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Industry Insights

Base 8 Connectivity

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | by Randy Harris

As a child of the ‘80s, I can remember rotary dial phones evolving into push button phones.  The day my dad brought home the cutting edge technology of a push button phone, with a 10 foot cord, was life changing for 12-year-old me.  Okay, maybe not life changing, but certainly made it easier to call my girlfriend six times an hour - only to hear that annoying ‘busy signal’ because ‘call waiting’ had not been invented yet. Today, my kids have no clue just how hard it was to use the phone “back in the day.” Texting, Instagram, Snapchat and the rarely used method of calling someone in their contact list are the new norm.

Technology advanced. This is not a new story – we’re bombarded with advancements in technology daily. The flat screen TV we bought yesterday is obsolete tomorrow.

This is the world we live in, but when it comes to fiber optic network topologies, change happens at slightly a slower pace. For over the last four decades the deployment of traditional 12 fiber based connectivity has served the market well. Any data center that has been built to 10G specifications has used this traditional method. But as bandwidth requirements continue to increase, technology has advanced and data center managers are now looking for a new solution.

Enter Base 8. I’m sure you’ve heard the new buzz term Base 8, but you might be confused as to what this really means.

So let’s start from the beginning. With the emergence of 40G networks the manufacturers of transceivers used in servers and switching equipment evolved towards the QSFP type of transceiver. The QSFP utilizes only 8 fibers – four of which are used for transmit while the other four are used for receive. Each “circuit” transmits or receives a 10G transmission. Using simple math to break it down looks like this:

So, if the transceivers are only using 8 fibers, how does that affect a 12 fiber system? Well, to put quite simply, four of the fibers are not used, basically wasted.

Now this certainly does not mean that a customer must succumb to the realization that 33% of their fibers will go to waste. There are options such as ‘transition’ cassettes that, for example, take two 12 fiber MPO’s down to three 8 fiber MPO’s. But this is an expensive solution both from a financial standpoint as well as system budget, as an added connection is brought into play.

We can now finally get to the point of the discussion – Base 8 connectivity. A Base 8 solution consists of some combination of either 8 fiber cassettes or adapter panels and an 8 fiber based trunk. So imagine a scenario of using a 32 fiber trunk with four Base 8 cassettes on each end, resulting in 100% fiber utilization for 8-fiber transceiver systems without the additional cost and insertion loss of 12 fiber to Base-8 transition cassettes or devices.

The most efficient means of utilizing Base 8 is to simply use MPO adapter panels, where the trunk cable is patched (via Pin-LESS MPO patch cords) directly into the end equipment. Cable harnesses can then easily route to all common port counts on switch line cards, only requires unpinned MTP patch cords for any connections within the link and is the most flexible solution for 40G, 100G and 400G transmission networks.

So far only large financial and healthcare institutions are taking advantage of Base 8 technology. But as technology advances and demands for higher bandwidth increase you can be sure that Base 8 will be highly considerable by most midsize to large companies. Also, conversations will soon turn to comparing Base 12 to Base 8. Just for clarification, Base 12 is a term referring to traditional 12 fiber subsets: 12, 24, 36, etc. Now unlike the obsolete TV we bought yesterday, Base 12 will not disappear overnight. But just like my old rotary phone, Base 12 will eventually be replaced by Base 8. This is certainly a change in mindset, and one that we must embrace.


16-fiber OM3/OM4 MTP Trunk Cable Image Source: