, and, in some cases, inoperable network infrastructures at extremely high costs.

However, manufacturers are rising to the occasion by designing new connector technologies that support high-density, low-loss connectivity, ease of installation, faster deployment, lower total cost of ownership, and greater flexibility for growth and scale.

Choose the connector that best fits your requirements

To determine how to best meet your specific connected infrastructure requirement factors, use CASPER. This practical method focuses on key deciding factors to determine cabling infrastructure and connector type requirements.

The CASPER rules of connected infrastructure requirements:

1. Costs: Overall budget vs. cost per infrastructure port.

2. cApacity: Designated IT space vs. number of ports/strands that can fit into the environment.

3. Scalability & Flexibility: Transceiver type, compatibility with existing infrastructure and growth projections.

4. Performance: Bandwidth requirements for each connection; 10/100g/400g, duplex, QFSP, ins/ref loss.

5. Environment & Operability: Installation parameters and support capabilities while in production; high touch, low touch or unmanned.

6. Redundancy & Reliability: The availability and redundancy requirements of connections vs. separation or diversity of each port or cable.

Once specific connected infrastructure requirements have been determined based on the CASPER Rules, use the CASPER Index Wheel to pinpoint the connector solution that best fits your particular specifications.

The CASPER Index Wheel displays each requirement factor as a sector of the circle. Each connector solution can then be overlaid and mapped onto the CASPER Index Wheel depending on how well its specific attributes cover each factor.

To determine which connector best meets your particular specifications, map your specific connected requirements onto the CASPER Index Wheel. Contact the author for guidance in determining connected infrastructure requirements and mapping the best connector solution using the CASPER method.

About the author…

Steve Cheng, CEO & principal architect of Swick Designs, has spent over 20 years architecting, building, and operating connected network infrastructures for companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google. He can be reached at steve@swickdesigns.com.

This article—along with other great content—appears in the February 2020 edition of Buildings IoT Canada Magazine.


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