Today’s data centers demand ultra high speed and super low latency networks to support new technologies and applications being deployed around the world. The best technical solutions today are designed and deployed to transfer the exabytes of data required to support our social and professional interactions. All of this, however, can still be undone by a single piece of dirt, grease or even a skin flake on the end of a fiber connector.

This paper describes the impact of cleanliness in the data center and some of our findings in a study of debris and other contamination on optical connectors.

In this white paper, we discuss the effect of contamination on optical loss and highlight the challenges of estimating loss based on visual inspection. By investigating the nature of the contaminants and identifying contaminant reservoirs, we can study how they move to the end face. In doing so, it is also necessary to consider the challenges of reliably measuring the extent of contamination through image analysis, particularly in an instrument-independent manner.

Finally, the paper concludes by looking at the impact of dust cap design and its contribution to contamination, and tests the possibility of eliminating connector end-face cleaning at the installation site while still maintaining good optical performance.