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Technological advances in fiber set to hit the data center

By Max Burkhalter
August 23, 2013

Data center networks are not exactly simple. In fact, you may find yourself trying to establish a data center network framework and be left in a situation where you really do not have the tools and systems you need to get the job done. Rapid networking change is central to this problem, as the industry is currently facing a situation in which bandwidth demands are skyrocketing while technologies to support such requirements are playing catch-up. This is especially true in the fiber segment, where optical network components are becoming a common need in many data centers, but the right equipment is not always easy to find.

According to a recent GigaOM report, establishing fiber-optic networks in the data center is proving incredible difficult because most of the cabling architectures available in the data center were initially built for the telecom sector.

Telecom components in the data center world
The news source explained that the data center industry, since it began playing a major role in the technology world, has faced major challenges when it comes to establishing network systems. The sector has long been so dependent on telecom-focused components that IT leaders have been left to figure out the best way to make everything work. This presents major problems from an operational perspective, especially as major bandwidth challenges have emerged.

The core problem, according to the report, is that no matter where you look you can't find a reasonable connectivity middle-ground. You can either go with ultra-inexpensive copper Ethernet wires for basic performance functionality or use fairly costly fiber systems that offer performance capabilities that could be well beyond what many facilities need to interconnect servers and other systems, GigaOMsaid. There aren't enough fiber or copper solutions that rest in the middle because most components are designed for telecom settings, not the data center.

The report explained that the rise of silicon photonics could end up providing a solution to this problem, but it is still in its early stages.

Alternatively, organizations could work around the challenge of telecom-focused components by using fiber and copper in a more strategic network setup.

Establishing a mixed-media data center network
One way to counter the lack of data center-specific optical components is to use fiber to Ethernet media converters to establish fiber links where possible and use copper in other areas. This enables IT leaders to establish fiber where it makes sense without having to figure out a way to configure the vast majority of the network for optical transmission.


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