Edge towards smarter cabling

Editorial Type: Technology Date: 03-2019 Views: 863 Tags: Networking, Cabling, Cloud, ProLabs
Cloud migration is moving network bottlenecks towards the network edge. Ray Hagen, Americas Product Manager at ProLabs explains why we need to cable smarter, not harder, to deal with this

The rapid migration of applications to the cloud is driving the demand for performance beyond the network and towards the edge. When moving applications to the cloud, network engineering has less control over the route users and desktops take to the cloud providers' data centre, and classic WAN optimisation techniques have a reduced impact in overcoming network bottlenecks, in both the network core and the network edge.

This is of no consolation for those maintaining service levels. Edge and desktop bottlenecks depending on cloud-based applications can grind the entire network to a halt, frustrating users and engineers. Adding Internet bandwidth to alleviate bottlenecks is the tip of an iceberg, below which is the cost to upgrade switches and even structured cabling.

Below the surface upgrades to the edge can be extensive and expensive, including the edge switch environment and upgrades to structured cabling. For many network operators, edge switching is built around 1G or 10G infrastructure with OM3 or OM4 duplex fibre cabling.

This structured cabling uses patch cables and patch panels built around duplex LC connectors, in contrast with both the 40G and 100G short reach transceivers that require a 12-fibre multi-fibre, or MPO-type connector. Network operators can be faced with adding more fibre into their network to support this architecture. In addition to cost, cable plant upgrades take time to schedule and install, which can impact project deadlines. Evaluating the tradeoffs for network decisions are in the job description for network managers, but choosing to save OPEX by migrating to the cloud should not come with a downgraded SLA and project delays.

Amid the upgrade decisions, it's important for operators to take time and understand the available technologies. It's no surprise that operators are already realising the benefits of SWDM4 transceivers. Affordable without compromising on quality, backwards compatible with existing infrastructure, and future-proof: SWDM4 technology is a major boost for cloud migrations.

The most cost-effective long-term solution for cloud, data centre and enterprise deployments, Shortwave Wavelength Division Multiplexing (SWDM) is the clear choice for both 40G and 100G deployments using existing, duplex LC OM3 and OM4 multi-mode cable infrastructure.

As defined by the SWDM Alliance, it is a "cost-effective means to transmit multiple channels on one duplex multimode fibre pair." SWDM4 supports 100G links at an operating range of up to 75m over an OM3 fibre pair and up to 100m over an OM4 fibre pair. Similar to the concept used with other four-lane transceiver standards, SWDM4 multiplex 4 upstream and 4 downstream connections over a transmit and receive fibre pair. SWDM4 is based on Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Laser (VCSEL) technology which reduces cost.

Not just ideal for 100G deployments, SWDM4 is suitable for 40G speeds, with a reach of up to 400m, offering operational simplicity and an easy tap for network security appliances. SWDM4 differs from the 40G QSFP+ bidirectional (BiDi) technology deployed by a dominant OEM because it is standards-based.

Complete compatibility is also a major benefit of SWDM4. SWDM4 enabled transceivers can be used with duplex LC OM3 or OM4 cabling and are completely interoperable with each other, irrespective of the manufacturer. This pushes the technology ahead of the competition, as 40G QSFP+ BiDi is not compatible with other manufacturers or suppliers and uses a proprietary protocol.

Network operators are reaping the benefits of cloud migrations, reducing CAPEX and gaining the agility of elastic computing resources. SWDM4 offers a powerful tool to realise cloud benefits without the cost of massive network infrastructure upgrades to overcome edge network bottlenecks. SWDM4 allows network operators to cable smarter, not harder. NC