Today’s data centers have to deal with a constant surge of high-bandwidth, high-speed applications driven by the rapid increase in mobile and wearable devices, 4K and 8K video streaming, Internet of Things and 5G (and those are just the technologies we know about right now!).
As trends like these bring increased traffic to 40G to 100G and emerging 400G data centers, cable with ultra-high fiber counts is needed to support this growing bandwidth.
The only viable solution in high-density data center environments like this is ribbon cable, which is exactly what it sounds like: optical fiber strands bonded into a flat ribbon. Other options, such as loose tube cables or single-fiber splicing, would take too long to install, require impractical splicing hardware or call for “ribbonizing” the fiber (bonding them together and splicing them to a ribbon breakout). Over time, the industry has realized that ribbon cable is truly the best choice for data center cabling.
In addition to offering time savings over other data center cabling options, ribbon cables also increase splice capacity to make the most of square footage in tight data center spaces.
Ribbon Cable Challenges
Despite the many benefits they offer, ribbon cables also pose challenges in data center environments.
First off, they’re not known for flexibility. Though traditional fiber cables can bend in all directions (while keeping in mind the bend radius specification for the cable, of course), ribbon cable movement is limited. It only bends along its longitudinal axis (called “preferential bending axis”), which can make handling, installation and pulling difficult. This bending can also cause stress on fibers and ultimately damage the cable, leading to signal loss.
Lastly, ribbon cables require ribbon identification, sorting and preparation of ribbons for a splice tray. All of these installation steps eat up valuable time. As the ribbon cable’s fiber count increases, so does the level of time commitment and installation costs.
New FiberExpress Flexible Ribbon Cable
Belden heard your frustrations with traditional ribbon cable and developed its FiberExpress Flexible Ribbon Cable to offer a new cable option in high-density, high-data-rate environments that rely on fiber for data transmission.
Relative to cable size, Flexible Ribbon Cable provides the highest connectivity density available to make every square foot inside your data center count. Its small OD and superb flexibility make it easier and faster to handle than traditional ribbon cable, creating installation possibilities in narrow pathways and small conduit. This means you can save space while still installing a higher-fiber-count cable, making every square foot count.
When you receive the cables, you’ll also notice that sorting and ribbonization are already completed (the fibers are already bonded). This reduces labor resources, costs and necessary tools while eliminating many of the hassles associated with deploying traditional ribbon cable. Simply strip off the coating, cleave it, splice it and you’re done!
The ability to terminate multiple fibers at once through mass fusion splicing reduces installation time even more. (Even saving just a few seconds per splice adds up to significant installation time savings.) A mass fusion splice can be completed in the same amount of time it takes to complete one or two single splices.
Finally, the cable’s superb flexibility eliminates concerns about it bending only along its preferential axis. The result is less cable stress and easier pulling.
Flexible Ribbon Cable complements solutions like Belden’s new DCX Optical Distribution Frame; the cable features the perfect number of splits on each sub-unit while protecting fiber integrity. It’s also a cost-effective way to support distributed antenna systems (DAS) in entertainment venues, hospitality environments and mid- and high-rise buildings.