Fiber Optical Networks

By transmitting data digitally over fiber, optical networks offer increased bandwidth as well as provide higher capacity and reduce overall costs.

Spawned by the fiber-optic cable technologies in the early 80’s, optical networks provide a high-capacity telecommunications network based on fiber optical technologies. Optical networks address increasing bandwidth issues as well as provide a higher capacity and reduce overall costs. The first digital networks were asynchronous networks. Asynchronous is usually used to describe communications in which data can be transmitted intermittently rather than in a steady stream. As optical became more of a popular technology choice, the need for standards lead to the creation of the synchronous optical network (SONET), where SONET provided standards for line rates, coding, operations, and defined the types of network elements required.

fiber optics

What Is Fiber Optics Technology?

Fiber optics is a technology that uses glass (or plastic) threads, called fibers to transmit data. A fiber optic cable consists of a bundle of glass threads, each of which is capable of transmitting messages modulated onto light waves. Over metal cables, fiber optics provide a much greater bandwidth to carry more data, they are are less susceptible than metal cables to interference, they are thinner and lighter than metal wires, and most importantly data can be transmitted digitally (the natural form for computer data) through the use of fiber optics. Like all technologies, fiber optics has its downside. The cost of fiber optic cable is more than metal cable, making the cost for installation much greater. In addition they are more fragile than wire and are difficult to split. Fiber optics is a particularly popular technology for local-area networks. Telephone companies are steadily replacing traditional telephone lines with fiber optic cables. In the future, almost all communications will employ fiber optics.

Fiber to the Home

Today’s demands for high speed and dependable voice and video data are provided by DSL (digital subscriber line) and cable modems. The current method of service deployment is referred to as FTTC, or fiber to the curb, where the installation of optical fiber from a telephone switch runs within 1,000 feet of a home or business. Usually coaxial cable is used to establish the connection from curb where the fiber optical network ends into the building or home. FTTC architecture brings forth the question of how long providers can continue to bring this service directly to individual homes through running yet more lines. One solution is a fiber optics solution called fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), where optical fiber runs from a telephone switch directly into the subscriber’s home.

Fiber-to-the-home (also called fiber-to the-premise or fiber-to-the-desktop) is considered the home user’s dream as it would enable service providers to offer a hefty selection of services including high-speed Internet, broadcast cable television, direct broadcast satellite television, and additional two-way video-based services. To do this, the fiber-to-the-home solution is deployed over what is called a passive optical network (PON). This distribution network is provided by a single optical fiber running to the home, as opposed to stopping at the curb and being carried to the home by coaxial. In addition to the additional services, fiber optic cables can transmit data at over 2.5GB per second. It is expected that this type of residential fiber to the home service would transmit data roughly 100 times faster than your current cable or DSL service can which is why fiber-to-the-home is a dream for many especially for online gamers who need every bit of bandwidth and speed they can get for playing online and multiplayer 3D games.

Fiber to the Business

Today’s business requires constant availability and connectivity to information. Business-class fiber networks provide the capability to relocate and move large databases, literally at the speed of light, along with managing mission critical applications. In addition, businesses need to be able to access or replace existing infrastructures with new networks and services. With today’s growing business needs, there is also a need for more bandwidth and faster transmission of data. One area where we see fiber networks play a key role in business is with communications Web conferencing and real time video communications are tools many businesses rely heavily on as a part of doing business on a daily basis. Fiber optical networks offer increased benefits and services associated with business communications such as broadcast quality video conferencing and messaging platforms.

Enterprise Optical Networks

While SAN and NAS may seem like the buzzwords of this century, they definitely are terms that make for a hot debate in the enterprise world. Enterprise storage brings forth the demand for large data storage, but also the need for timely access, management and control of the information. These critical requirements need to be met not only within one office or data center, but accessed and deployed across multiple centers. To meet these enterprise storage requirements many enterprises are looking towards fiber optical solutions.

Network-Attached Storage (NAS)

A NAS (network attached storage) device is a server that is dedicated to nothing more than file sharing. NAS allows more hard disk storage space to be added to a network that already utilizes servers without shutting them down for maintenance and upgrades. With a NAS device, storage is not an integral part of the server. Instead, in this storage-centric design, the server still handles all of the processing of data but a NAS device delivers the data to the user. A NAS device does not need to be located within the server but can exist anywhere in a LANand can be made up of multiple networked NAS devices. NAS is both an efficient and cost-effective way to consolidate storage on a network and share files. Higher-speed connections, and especially fiber optical connections add efficiency to NAS applications by ensuring sufficient bandwidth to handle storage access demands.

Storage Area Network (SAN)

Storage Area Network (SAN) is a high-speed subnetwork of shared storage devices. A storage device is a machine that contains nothing but a disk or disks for storing data. A SAN’s architecture works in a way that makes all storage devices available to all servers on a LAN or WAN. As more storage devices are added to a SAN, they too will be accessible from any server in the larger network. Fiber optical networks provides a quick and easy solution to the distance and capacity limitations of traditional SANs.

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.

This article was originally published on April 15, 2005

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.
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