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400G – Are You Ready?

27th February 2020 | In Optical Transceivers
It has been expected that 400G will take off ‘any time now’, but with the demand for higher bandwidth being pushed by the likes of 4K video streaming and the rapid growth of cloud storage, it would seem that 2020 is likely to be the year that 400G finally gets it wings. With millions of 400G switches already being shipped over the last couple of years and the fact that it has been about 2 years since the largest datacenters upgraded from 10 and 40G to 100G, most forecasts are pointing to millions of 400G transceivers being shipped in 2020.

Inevitably, 400G will replace 100G and 200G deployments in a much faster way than 100G did historically. Most of these will be coming from the OEM’s directly, such as Cisco, Juniper and other major players but due to the demanding cost of 400G technology third party suppliers will be ready to help you make your upgrade less painful with the transition.

A major requirement for successful and error free implementation of 400G is simply testing. This is an issue that separates quality and functionality when customers choose among third party transceivers. AddOn Networks has developed a precise system in which 400G modules have to go through mandatory functionality testing at its state-of-the-art in-house laboratory.

Modulation Matters

It is said that transceivers below 100G use a simpler modulation scheme. In fact, PAM4, the scheme that is chosen for many 400G networking systems is even more complex as it has two bits into a single symbol with four amplitude levels. PAM4 provides the given data rate at half the frequency, meaning it doubles the network throughout while also reducing power consumption.

PAM4 creates some challenges though, even with all these upsides. The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) effectively reduces transceiver reach. To mitigate the loss of signal integrity, in 400G there is a greater need for forward error correction (FEC). This is why module testing is so essential and third-party suppliers that are not able to test precisely will risk losing customers by providing low quality products.

Testing 400G

AddOn Networks’ in-house testing facility is committed to quality as 400G testing has come full circle. This ensures quick delivery to customers and is the root cause of why customers choose third-party transceiver sources in the first place.

400G testing can be complicated; it is different to earlier generations of transceiver technology. It focuses more on the acceptable reliability levels, rather than whether if there are actual errors. Post-FEC, some 400G transceivers will operate error free while others will not. There seems to be a more sophisticated understanding of the error distribution method and what the root causes are that make these errors occur. FEC is complex and needs testing for logistical and dynamic power performance errors as well.

400G Testing at AddOn

The AddOn lab includes a MultiLane BERT tester, which is essential to testing the 400G factors above. There are also ways to provide information on how well a 400G transceiver behaves across networks. Whether it be Cisco, Juniper or Arista, these 400G switches can be tried out. There is also an EXFO 400G traffic generator that can be used to simulate how varying traffic conditions and monitors how 400G transceivers will perform on a specific network. If a customer buys from a supplier that does not have its own testing lab and equipment the risks involved are great and could extend project lead times. The change from 100G to 400G is a necessity as we push network connectivity forward.

Why use AddOn as a supplier of Optical Transceivers?

  • Cost: OEM quality, tested and trusted parts at a fraction of the cost
  • Reliability: Lifetime warranty, Industry-leading tech support
  • Performance: All parts are tested in the intended environment
  • Sherman Antitrust Act: No service agreements or warranties will be
    voided by using AddOn Networks

Mike Peacey Product Manager, Hardware

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