Light_at_the_end_of_the_Tunnel_imageChange in the way we work has never moved at a steady pace. As with life itself, evolution in business can happen very fast, but only if the conditions are right. Often this is at the moment when key technologies mature, such as with personal computing in the early 1980s, the Internet in the mid 1990s and mobile devices in the late 2000s. Over a few years, these developments triggered more change in the way businesses operate than had been seen in previous decades.

Now we are in the midst of another leap forward with the maturing of collaborative and converged systems creating the much acclaimed “cloud.” Like PCs, web and mobiles, the cloud fundamentally changes the way people and systems co-operate and communicate. The trigger for this is the falling price of bandwidth on the local area network and wide area network, coupled with the growing availability of storage capacity and access systems. These technologies break down the barriers between the device and the Internet, enabling the sharing not only of data but also applications, conversations and video.

Platform for change

Video’s impact on network traffic levels is dramatic. Typically, streaming video coupled with voice means a need for much more coverage and capacity than that for text and data files. A high bandwidth infrastructure is essential to take advantage of real-time collaboration via devices and the cloud. Quality of Service is an issue, and is most acute in the network backbone. Unlike data, voice and video packets cannot be buffered or delayed between transmitter and receiver. Users will be instantly aware of excessive latency in the network and only a small drop in quality of service will transform video conferencing from a valuable business tool into a frustrating joke.

 

Beef up your backbone

In network installations, the use of multi-Gigabit Ethernet in the backbone is becoming common. Soon, with hundreds or even thousands of devices equipped for voice and video over IP sharing a network, even this will not be enough. To meet the challenge in an economical way, 10/40/100G fiber technologies have already been developed. From an infrastructure perspective, high bandwidth multimode fiber cables cover the vast majority of in-building backbone requirements. Today’s performance levels seem enormous, but with multiple video streams competing for bandwidth, it is necessary. Clever compression can cut the data rates required, but video of acceptable quality will always have a voracious appetite for bandwidth.

“Edge” networking, the domain where wide-area networking and high-capacity private lines come into play, may be handled by an enterprise or Internet service provider, by a telecom carrier or by both in concert. From the edge out (or in) to the user, wide-area networking uses single mode fiber, taking advantage of the large window of wavelengths for use with wave division multiplexing applications in metro/campus applications.

High performance fiber is not the only option for reliable, high quality streaming media all the way to the device. Throughput to the device can also be maintained through advances in Wi-Fi, cellular wireless or copper cabling, although these solutions are increasingly becoming the realm of relatively ‘local’ or short range application.

With the right combination of infrastructure solutions, a business can be sure its network will not be a bottleneck as real-time collaborative systems are introduced. Technologies such as video over IP and multi-Gigabit networks on the market point to the probability of an evolutionary leap. When change happens, companies with large reserves of capacity and coverage will be able to react fast, gaining a decisive advantage over competitors who suddenly realize they may need a new infrastructure. 

If you want to learn more about fiber optic infrastructures so you can see light at the end of the tunnel, then explore the CommScope Infrastructure Academy’s SP4420 Fiber Optic Infrastructure Specialist course.

About the Author

James Donovan

James Donovan is Vice President of the CommScope Infrastructure Academy. James joined CommScope in 1993 and has held positions in Sales, Technical, Marketing, Training and Business Development and served most recently as VP of Digital and Creative Services for CommScope. James oversees the CommScope Infrastructure Academy, which is CommScope’s partner and customer training platform. Prior to joining the company, he held positions at GEC, ITT and Alcatel. He holds a Masters Degree in Engineering and a BSc Honors degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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