The data market doesn’t sit still for long. Even with the release of the 40Gig and 100Gig Ethernet standards, we’ve seen growing demand for speeds beyond these new standards. The ever-increasing need for data has arisen from social interaction and the rise of the Internet of Everything, as businesses seek to maximize their advantage.
Historically, the introduction of new standards would see a performance increase but in copper we’ve seen three new standards that seek to use current copper technologies to overcome shortfalls in performance. The introduction of 2.5G and 5.0G standards have seen users of Cat5E and Cat6 secure additional gains from their platform, albeit in a wireless manner. The introduction of the 25G system is a downgrade of the 40G standard.
Has copper reached its performance zenith when compared to optical fiber? With future standards focusing on 400GB and beyond and with single mode optical fiber in the drafts, who knows?
Implementation costs for an optical fiber system have been dropping significantly in recent years; everything from the cable, connectors and hardware on the network side is closer to copper as the performance and its sophistication rises. Optical fiber has moved from being a data center and trunk application to becoming more mainstream in premises.
Customers wishing to future-proof their networks are looking at how optical fiber can fit their needs. The introduction of platform designs and technologies such Oplan (optical fiber LAN) have built on historical systems such as GPON, broadening the appeal within the premise market. Its cost still ensures that this technology is used in certain applications such as:
• Government facilities – long term buildings/lease
• Health Care and Research Facilities
• Defence and other National Security Facilities
We all know that as we move forward, this is transitory, as barriers to adoption decline and businesses seek to gain advantage through higher data throughputs.
The barrier to adoption has been the cost of the converting the optical signal into an electrical one; in high-end applications, this has been overcome with the introduction of Active Optical Patch Cords. Historically, these cables have been expensive but expansion in production has meant competition, which invariably leads to lower cost. Product such as Thunderbolt Active Optical Cables will be able to deliver high-performance straight to a laptop or device via an optical fiber line.
A key point to note is that these higher performance networks – be it either copper or optical fiber – are becoming what is termed ‘plug and play’. Unlike hooking up the latest gaming system, an installer will need some understanding of how it works and what is required to adequately install and test it, so perhaps now might be a good time to bone up on your optical fiber skills – and it needn’t be an exercise in frustration!
Group Product Manager
Molex Connected Enterprise Solutions
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