What to use when an optical transceiver isn’t the right solution: AECs, AOCs, and DACs

In this 5-minute Vitex Talks segment, we’ll explore situations where using a transceiver may not be the best option in the data center or telecom space. There are three primary alternatives to transceivers, including active optical cables (AOC), direct attach cables (DAC), and active electrical cables (AEC), as well as the pros and cons of each.


(0:00-0:21) Intro
(0:22-1:20) When might you not use a transceiver?
(1:21-1:49) Easy inventory
(1:50-2:29) Reliability
(2:30-2:50) No interoperability concern
(2:51-3:13) Utility cost
(3:14-3:34) Equipment cost
(3:35-4:15) Where are these solutions used?
(4:16-6:15) Pros and cons of using different solution options
(6:16-6:48) Conclusion

Products Mentioned


Complete Transcript


Hey everybody, this is Craig from Vitex, and today we’re going to shine some light on situations where you would not use a transceiver. If you’re in the data or telecom space, this is something you may want to listen to.

When might you not use a transceiver?

Let’s talk about why this would actually occur. Being in the optical communication field, everybody knows about transceivers, why we use them, the benefits that they give, but why would we not want to use a transceiver in some of our solutions?

Before we actually get into that, let’s understand what the alternatives are. We have three primary alternatives that we’re going to talk about, the AOC or the active optical cable, the DAC or direct attached cable, and the AEC or active electrical cable. We’re going to get into all the pros and cons of those, but let’s understand what our options are when we don’t want to use them.

In some cases, you may want to use one solution for another, so kind of, you know, “tomato, tomato, potato, potato”, whatever kind of fruit or vegetable you like to use or starch, maybe I think it is, it’s going to be whatever your solution is really geared to.

Easy inventory

Let’s talk about why you would want to use something that is a connected cable solution. The first thing to consider is inventory, right? We all know that we’re managing large labs, large installations, large field deployments, so reducing the amount of different parts that we have to worry about, say like multiple transceivers and fiber cables or even breakouts. This is really, really helpful that we can actually reduce our management and complexity in how we control inventory.


Let’s look at our reliability. I’m not really talking about signal reliability. I’m talking more about connection reliability. If you’ve worked with fiber cables, you know we’re going to have to unplug them and plug them back in. Let’s just take an LC or MPO. Every time we’re doing an insert or a removal, we have things like all this little dust, scratches that can come into play. But if we have cables that are attached at the factory, this is no longer a concern for us, and so you can see where one of these cabled solutions has a much more reliable operation to it because we don’t have to do insertion and removal of cable.

No interoperability concern

The second or actually third thing on our list is interoperability. A lot of times when you’re doing different transceivers, how well they work together, do they support the same rates are a concern in any install, but if we already have all the transceivers and the cables connected, that’s no longer a concern to worry about.

Utility cost

Next, we want to talk about utility costs. We all know as we input more and more transceivers into our servers and switches, it’s going to produce more power, right? As we increase our rates that we’re going, it’s going to bring more power. Some of these cabled solutions, they actually lower the amount of power consumption, which will bring your overall utility and operation costs down, which is a good thing, right? Save money.

Equipment cost

On the same end, we can lower our equipment costs because some of these solutions compared to the transceivers, the amount of active components they have and the complexity in the designs, we can provide lower cost solutions that will give you the same amount of data quality in a cabled solution versus a plug-in option.

Where are these solutions used?

Where do these actually get used? If you’re in the data comm space, we’re going to look at our basic configuration of our spines, our leafs and our servers to see what is the best area to use one of these different options. For our inner rack and log distances, we’re looking more at AOCs because they have fiber components as part of the cabling and they can go for a much larger distance. When we’re looking in intra rack and top of rack for more of short distances, we have our AECs, or if we’re in even shorter distances, we can use some type of a DAC solution.

Pros and cons of using different solution options

But what are the pros and cons of using these different solutions?

First, we start with the AOC. It’s much lighter. It’s more secure because it’s fiber versus direct electrical connection. We get some nice security and we get some pretty long reach and our weight can drop way down, all right? But disadvantages of it, they’re usually higher in cost and require more power consumption.

If we move to a different cabled option, say our DACs, we’re able to reduce our cost much more, as we talked about, both our operation cost and our purchasing costs. They use less power, so our power consumption goes down, again related to our costs and our latency drops, which can be very important depending on your application that you’re using. Some of the problems with these, the reach, that’s kind of low, so that’s not really an advantage, and the weight can go up, and this could be a problem especially in really high dense areas where you have to consider airflow and how cooling is done.

If we want to look to get maybe the best of both worlds, we turn over to our friend the AEC over here. Here we’re still going to have relatively low cost, we’re going to have low power, low latency, and then a nice, super awesome benefit is our signal processing capability by adding some active components that the DAC doesn’t have. Again, when we look at this compared to the DAC, we get a nice little addition from our reach and we can also reduce our weight and the cable diameter, but when we look at this compared to the AOC, of course it doesn’t stack up for how far it can reach.


If you want to reach out to us in New Jersey to go through some of these options of when the transceiver is not right for you and look at something else, please reach out to us and we’ll be sure to help you. And until next time, I’ll see you then.

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