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MPO in Data Centers

Understanding MPO/MTP Cabling Systems in Data Centers

When it comes to maintaining a data center, the job is never-ending. As soon as the last upgrade finished, new technology arrived to force a new round of improvements. Some networks are still installing 10G fiber optics, even while 40/100G is essentially the new standard. It’s just part of the game. If you want to give yourself a fighting chance to keep up with these paces, you need fiber optics that are scalable and efficient. Those two words form the entire design philosophy behind MPO/MTP systems. If you haven’t already explored this option, it’s time to start learning.

What is MPO and MTP?

The short answer is that these are high-volume data cables. MPO is multi-fiber push on. MTP is short for multi-fiber termination push on. Both cables utilize the same connector type and serve a lot of the same functions. We’ll get into the main differences in a minute. For now, let’s look at the basics of why these systems are so popular in data centers.

MPO/MTP are pre-terminated and support speeds from 10G up to 100G. Both cable types use connectors that are the same size as SC, and these cables support 12 or 24 fibers per cable. The sheer information density within these cables is massive, and considering how much space the compact design saves, it’s easy to see why they’re so common in data centers.

A few design elements really shape the functionality of MPO/MTP cables. They perform parallel optical communication. This allows simultaneous transmission and reception (like a simple duplex cable). The difference is that these cables handle a lot more than a single fiber pair at a time. With so many strands pre-arranged in the cables, the volume and capacity of these systems is achieved with far less effort on-site.

MPO vs MTP

For the most part, the design and advantages are identical between the two systems. We’ll be discussing those advantages at length. Before we do, let’s talk about the defining difference. In many cases, the two terms are used interchangeably. While shopping around, you’ll find this is commonplace, but there is a minor distinction that we can make now.

MPO is a generic fiber connector type. Any manufacturer can conceivably make MPO cables and equipment. MTP is trademarked by US Conec. So, technically speaking, any MTP cable is from a single manufacturer. This is akin to calling a tissue a Kleenex or a guide dog a Seeing Eye Dog (that’s a bonus fact for you). It doesn’t really matter which term you use as long as you understand why both exist.

Bridging the Gap

While MPO and MTP cables are common in data centers, MTP cables perform a special service. In particular, MTP-LC breakout cables are the key piece to bridging gaps between older 10G equipment and newer 40/100G systems. The breakout cables have an MTP connector on one end while the other “breaks out” into groups of LC connectors (6 or 12 in total). This allows 10G equipment to piggyback off of 40/100G systems with minimal investment. A single breakout cable is sufficient to combine the systems. This takes cost, strain and stress out of upgrading or transitioning 10G systems to keep pace with modern data demands.

The Efficiency of Pre-Termination

Anyone who has ever crimped their own RJ45 cables understands this concept. Pre-terminated cables save mountains of time and labor for deploying and adjusting networks. Considering the 12/24-fiber systems we’re discussing, pre-termination is saving more than a few minutes per connection. Since each cable already terminates in a standardized connector, high-powered fiber optics networks are transformed from complicated plates of cable spaghetti to easily-managed, carefully arranged stacks.

The reduced tangling and cable volume don’t just save on labor. They also improve air flow through the systems and make cooling more efficient and less expensive. It’s easy to see why MPO/MTP systems are so popular, but the efficiency of the cabling is only part of the equation. They are part of bigger picture that serves cable efficiency in dense environments.

Adapter Panels and Cassettes

Pre-terminated cables are amazing, but they only net so much benefit. MPO/MTP systems see that benefit multiplied by the implementation of standardized adapter panels and cassettes. These pre-manufactured tools make it substantially easier to manage fiber strands. Instead of meticulously arranging every tiny fiber in a switch, the adapter panels and cassettes funnel everything into carefully organized segments. When you consider the overwhelming number of cables in a 100G data center, it’s easy to understand just how much work these organizing tools are doing. Thousands of hours of labor are saved; cabinets and racks are made overwhelmingly more organized; and the material cost of networking the center goes down with simplified cable management.

MPO/MTP systems present unquestionable advantages in design, deployment and maintenance. Any network that needs speeds over 10G is served by exploring the benefits and opportunities presented by this technology. Even older fiber infrastructure that isn’t under such high bandwidth demand can still be improved with MPO/MTP. In technology, efficiency is always paramount, and these systems add that to virtually any fiber network.

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