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4x 100G Networking in Data Centers

Posted by Frank Yang on Jul 11, 2022

woman in a data center working on a laptop.

A question I often get asked is what to do if the distances between a 400G switch to the 100G servers is greater than 7 meters. A quick answer is to use 400G DR4 / DR4+ / DR4++ optical transceivers as shown here: 

400G DR4 / DR4+ / DR4++ optical transceiver solutions

400G DR4 / DR4+ / DR4++ optical transceiver solutions data table

These optical transceivers apply 100G over single-wavelength (100G Lambda) technology specified in IEEE 802.3 standard and 100G Lambda Multi-Source Agreement (MSA). IEEE 802.3cd standard defines 400GBASE-DR4 and 100GBASE-DR for 500m reach.

100G Lambda MSA defines 100Gbps per optical channel for 2km and 10km reaches to support 400G and 100G applications. In these specifications, Pulse Amplitude Modulation 4-level (PAM4) signaling and encoding, and Forward Error Correction (FEC) are applied. 

What is special in these technologies? What problem do these technologies try to solve? 

Most 100G optical transceivers – e.g., 100GBASE-SR4, LR4, CWDM4, PSM4 and ER4 – use 25Gbps non-Return to Zero (NRZ) signaling and encoding for each optical lane and have total 4 optical lanes. If applying this 4x 25G NRZ optical interface structure to 400G, it would require 16 optical lanes, which is impractical from economic and technical perspectives. 

To implement 4x 100G format, 100G per optical lane (or 100G lambda in another term) is needed, and the more efficient signal modulation PAM4 is applied. In brief, the 400G DR4/DR4+/DR4++ optics operate at 4 parallel optical lanes with 100 Gbps PAM4 signaling per optical lane. 

The 400G DR4/DR4+/DR4++ optics can be very helpful in Data Center networking to achieve high port density. The 400G QSFP-DD DR4/DR4+/DR4++ transceivers can be deployed in the 400G spine switches and the 100G QSFP28 DR1/FR1/LR1 optics can be deployed in the 100G leaf switches as illustrated in this diagram . . .

chart detailing fiber optic pairs for a switch with 400G QSFP-DD ports.

The fiber length of the fabric between spine and leaf can be flexible, either 500m, 2km or 10km, depending on the technology chosen. The set-up you use is important in speed, efficiency and distance.


400GBASE-DR4 QSFP-DD 400GBASE-DR4 QSFP-DD SMF 1310nm 500m DDM Transceiver


400GBASE-DR4 OSFP 400GBASE-DR4 OSFP SMF 1310nm 500m DDM Transceiver


100GBASE-DR QSFP28 Single Lambda 100GBASE-DR QSFP28 Single Lambda SMF 1310nm 500m DDM Transceiver

Frank Yang
Frank Yang
Senior Product Management Leader
Approved Networks, a brand of Legrand
Senior product management leader with extensive experience in strategic planning, product line management, product marketing, information technology software and hardware engineering. Experienced in program and project management with a proven track record and problem solving skills. Results-oriented manager with technical savvy, business acumen and proven management experience. Self-starter with demonstrated analytical and interpersonal skills. Proven expert and thought leader in data centers and cloud. MBA of UT Austin, McCombs School of Business. Speaker at technology tradeshows.