Do AOC Cables Work With Servers?

Equal Optics

Network cabling systems are essential for data centers and other facilities to efficiently connect and communicate. While there are many different types of cables available, active optical cable (AOC) is a widely used option. AOC cables do work with servers, as well as switches and other critical components. Learn more about this affordable, low-latency cabling option to see how Equal Optics can connect you to the best cabling for your networking needs, whether you’re looking for copper or fiber optic cable.

Do AOC Cables Work With Servers?

Whether you’re looking for affordable connections or convenient ways to connect servers, AOC cable is a popular and effective choice. The lightweight cable can easily be used to connect servers, as well as other systems. Thanks to the active optical design, AOC cabling is popularly used for both middle-of-the-row and top-of-the-rack configurations.

While AOC cable can be used both within and between servers, there are many other applications for this cable. There are other server-connecting options as well, like direct attach cable. Explore the differences between these cables to identify the best way to connect your servers with reliable, long-lasting cables.

AOC Cables Explained

Active optical cable uses fiber optic technology to create a multimode cable. It’s terminated with small form-factor pluggable (SFP) connectors, which require power but can be a cost-effective way to connect servers, switches, and different data center racks. Dive into the anatomy and history of AOC cabling to see how it rates for high-speed, high-volume data transfer situations.

Anatomy of an AOC Cable

A few key components help AOC cabling stand out not only from copper wiring but also from other fiber optic options. Here are the components that make AOC cables convenient and capable of connective servers and other systems:

  • Optical fiber cable: Available in either single- or multimode options, fiber optical ribbon cable is flexible enough to be used in many settings.
  • Connector: An SFF-8436 connector makes it easy to plug an AOC cable into a router, switch, or server.
  • Transceiver: An embedded transceiver allows for both electro-opto and opto-electro conversions.

Altogether, these components create a fiber cable that easily plugs into systems and doesn’t require an additional optical transceiver. In high-performance computing applications, AOC cabling is not only more efficient than copper wiring but can be more convenient than fiber optic alternatives.

Do AOC Cables Work With Servers? | Equal Optics

The History of AOC Cable

The history of AOC cable started with the goal of replacing copper wire, which it has successfully done in many data transfer situations. While copper wire was traditionally used to efficiently send an electrical signal, it is far heavier than fiber optics and can be compromised by electromagnetic interference. Today, a popular option for many data centers and long-distance data transfer situations is fiber optics, particularly active optical cable, which has been used to connect systems for 10G, 40G, 100G, and now 400G networks.

Available Types of Active Optical Cable

When selecting types of AOC cables, it’s important to weigh the various types available and consider the best option for your particular application. Here are some questions to answer when selecting the optimal type of active optical cable:

  • What form factor do you need?
  • Do you need OEM compatibility with a particular brand?
  • What base data rate does your system need?
  • How long of cabling do you need?

Answering these questions can not only help you select the right cable but also verify that AOC cable is the best option for your application.

Benefits of Active Optical Cable

Compared to copper wiring and other cabling options, AOC cables offer several distinct benefits. Here are some reasons to consider upgrading or choosing AOC cabling for your high-speed computing connections:

  • Protection from EMI/RFI exposure
  • Reliable and secure transportation
  • Increased reach and bandwidth
  • Reduced size and weight, particularly when compared with copper cables
  • Low bit-error rate

These benefits are apparent particularly when you compare active optical cable with copper, though AOC cabling also compares favorably to direct attach cable.

Applications of AOC Cables

There’s a reason the AOC cabling industry was valued at $3.42 billion in 2022. This convenient cabling can support a broad range of protocols for pluggable convenience. When using 40 Gb/s QSFP+, for example, here are some of the protocols it can support:

  • Ethernet 10G and 40G
  • InfiniBand SDR, QDR, and DDR
  • Fibre Channel 8G and 10G
  • SAS and SATA 3G and 6G
  • Multirate, between 1.0 Gb/s to 10.3125 Gb/s per lane

While AOC cable is popular in data centers and other high-performance computing situations as server cables, it can also be used to connect personal computers, high definition TVs, and other consumer electronics.

AOC vs. DAC Cables

Direct attach cable (DAC) is another heavy-hitter in the cable world. Compare these two powerful solutions to find the right answer to your specific need.

DAC Cable Explained

Twinax copper with standardized connectors on both ends create either active or passive DAC cable. It’s capable of connecting many of the same devices as AOC cable, including storage inside racks, switches, and servers. Due to the cabling being made of copper, there is some concern of electromagnetic interference.

DAC Applications

Data centers often use DAC cable to connect servers and switches within a single rack or adjacent racks. While DAC cable has a shorter transmission distance than AOC cable, it can be more affordable for short connections.

A single system can use both AOC and DAC cables, so you don’t have to choose a single type of cable for your system. For specific connection points, consider your budget, the length of connection, and the necessary amount of data transfer before making your decision between these two popular cable options.

Learn More About Active Optical Cables With Equal Optics

From a single DAC cable to a bulk order of AOC cables, Equal Optics is your premier provider of networking solutions. Contact us to learn more about our products. Speak to one of our experts to identify the best options to connect your servers and power your high-speed computing process.


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