I just returned from one of the Woodard Master Climber Boot Camps, and it seems that the No. 1 question in the Super Geek course I have taught at two different locations was, "How can we improve performance across our network?"
While we spend time examining various infrastructure aspects and talk about measuring network performance, in the back of my mind, I'm want to shout out, "Transition to fiber."
This article provides some very simple reasons why I believe the future of networking is fiber, and why that future is not as far off as you think.
Fiber Optic Cable
Fiber, as I will refer to it, is no longer something the telephone company or cable television provider uses, nor does it reside only in military, governmental and higher education facilities. Fiber is becoming the cabling standard for new construction, installations and even upgrades (as a replacement for copper). It doesn’t matter whether you need backbone, horizontal or even desktop networking, fiber is where you should look in terms of both performance and longevity.
It's true, fiber offers superior bandwidth to copper, and can be configured for standard performance up to 10 GBPS and beyond. The greater the bandwidth, the more information your network can carry, and the faster it will run. As with copper, the type of cable used, along with the associated hardware, will impact the bandwidth at which the fiber performs.
Distance and Performance
One of the inherent problems of copper has been distance and that impacted performance (speed). Fiber does not have the 100-meter (328 foot) distance limitation of unshielded twister pair copper (typical Ethernet copper cabling). Why? Because fiber signal is made of light, which means there is minuscule signal loss during transmission. Of course, light travels faster and further without degradation than electricity through wires, which translates into greater distances, greater speeds and better overall performance. Depending upon the fiber cable, wavelength and setting, fiber can cover distances of 550-meters or more for a 10-GBPS Ethernet network.
Highly Reliable Data Transmission
Also true. Fiber provides highly reliable data transmission without the long-term effects of strand degradation that can result in signal loss, like copper. Copper suffers from all sorts of environmental factors that can impact its lifetime. People tend to think their Ethernet cable should last for ever (unless the rats eat it), when in reality, it breaks down over time. The shear fact that electricity runs through the copper strands carrying your network data is breaking down those strands with each passing packet of data. On the other hand, fiber, with it’s glass core, is immune to such degradation, because it isn’t carrying electricity, it’s transmitting light.
Fiber Optic Cable
The cost of fiber cable, components and hardware has steadily decreased over the last 10 years. While fiber cable is more expensive than copper cable in the short-term, it likely is will be less expensive in the long-run. Fiber typically costs less to maintain, has less downtime and has a much greater useful lifespan than copper cabling. Fiber installation costs also have come down significantly, mostly as a result of improved and simplified field termination, connectivity hardware, and the availability of pre-terminated cables (comparable to category 5 cables you might use to connect a switch to a hub). The cost of fiber networking hardware also has dropped drastically during the same time frame. And when it comes to getting your bang for the buck, the speed, performance and reliability of fiber can't be beat.
Fiber distribution hub
So, if you're thinking about a new building, new office, new warehouse or even an overhaul of your business network, it’s time to consider an alternative to copper, because fiber is the future.