Last year, there was a lot of press about OM4 multimode fiber and 40/100G high-speed network migration. More companies are now deploying this solution; however, as you plan to patch your new servers into your new OM4 network, make sure you consider this scenario—minutes before you go live, you have a number of 40G ports that are not coming up.

Do you know how to fix it? As panic sets in, who are you going to call?

One of the keys to reliable parallel fiber connectivity is to expect and maintain exceptional fiber hygiene.

Patching is the most basic form of network connectivity—simple, right? You take your new 40G patch cord out of the package expecting it to work every time; however, what do you do when your fiber connection does not work as planned? You rely on your trained IT staff to efficiently identify and resolve fiber connectivity issues, but knowing what to look for (i.e., dirty connections) can minimize the mean time to repairfor your parallel fiber connections.

What does it really take to ensure multi-fiber connectivity works the first time, every time? The key, especially when migrating to 40G and 100G parallel optic protocols, is to have a good inspection and cleaning routine in place before equipment arrives and patching begins. If your organization is not prepared, troubleshooting fiber connectivity can quickly become a costly guessing game. Without maintaining exceptional fiber hygiene practices, you can expect your fiber infrastructure will be unpredictable and not perform as specified.

It is through CommScope’s extensive experience with warranty calls that we know that fiber connectivity problems are primarily caused by dirty connections, more than craftsmanship issues and product defects. If you have been through one of our fiber-training courses, I’m sure you heard someone say, “If your fiber connection doesn’t work, clean it. If it still doesn’t work, clean it again. And if it still doesn’t work, clean it again.”

How do you know if your fiber connections are dirty if you can’t visually inspect them? Why should you care?

Here is a good example. During the 2012 Datacenter Dynamics show in San Francisco, I setup and demonstrated an error-free 40G extended reach QSFP+ link over more than one kilometer of OM3 and OM4 fiber. The channel included four different OM3 and OM4 fiber cables patched together with five MPO patch cords between the 40G equipment.

The issue was the link initially ran at 50 percent—half of the fibers were not transmitting. If I didn’t have my trusty cleaning and inspection kit onsite I could not have seen what to clean. I found each connection point (the trunk cable, patch cords and QSFP+ interfaces) to some degree needed multiple cleanings before the link came up 100 percent error-free.

Although I assumed I started with clean factory-tested pre-terminated cables and patch cords, the link did not fully come up until I followed a strict patching procedure for exceptional fiber hygiene. Patching must include inspecting and cleaning each connection properly during the installation process. Your fiber administration should include exceptional fiber hygiene best practices that will successfully support your migration to parallel optics.

Tell us your best practices for fiber hygiene.

About the Author

Doug Hugill

Doug Hugill is a technical manager for the Enterprise Solutions division of CommScope, a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks. He is also a sales engineer for Northern California, Northern Nevada and Hawaii, responsible for enterprise, data center, and in-building wireless solutions. Mr. Hugill delivers in-depth technical presale support to consultants, integrators, business partners and customers predominantly for the SYSTIMAX, Uniprise and Andrew in-building wireless product lines. He also provides sales engineering support to the western region Enterprise Solutions sales team, distribution channel partners and customers. Mr. Hugill has over 30 years experience in the specification, implementation and maintenance of structured cable solutions for commercial buildings as well as for production and engineering data centers. Before joining CommScope, he worked at Hewlett-Packard, with much of his role centered on internal IT design, implementation and engineering support for global networked systems and infrastructure solutions. Mr. Hugill also worked at Agilent Technologies as a network designer, PM, and oracle test lead, as well as at his own IT infrastructure consulting firm. Mr. Hugill was named twice the Technical Manager of the Year at CommScope, and he received the STAR Award at HP five times for exceptional service excellence and innovation.

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5 comments for "Exceptional Hygiene is Important—Especially for Fiber!"
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Doug, Thanks for the great reminder to clean up!! Very important!

David Fallon

Excellent post! I've been saying the same thing for years. Technicians who are not traditionally used to working with fiber should check this article out!

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