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Active Optical Cables 2010:
A Review of the New AOC Report

Tom Rossi


Thursday - January 14, 2010
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST

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Briefing Abstract

The Active Optical Cables Market Report 2010 continues its focus on several key application and bus interface segments that are expected to generate significant business over the next five years. Our focus remains with the core AOC cable OEMs as well as their underlying material suppliers (i.e., fiber-optic cable, VCSELs, optical detector/PIN diodes, and connectors) and customers. The 2010 version is expanded to include Intel’s recently announced Light Peak product.

The bus interface focus has been modified slightly from last year. InfiniBand, HDMI, USB, and DisplayPort are still included in the analysis. The report includes new markets such as SAS and CXP. Forecasts for DisplayPort AOC have been reduced dramatically, due in part to overall sluggishness reported by other research companies by the major PC OEMs supporting this alternative to HDMI for computer display links.

The importance of optical IO connections continues to grow. In the past year, we have seen IO cable bandwidth increase at the expense of copper cable length restrictions, with reductions in maximum allowable length for the latest forms of USB, HDMI, and DisplayPort. More and more HPC clients also report preference for optical InfiniBand cables above the 5-7 meter length. All applications users are noting the thicker, bulkier copper cables now required to address bandwidth and power delivery issues, making the opportunity for active optical cables that much stronger. For example, some supercomputers have shifted from all copper to all AOC.

Light Peak, the new Intel optical initiative announced at their San Francisco Developers Forum in September and supported by Sony, has been added to the overall report mix, and is expected to be a core part of our reports over the coming years. While Light Peak does not appear to be an active cable technology per se, it does bear close scrutiny for several reasons:

  1. With Intel pushing this technology, it has a strong likelihood of eventual success in the general marketplace, especially with backing from Sony (Apple is also rumored to be interested).

  2. The announcement revealed certain technical elements used heavily by AOCs. Should Intel prove successful in driving their Light Peak to volume markets, it could easily have great impact on overall AOC cost structures due to greatly increased economies of scale.

  3. Light Peak is aimed at carrying multiple digital data protocols across a single fiber using standardized connections on each end of their cable. Other buses have registered multiple protocol support in the past (FCoE, Ethernet over HDMI, USB rumored via DisplayPort), which could lead into an ugly market confrontation in the near future such as we saw with the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD head-on collision two years ago.

Readers with a specific interest in the Light Peak Analysis should be interested in that chapter on that subject, as well as request the separate in-depth report expected to be finished in February 2010.

The author has made a significant improvement in the quality of charts and tables, as we have made a large investment in our data-collection and report-generation tools. Readers who desire advanced digital forms of this report or the tools used to create this report are urgd to contact us at, or to send an email to

As with our previous reports, we provide a wealth of information and illustrative charts covering many aspects of the active optical cable business. Readers will find plenty of details related to:
  • Overall market revenue as well as breakout by covered application and interface segments

  • Total number of cables by segment, including changes in relative rank over the five-year period covered in this report

  • Optical element (light source and detectors) volume and breakout by speed, both in individual application segments and across the overall market

  • Similar information related to the other key elements such as optical fibers, cable jackets, and connectors.

The collection of details in this report will be useful to both the cable OEMs and their core suppliers. Certain sectors that are strong in the earlier years covered by this report will give way to newer segments that develop greater volumes in years 3-5.
Traditional reports of this nature tend to concentrate on business developed as a result of only new systems and the additional ports they bring to their users. It should be noted that each of the interfaces covered also has a substantial installed base, which represents an added opportunity to cable providers as an “after initial market” sale or as part of repair spares, replacement, or system upgrades.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the HPC market segment. There is plenty of evidence of the benefits of active cables toward lower system installation and operating costs. Larger installations can reduce the number of expensive IB switches used to extend copper cable reach by simply using longer-reach active cables. These same installations can see their cooling system opera

It is only natural to expect the overall technology trend toward smaller and lighter devices to extend to cables necessary to connect these devices to other devices. Who wants to carry five pounds of cables just to connect a video camera, NetBook, etc., just for a high-bandwidth connection not possible with current wireless technologies? We do expect the overall trend toward smaller optical cables to bear greater customer appeal, even when the equivalent-function copper cable can be had at lower unit prices, just as was seen with the first ToshLink audio cables in the 1990s.

Readers should benefit from reading all chapters in this market report. We hope you also take a moment to view our excellent set of data management tools, which can be used in conjunction with the information in this report as well as with special additional applications you may require.

Speaker Profile

Tom Rossi is the author of the innovative Active Optical Cables Market Report, both 2009 and 2010 editions, which documents the explosive active optical cable market growth forecasted for the next five years.

He had held several key senior management and technology roles at Intel Corporation for over 30 years, helping lead Intel’s Mobile Computing market development as well as the strategic planning for the Connects Cable business unit, which was sold by Intel to EMCORE Corporation in April 2008. Tom has an extensive portfolio of business and technical credentials and is an expert database programmer. Tom started an independent consultancy business in 2008 after leaving Intel. Tom enjoys playing golf, and often vacations in Maui with his family.

Tom has earned Bachelors and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University.