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Fiber becoming essential in the data center

By Max Burkhalter
July 30, 2013

If you take a close look at data center industry trends, what you might notice is a perfect storm for network problems during the next few years. Think about the data center network for a moment. With access, aggregate and core layers often dispersing data at a ratio of, with a conservative estimate, 20 percent east-west traffic and 80 percent north-south distribution, many data centers are getting by just fine with a fiber backhaul setup that interconnects with copper at the point of entry. Category cabling is then used throughout most of the data center.

Now think about emerging technology trends like server virtualization, cloud computing, smartphone and tablet use, virtual desktop infrastructure and the internet of things. Throw on specialized technologies for specific industries, like electronic health record systems or smart grid setups, and the end result is a situation in which countless IT managers are looking at a great deal of change.

Consider the initial vision for what many data center networks look like and put that next to the trends currently impacting many businesses, and the image in your head may soon get pretty muddled. Many current and legacy data center network setups are simply not equipped to handle emerging technologies, making major adjustments necessary. Fiber could be the solution.

Looking at network performance problems
Many experts agree that shifts in how data moves through the network are central to the infrastructure needs emerging for new technologies. For the most part, data centers have been configured with to use multiple layers to support a data traffic pattern in which north-south transmissions were dominant. The technological changes facing many businesses and consumers are leading to a growing need for communication between servers - east-west traffic.

Of course, this increase in east-west data movement does not come with a reduction in north-south traffic. Instead, outward data bandwidth requirements are also increasing. Traditional cabling architectures are often not up to the task of meeting the flexibility and performance demands created by emerging technologies. Fiber-optic cables are often necessary to support contemporary and near-future data center demands.

Dealing with fiber in the data center
The problem with becoming more dependent on fiber is that it is not interoperable with category cables, which are still going to be a necessary component of structured cabling architectures and other elements of the data center network. Fiber to Ethernet media converters can overcome this issue, positioning IT leaders to identify where they should use fiber, where they can get away with fiber and the best ways to interconnect different aspects of the network.

Perle has an extensive range of Managed and Unmanaged Fiber Media Converters to extended copper-based Ethernet equipment over a fiber optic link, multimode to multimode and multimode to single mode fiber up to 160km.


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