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Total cost of ownership may not be a major barrier to fiber

By Donna Donnawitz
September 10, 2013

For a long time, any discussion about investing in fiber-optic cabling solutions tended to end with the result of, "It would be nice, but it's just too expensive." If you've found yourself having this conversation with business leaders, the time may have come to revisit fiber.

Copper cabling systems are inexpensive, well-established and simple to install, at least compared to some fiber setups. At the same time, fiber presents engineers and IT leaders with a learning curve, forces them to solve compatibility problems and has historically been much more expensive than copper. For the most part, fiber-optic cabling systems are still moreexpensive than copper options that may server the same need, but the total cost of ownership associated with fiber may have given the wiring format the edge in some areas.

Looking at cabling TCO
Copper cabling is generally an inexpensive network option at the outset of a project, but it can also put a strain on the budget in high-performance network setups. Copper uses electromagnetic signal to transmit data between destinations. The end result of this situation is one in which bandwidth-heavy networks can draw a significant amount of power and force organizations to pay some fairly hefty energy bills. Furthermore, the core bandwidth limitations of copper cables often force organizations to divide bandwidth over multiple wires to interconnect parts of the data center. This can limit airflow in the facility and make it more difficult to properly cool equipment, contributing to even higher energy costs.

Alternately, fiber uses a small amount of LED light or a laser to transmit signal through the network. This uses much less energy to get data from one place to another. You can also use one optical cable in a situation where as many as 10 copper links may have been necessary. The end result is a cabling system that has less impact on energy use in the data center and can end up costing less over time.

Balancing fiber and copper to maximize TCO
Copper is still widely regarded as the best option in most parts of the data center, but there are definitely areas where fiber is becoming a go-to network technology. Maximizing the value of both technologies is possible through fiber to Ethernet media converters that ensure interoperability and free IT managers to freely switch between different cabling formats. The end result is often a cabling architecture that reduces TCO in the data center.

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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