Markets for Active Optical Cables: 2017-2026


CIR’s AOC reports have been the reliable source for business development and marketing executives in cabling, component and equipment firms for a decade.  In this latest report, we pay special attention to the changes that are occurring as western AOC suppliers merge and Chinese suppliers come to the fore.  And, as always, we discuss how AOC firms should best respond to the latest developments in networking standards, MSAs and fiber varieties. In this report, we are especially focused in the opportunities for AOCs resulting from the new MSAs for data center networking at 100 Gbps, 200 Gbps and 400 Gbps.  In addition, we provide forecasts of the substantial market for AOCs that we see emerging in personal computing and consumer electronic from the recent technology updates of Intel’s Thunderbolt interface.

This report discusses applications for AOCs in the following markets: data centers (Ethernet, InfiniBand and storage networks), digital signage, and consumer electronics/personal computing (USB, HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, PCIe, etc.).  It also provides coverage of niche markets for AOCs such as military networks and campus networks.

This report provides an insider perspective on what’s next in AOC products and markets -- profitable niches in which AOC makers can build platforms for new business revenues.  It is also strongly focus focused on business strategy, analyzing the sectors in which AOCs are likely to find a market and examining the most important marketing issues faced in the AOC market, such as the importance of branding and product differentiation. 

The report also profiles all the leading suppliers of AOCs including established players, emergent Chinese vendors and the latest innovators.  The report also provides estimates of the current market shares of the AOC market leaders and in addition, we examine the impact on the AOC sector of important on recent M&A activity such as Amphenol’s acquisition of FCI and Avago’s acquisition of Broadcom. Our report also includes a discussion of how AOC supply chains and marketing strategies will evolve and how CIR expects AOCs to more fully enter retail distribution
As with CIR’s previous reports on AOCs, this report provides highly detailed ten-year forecast of the AOC market in both volume and value terms.  Over the decade that CIR has been covering the AOC market we have developed a sophisticated forecasting model for AOCs and have been able to test our estimates against the views of AOC industry insiders.

Our forecasting methodology is based on estimating the size and growth of the underlying addressable markets for AOCs and then adopting plausible penetration rates for each segment of the AOC markets as well as estimate of acceptable price points for each sector.  The breakouts used in our ten-year forecasts are as follows:

  • Type of transceiver/MSA
  • Cable length
  • Fiber type
  • Electrical connectors supported
  • Data rates supported
  • End-user application
  • Country of use

The bottom line is that this report examines what it will take to be successful in the market for AOCs. CIR anticipates that this report will be a high value resource for marketing and business development managers in the components, cable, consumer electronics and personal electronics firms as well as at the AOC firms themselves.

Table of Contents

E.1 The Core Value Proposition for AOCs Still Remains Strong 
E.1.1 A Crucial Question:  How Fast Will Key Market Segments Abandon Copper? 
E.2 The China Factor 
E.2.1 Chinese Suppliers:  Bigger and Better 
E.2.2 The Chinese Domestic Market for AOCs 
E.3 Changes in Data Center Cabling:  A Growing Market for SMF AOCs? 
E.4 AOCs, 200/400 Gbps and the Latest MSAs 
E.5 Supply Chain Evolution 
E.5.1 Branding and Product Differentiation in the AOC Business 
E.5.2 AOC Supply Chains: Consumer Electronics and Personal Computing 
E.6 Summary of Ten-year forecasts for AOCs 
E.6.1 Summary of AOCs by End-User Type 
E.6.2 Summary of AOCs by Data Rates 
E.6.3 Summary of AOCs by MSA
Chapter One: Introduction 
1.1 Background to this Report 
1.1.1 AOCs and the Remaking of the Data Center Market 
1.1.2 AOCs and the New Era of Technological Fervor 
1.1.3 Thunderbolt:  The Gateway to AOCs in the Consumer Electronics Space? 
1.1.4 The Chinese are Coming 
1.2 Objective and Scope of Report 
1.3 Methodology of this Report 
1.3.1 Forecasting Methodology 
1.4 Plan of Report 

Chapter Two: Key Product and Technical Developments Impacting the AOC Business 
2.1 Evolution of AOC Products for the Corporate Networking Environment 
2.1.1 AOCs as CX4 Replacement 
2.1.2 AOCs and the 10G Server Environment 
2.1.3 SFP and its Variants:  SFP28 
2.1.4 QSFP and its Variants:  QSFP28 
2.1.5 CFP and AOCs 
2.1.6 CPAK and AOCs 
2.1.7 The Future of 400G AOCs 
2.2 Current Expectations for the InfiniBand Roadmap:  Impact on AOCs 
2.2.1 AOCs and the Future of IB 
2.3 AOCs and Storage 
2.3.1 Fibre Channel AOCs 
2.3.2 AOCs and SAS 
2.4 Video AOC Markets 
2.4.1 HDMI AOCs 
2.5 AOCs and DVI? 
2.5.1 AOCs and Cabling for DVI 
2.6 Active Optical Cabling and DisplayPort 
2.6.1 Suppliers of AOCs for DisplayPort Applications 
2.7 AOCs and USB 
2.7.1 Does USB need AOC 
2.8 A Future for Optical Thunderbolt 
2.8.1 Thunderbolt Generations 
2.9 Hybrid AOCs 
2.10 Lasers and the Future of AOCs 
2.11 Summary of Key Points Made in this Chapter 

Chapter Three: Key Markets for AOCs 
3.1 Introduction 
3.2 Data Centers:  Primary Market for AOCs 
3.2.1 Data Rate Requirements in Mainstream Data Centers 
3.2.2 Current and Future Use of Fiber in the Data Center 
3.2.3 AOCs Opportunities in the Context of Media Alternatives 
3.2.4 Hyperscale Data Centers:  Microsoft, Linked In and Facebook 
3.3 Active Optical Cabling in the Campus and Telecom Environment 
3.3.1 The Molex/Luxtera Solution 
3.4 Digital Signage as an Addressable Markets for AOCs 
3.4.1 Networking and the Need for AOCs in Digital Signage
3.4.2 Types of AOCs Used in Digital Signage 
3.4.3 Two Reasons to Expect Growth for AOCs in the Digital Signage Market 
3.5 Consumer Electronics and Personal Computing 
3.5.1 AOCs in Personal Computing 
3.5.2 AOCs and the Future use of Thunderbolt 
3.5.2 AOCs and the PCIe 
3.5.3 Future Uses for AOCs in Personal Computing and Consumer Electronics 
3.5.4 AOCs in the PC Supply Chain 
3.6 Key Points from this Chapter
Chapter Four: Eighteen Key AOC Suppliers to Watch:  Strategic Profiles
4.1 Introduction
4.2 3c-Link (China/Hong Kong) 
4.3 3M (United States) 
4.4 10Gtek (China) 
4.4.1 Support of QSFP28 
4.5 Amphenol and FCI (United States) 
4.5.1 The FCI Connection 
4.6 Avago/Broadcom (United States and Singapore) 
4.6.1 The Avago Legacy 
4.7 Centera Photonics (China) 
4.8 Chromis Fiberopics (United States) 
4.9 Corning (United States) 
4.10 Finisar (United States) 
4.10.1 AOC Product Range 
4.11 Fujitsu (Japan) 
4.12 Gigalight Technology (China) 
4.12.1 AOC Strategies 
4.13 Intel (United States) 
4.14 Mellanox (Israel) 
4.14.1 Mellanox AOCs at the 100 Gbps Level and Above 
4.15 Molex (United States) 
4.15.1 QuatroScale AOCs 
4.15.2 CDFP and zCD 
4.15.3 iPass 
4.16 Samtec (United States) 
4.16.1 AOC Products Offered 
4.16.2 Recent Developments 
4.17 Siemon (United States) 
4.18 TE Connectivity (United States) 
4.18.1 Conventional AOC Products 
4.18.2 Newer Products:  Coolbit, QSFP28 and CDFP 
4.19 Zephyr Photonics (United States)

Appendix A: Ten-Year Forecasts of AOC Markets 
A.1 Sources of Data 
A.2 Forecasting Methodology
A.3 Pricing Assumptions 
A.3.1 Sources of Uncertainty in AOC Pricing 
A.4 Alternative Scenarios 
A.4.1 High-end Scenario 
A.4.2 Low-end Scenario 
A.5 Forecast of Addressable Market for AOCs by Application, with Breakout by Protocol/Connector Environment and Cabling Reach 
A.6 Forecast of AOC Penetration of Addressable Market 
A.7 Forecast of AOC Installed Base 
A.8 Forecast of AOC Shipments by Reach/Length and Protocols 
A.9 Forecast of AOC Pricing by End User/Protocol 
A.10 Forecast of AOC Markets by Data Rate and MSA/Transceiver Type 
A.10.1 Optical Ethernet 
A.10.2 InfiniBand 
A.10.3 Storage Networks 
A.10.4 Video and Consumer Electronics AOCs 
A.11 Forecast of AOC Markets by Size and Type of Network 
A.12 Forecast by Type of Cable
List of Exhibits
Exhibit E-1: Patterns of AOC Adoption by Market Segments 
Exhibit E-2: Possible Strategies for Non-Chinese AOC Suppliers 
Exhibit E-3: Summary of AOCs by End User Type:  Revenues and Units Shipped 
Exhibit E-4: Summary of AOCs by Speeds:  Revenues and Units Shipped 
Exhibit E-5: Summary of AOCs by Transceiver MSAs:  Revenues and Units Shipped 
Exhibit 2-1: Expected Evolution of AOC Parameters 
Exhibit 2-2: Companies Selling QSFP28 AOCs 
Exhibit 2-3: Data Rates for InfiniBand (Gbps) 
Exhibit 2-4: Suppliers of HDMI AOCs 
Exhibit 3-1: Expansion of Data Traffic to 2020 – Cisco’s View 
Exhibit 3-2: Stages in the Fiberization of Data Centers:  Impact on AOCs 
Exhibit 3-3: Media Options for the Modern Data Center 
Exhibit 3-4: Cabling Infrastructure in Hyperscale Facebook Data Centers (Percent of cabling infrastructure)
Exhibit 3-5: Current Applications for Digital Signage 
Exhibit A-1: Summary of Addressable Market for Data AOCs by Application/Protocol and Reach 
Exhibit A-2: Summary of Addressable Market for “Video” and Personal Computing AOCs by Protocol and Reach 
Exhibit A-3: Summary of AOC Penetration of Addressable Market for Data AOCs by Protocol and Reach (Percent) 
Exhibit A-4: Summary of AOC Penetration of Addressable Market for “Video” AOCs by Protocol and Reach (Percent) 
Exhibit A-5: Installed Base of Data AOCs by Protocol and Reach (000s)
Exhibit A-6: Installed Base for “Video” AOCs by Protocol and Reach 
Exhibit A-7 Shipments of Data AOCs by Protocol and Reach (000s) 
Exhibit A-8: Shipments of “Video” AOCs by Protocol and Reach (000s) 
Exhibit A-9: Basic Pricing Information for AOCs by Speed Class ($) 
Exhibit A-10: Optical Ethernet AOCs: Shipments by MSA and Data
Exhibit A-11: IB AOCs: Shipments by MSA and Data 
Exhibit A-12: Fibre Channel and other SAN AOCs:  Shipments by MSA and Data 
Exhibit A-13: Video and other Consumer Electronics AOCs:  Shipments by MSA and Data Rate 
Exhibit A-14: AOC Market by Size and Type of Network 
Exhibit A-15: AOC Market by Type of Cable 

Acronyms and Abbreviations Used In this Report
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