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Introduction to Breakout Cables, How to Use it?

Author Moore

Date 01/29/2024

Are you familiar with breakout cables and their potential to revolutionize your data center cabling infrastructure? This article delves into the intricate world of breakout cables, shedding light on their versatile applications and how they can elevate your data center performance.

Introduction of Breakout Cables


Breakout functionality facilitates connectivity between network devices featuring varying speed ports, maximizing port bandwidth utilization.


This functionality empowers these devices to adjust and distribute resources dynamically, utilizing the existing network capacity. Through breakout mode, network operators can enhance their infrastructure to cater to various applications and services, guaranteeing smooth connectivity and streamlined data transmission during periods of heightened demand. 


Breakout cables are specifically engineered to split or merge optical fibers or copper wires into multiple individual connectors, optimizing and streamlining network connections. They consolidate multiple fibers or wires into a single cable bundle, eliminating the need for separate cables. This consolidation simplifies installation, reduces cable congestion, and enhances cable management efficiency.



Is Breakout Always a Viable Option?


Breakout always entails linking a channelized port to multiple unchannelized or channelized ports. Channelized ports are consistently designed in multilane formats like QSFP+, QSFP28, QSFP56, QSFP28-DD, and QSFP56-DD. Typically, unchannelized ports are structured in single-channel formats like SFP+, SFP28, and anticipated SFP56. Depending on the scenario, certain port types, such as QSFP28, can be situated on either side of the breakout.


Currently, channelized ports comprise 40G, 100G, 200G, 2x100G, and 400G, while unchannelized ports include 10G, 25G, 50G, and 100G, as detailed in the subsequent table.




Breakout Capable

Electric Lanes

Optical Lanes














4x 10G

4x 10G, 2x 20G









4x 25G

100G, 4x 25G, 2x 50G




4x 50G

4x 50G

2x 100G



2x (4x25G)

2x (4x25G)




8x 50G

4x 100G, 8x50G


Typically, in breakout transceivers, the number of optical lanes matches the number of electrical lanes. However, specific transceivers incorporate gearboxes for rate conversion, resulting in a reduction of optical lanes. For instance, the new QSFP-28 100G single lambda transceivers feature a single optical lane at 100G, with the transceiver's ASIC converting from 4 lanes of NRZ @ 25 GHz electrical to 1 lane of PAM4 @ 50 GHz optical.


Moreover, specific transceivers employ multiple optical wavelengths on a single fiber, rendering breakout impractical due to the complexities of optical muxing/demuxing. This includes issues like power level imbalances and the absence of testing.


Additionally, transceivers like the QSFP-100G-SR-BD and QSFP-40G-SR-BD lack breakout capability despite featuring 2x50G (2x25G-PAM4) and 2x20G optical lanes operating on duplex fiber because they were not designed initially for breakout functionality.


The Advantage of Using a Breakout Cable


Breakout cables present several advantages that render them preferable in specific situations. Firstly, they offer flexibility in network design and simplify installation by reducing the number of required cables. This proves particularly advantageous in environments with high density and limited space.


Secondly, breakout cables facilitate efficient utilization of network resources. By consolidating fibers or wires into a single cable, managing and allocating bandwidth becomes more streamlined. This aspect is especially beneficial in critical areas like data centers, telecommunications, and enterprise networks where scalability and performance are paramount.


The breakout cables contribute to better cable organization, enhancing the convenience of maintenance and troubleshooting. Network technicians can swiftly identify and address connectivity issues by minimizing cable clutter and improving visibility.

Different Types of Breakout Cable


Breakout cables are available in various types tailored to specific networking needs, including breakout DAC, breakout AOC, and fiber breakout cables.


QSFPTEK's Breakout Cable


Breakout DAC cables are copper-based and offer a direct electrical connection between networking devices. They comprise multiple copper Twinax cables, each terminated with connectors on both ends. These cables, particularly high-speed variants, are extensively employed in data centers to link servers, switches, and other equipment within racks or cabinets, offering a cost-effective solution for short-distance connections. They excel in applications requiring fast and reliable connectivity, such as storage area networks (SAN), high-performance computing, and server clustering.


Breakout AOC cables, similar to optical modules, utilize optical fiber technology to accomplish longer transmission distances compared to Breakout DAC cables. They feature multiple optical fibers bundled within a single cable jacket, each terminated with connectors. Active components within the cable convert optical signals into electrical signals. Breakout AOC cables are commonly utilized in Fibre Channel storage area networks, delivering a dependable and high-speed interconnect for storage devices, especially in high-density environments like densely populated racks or cabinets.


Fiber breakout cables are categorized based on fiber type, distinguishing between single-mode and multimode variants. Single-mode cables are suited for long-distance transmissions, while multimode cables are ideal for shorter to medium distances. Connector type is another crucial aspect, with standard options including LC, SC, and MPO connectors. The choice depends on compatibility with devices and infrastructure, ease of use, and density requirements.


When selecting fiber breakout cables, considering the application is essential. For instance, MPO breakout cables are commonly employed for high-density connections in data centers, while LC breakout cables are preferred for point-to-point connections in enterprise networks.

The Factors You Need To Consider


Some factors need to be considered to guarantee peak performance and compatibility when selecting breakout cables.


Firstly, the distance requirement of your network setup must be considered. Different breakout cables accommodate varying transmission distances, necessitating the selection of cables that align with your specific needs.


Bandwidth is another critical factor to consider. Assess the required bandwidth capacity to identify breakout cables capable of managing anticipated data traffic without compromising performance.


Environmental conditions also warrant significant consideration. Factors like durability, flexibility, and bend radius should be evaluated according to the installation environment. For instance, specific breakout cables are designed to endure severe conditions like extreme temperatures, humidity, or outdoor setups.


In conclusion, breakout cables have emerged as indispensable elements in contemporary networking, driven by the escalating need for enhanced bandwidth and expedited data transmission. Their role in furnishing efficient connectivity solutions, streamlining installations, and enhancing cable management cannot be overstated. Therefore, grasping the nuances of various breakout cable types, recognizing their benefits, and weighing pertinent factors during selection is pivotal for establishing a robust and effective network infrastructure. QSFPTEK provides good products of breakout cables, welcome to get a quote now via sales@qsfptek.com.


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