The Consortium for On Board Optics, called COBO, is developing new inside-the-box standards for onboard optical interconnects first for inside high-speed datacenters. The primary driving elements of this type of packaging and connectivity is power/cooling costs savings and port count density versus the traditional pluggable module and AOC approaches. Their first application is being driven by larger Cloud datacenter end-users and their suppliers for developing next generation inside the DataCenter Network (DCN) interconnects.
Developing Exascale Cloud and HPC datacenters are a primary implementation focus. The COBO people have been busy during the last year and a lot of progress has been made with the new electrical data and power/system management connectors. A second application for another new standard module form factor and related electrical digital connectors is under development for very long reach Coherent applications between datacenters.
Cloud operators consider one datacenter as a “machine” and usually have several datacenters connected together in a mesh configuration which is then considered a system. A single Cloud datacenter can have anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000-plus server boxes. A single 1U box can have several individual server modules, and each chip on a module can have several computing cores. The volume and speed rate of data coming and going through a datacenter machine is huge and growing rapidly, thus the need for optical connectivity for switch port densification, many longer link reaches and signal integrity.
Because this group is just developing new standard module packaging form factors and connectors and is very interface/protocol agnostic, it appears that this consortium would support and develop other new inside the box standard optical connectivity for consumer mobile devices like tablets and industrial automation switches like advanced camera networks. I’ll report more on this later.
Because several leading edge protocol interface standards like InfiniBand, Ethernet and FibreChannel are developing standards for 50G PAM4 per lane signaling rates as well as 100G PAM4 per lane, the COBO new DCN 50G PAM4 data connector will need head room for performing well at 100G PAM4 per lane. A COBO 1U box front panel can have 100-plus optical connector ports with each port handling 400G for 40T throughput. The current high-speed, external copper 400G QSFP-DD connector can have 36 ports per 1U box for 14.4T throughput. There will still be a healthy market need for QSFP-DD connectivity especially for the very large existing, installed equipment traditional Enterprise market.
Coherent COBO is sometimes written as CohCOBO and pronounced “cocobo.” This developing standard module and connectors will have different power requirements, heatsink and thermal path/cooling requirements as it takes more energy to push the photons several kilometers versus 300 meters. It seems that telephony and carrier companies will take notice of this new packaging system, which is likely to be much more competitive versus the CDFP and CFP8 pluggable module systems. COBO packaging standards will likely support various lane count topologies much more efficiently than the pluggable types.
Optical passive connectors on the box’s front panel for now are not being specified, but newer passive optical box mounted connectors maybe referenced in a spec annex. MPO and Dual LCs will likely be included in an annex and maybe the newer MXC and Bayonet Dual LCs connectors as well as others. COBO interconnect will better support new architectures that eliminate the usage of ToR switches and can much better connect EoR switches being directly connected to every server box in a row of racks. Some interesting new Optical breakout cables/harnesses will be needed to support the new topologies.
The previous proprietary design proliferation and fast growth usage of non-compatible inside the box optical modules and connectors has caused key datacenter end-users to form this packaging standards group. The new standards will likely see a very large market take up. However, there will be a healthy market still for some customer application specific designs that will be satisfied by some custom newer and current products.
There is not much public information about this new interconnect packaging standard and their activities as NDAs are needed during the specification development phase for this Consortium. But keep a watch on their website, http://cobo.azurewebsites.net/ for new developments. Or join this group if your company is involved with this newer type of packaging technologies!
Though MicroSoft, Cisco and Juniper started this consortium, it now has at least 49 member companies, which can be found on the website.
At this point there are no COBO pictures or images to share but I have included an image of some proprietary inside the box optical connectivity that will be affected by the use of new standard COBO modules and connectors.