Smart Building

6 Features to Look for in an Optical Distribution Frame

Benoit Chevarie

As the number of fiber connections increases to support new initiatives like 5G, IoT, IP migration, 4K content, and the shift to emerging 400G technology, optical distribution frames (ODFs) offer high-density fiber cable management in a compact amount of space.


But many of today’s ODFs lack user-friendly features and the ability to support quick, easy scaling – a feature that’s more important than ever in today’s connected environment where fiber connections continue to increase.


If an ODF investment is in your future, there are six features you should look for to maximize and futureproof your fiber infrastructure.


1. High Termination Density for Maximum Space Usage

By nature, optical distribution frames are designed to support large numbers of fiber connections. But there are differences between systems.


When you select an ODF that supports as many fiber terminations as possible per cabinet, you make the best use of valuable real estate and reduce the number of cabinets you may need in order to support emerging technology in the future.


By packing more connections into a smaller amount of space, you can decrease operating costs as well. Just make sure that, whichever ODF you select, you don’t compromise in other areas to get the density level you need.


2. Complete Fiber Protection for Signal Integrity


Look for an ODF that protects cables and patch cords with features like articulated cable management trays and slack management to prevent damage and pinch points.


An optical distribution frame that controls the bend radius of incoming and outgoing cables prevents them from being bent or crushed – and avoids performance issues as a result.


From the time a fiber cable enters the cabinet, it should berouted and protected until the patch cord exits the other side. This level of protection helps maintain signal integrity for high performance and effective transmission.


3. Easy Access to Cables and Patch Cords for Faster Moves, Adds and Changes

Moveable, pull-out trays can provide easy access to the optical distribution frame, patch cords and cassette backs. Invest in a system that protects cables when trays are pulled out and provides clearance around each connector so fingers can easily grasp it for easy connection/disconnection. This makes moves, adds and changes (MACs) faster and smoother.


  Port-level labeling should be done right next to each port, decreasing the potential for human error and connection issues by making it easy to see whether the right cord is being connected and disconnected.


Also, in order to support a clean install that is easy to manage, an optical distribution frame should be able to use one patch cord length to connect from one port to any other port within the cabinet. (This has the additional advantage of making the BOM and ODF design simpler as well!)


4. The Ability to Support Emerging Technologies

It is important that the selected ODF allow migration from Base-12 to Base-8, Base-16 and even Base-24 connectivity in the future without requiring significant capital expenses.


If a data center begins migration to 40G or 100G and needs to install Base-8 equipment, for example, the system should allow this to be done alongside Base-12 equipment without losing any real estate. Cassettes should be able to be mixed and matched without losing density or requiring a change to the housing infrastructure.


5. Supports Various Termination Methods for Reduced Costs

The ODF should handle multiple fiber configurations including pre-terminated trunk cables (using MPO, LC or SC connectors), or for field termination using either splice-on connectors or pigtails. These various options should be as simple to integrate as choosing the right cassette or adapter frame for the project, and the choice should have no impact on the connection density in the system when the same connector type is being compared.  


6. System Scalability to Support Emerging Technology

An ODF system that takes a modular approach to expansion makes it simple to add cabinets as fiber connections increase.


This allows you to begin by building your cross connect in a single cabinet. As the installation expands to involve a higher number of connections, more cabinets can be easily added when needed.


ODFs that can be deployed in different configurations – stacked back to back or side to side, for example – allow you to grow in whichever way it works best, given space constraints.


Belden’s New ODF Solution: DCX (Not Available in the USA)

Manage high numbers of fiber connections and add to fiber density without compromising on ease of use with Belden’s new DCX Optical Distribution Frame. It optimizes the ROI of your fiber infrastructure, offering lower total cost of ownership in terms of capital and operating expenses.


Designed to easily handle extreme high densities, DCX supports nearly unlimited numbers of fiber connections for unrestricted growth potential and maximum ROI. It offers the highest density available in today’s marketplace: 55% higher than other systems if you compare number of terminations per square foot (9,216 fiber terminations in six square feet). 


As fiber connections increase, DCX’s modular frames act as building blocks so you can easily add or subtract as needed. DCX also offers:

  • Easy patch cord access via pull-out trays and clearance around each connector
  • Cable and patch cord protection through articulated cable management trays and slack management to prevent cable damage or pinch points
  • Front-access design that allows for multiple configurations and facilitates scalability while optimizing square footage use
  • Flippable modular cassettes, which offer easy fiber polarity management that maintains port numbering sequences

Want to learn more about DCX? Visit the DCX webpage for details!