Accelerating the Internet Superhighway with 800G Optical Transceivers

Thursday 8th February 2024

The advancement of the internet superhighway is underway! The rise of 5G networks, artificial intelligence (AI) applications, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology has surged the need for greater bandwidth and data rates. Consequently, there is growing anticipation and interest in 800G transceivers and networks. Discussions regarding the next speeds on the internet superhighway, specifically 1.6T networks, are not merely speculative.

For those operating on the cutting edge, 800G speed is gradually superseding 400G as the anticipated optimal data transmission rate. With the establishment of 800G networks, the demand for 800G transceivers, featuring high data rates and capacity, is set to rise continuously.

800G Transceivers features

Also referred to as "dual 400G transceivers," 800G transceivers and networks merge two distinct 400G light-paths into a single optical channel with a single wavelength. Notable features of 800G transceivers include:

Utilization of PAM4 (Pulse Amplitude Modulation with four levels) to achieve the maximum data rate over the same bandwidth.

Incorporation of state-of-the-art FEC (forward error correction) algorithms to ensure reliable long-distance transmissions.

Transmission of data at high-capacity rates of 800G per wavelength.

Provision of the size, power consumption, and cost benefits of a pluggable (OSFP).

Incorporation of PIC (photonic integrated circuits) utilizing low power up to 20W in the 800G links.

Support for 16 QAM modulation scheme with a modulation rate of 120 GBaud.

Implementation of a fault-tolerant modular system involving a combination of advanced coherent DSP, advanced PIC, efficient analog electronics, and robust packaging technology.

800G Transceivers applications

800G transceivers, as integral components of an 800G optical network, deliver ultra-fast speed and minimal latency for industries requiring high data processing and transfer, such as:

Cloud Computing: Hyper-scale data centers with cloud computing applications continuously transfer and store vast amounts of data streaming from global networks.

Edge Data Centers: To reduce latency and support numerous applications, both wireline and wireless operators are relocating data centers to the edge, either as an enterprise or macro cell site.

Low Latency Industries and Applications: Industries and applications like banking, diagnostic imaging, defense, navigation, stock trading, weather forecasting, collaboration, research, ticket sales, video broadcasting, and online multiplayer gaming depend on almost instantaneous large data transfers with minimal latency.

5G Telecom: The extensive data flow and ongoing mobile network rollout of 5G are expanding data center capabilities.

Video Streaming: High-resolution 4K and 8K video streaming necessitate high-bandwidth networks supporting ultra-high definition (UHD) displays. Applications range from sporting events to interactive, real-time online gaming.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): Constant, bidirectional data bandwidth with very low latency is required for virtual machines and servers supporting VR and AR.

Work from Home (WFH): A trend gaining momentum even before the COVID-19 pandemic, WFH has become significant and is here to stay. As more business and institutional professionals work remotely, the demand for speed and bandwidth will extend to residential areas.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI applications demand high-speed data rates and bandwidth for quickly processing large data sets and executing complex algorithms, encompassing autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, robotic surgery, and IT edge security.

Evolution of Optics from 25G to 800G

The progression from 25G to 800G, from SFP to the QSFP-DD MSA, has unfolded over several years, driven by advancements in three key technologies:µ

Increased Baud Rate: Expanding the data-carrying capacity of a single channel significantly enhances the overall channel capacity, resulting in more data being transmitted with reduced latency.

Laser Modulation: 800G utilizes PAM4 modulation to improve network performance and transition to higher data rates, enabling twice as much data transmission per signal compared to traditional NRZ (Non-Return to Zero) modulation used in low-speed transceivers.

Increased Lanes: Data rates are elevated either by employing parallel channels or by increasing the number of fibers in the cable.

Adoption of 400G to 800G: 2023 Marks the Year of Transition

While 2025 is projected as the target for most 800G applications, hyper-scale data centers, industries, and service providers currently employing 400G links in their core networks are already transitioning to 800G deployments. The key to this shift from 400G to 800G optics lies in the acceptance and implementation of specifications for two critical 800G transceivers: OSFP and QSFP-DD.

Octal Small Form-factor Pluggable (OSFP): Featuring eight high-speed lanes capable of transferring data at a rate of 100 Gbps per lane, resulting in a total bandwidth of 800 Gbps, OSFP modules are utilized in high-speed optical communication networks. OSFP is comparatively wider and deeper than QSFP, meeting the power requirements of 800G optics.

Quad Small Form Factor Pluggable Double Density (QSFP-DD): The 800G MSA maintains the current design of 400G QSFP-DD optical modules while introducing a next-generation QSFP-DD optical module featuring eight channels and a single-link capacity of 100 Gbps. The expected power consumption of the QSFP-DD 800 optical module is up to 24W, with its cage and connectors compatible with existing QSFP-DD and QSFP modules.

Challenges in Implementing 800G

It is common knowledge that the immediate adoption of new technology is not a plug-and-play process. (Think of the leap from VCR to DVD.) For 800G fiber networks, early adopters must consider compatibility, standards, application issues, integration with legacy equipment devices, and high costs.

Some of the significant challenges in implementing 800G transceivers and fiber networks include:

Current implementations of 800G use 8x lanes at 100Gbps per lane with double the PAM4 speeds from 50Gbps (previous generations) to 100Gbps. In development are 200Gbps per lane 800G transceivers, presenting a significant challenge due to the parallel development of higher-order modulation and PAM4 data rate.

The sole available 800G standard is the Ethernet Technology Consortium's 800GBASE-R.

Upgrading networks and components from 400G to 800G involves doubling the spectrum, sampling speed, and symbol rate. Minor issues at 400G could escalate into major problems affecting electrical performance at 800G.

Early devices may not support both Auto-Negotiation (AN) and Link Training (LT) for performing electrical signal transmission. This compatibility issue between the ASICs could increase the risks of link flaps.

800G optical transceivers dissipate significant amounts of heat, impacting component performance if not adequately cooled and increasing utility costs.

The availability of high-speed optics on the market is currently limited.

800G testing can be expensive.

Is Your Network Ready for 800G Transceivers?

Data-centric enterprises are compelling network providers and applications to deliver higher bandwidth, reduced latency, and reliable, seamless connectivity. 800G transceivers represent the logical choice for deploying fast, secure, and dependable connectivity. Nevertheless, network engineers, data center architects, and other future planners must carefully consider the demand for a faster, larger pipeline against the challenges of deploying and migrating to 800G. Providers catering to end users with the highest usage and demand will likely be the first to implement and drive standardization and product availability.

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