Networks are rapidly moving from copper to fiber optic media. According to a recent Modor Intelligence Report, the global market for optical fiber will expand at a 14.8% CAGR from US$9.2 Billion to US$20 Billion by 2026. As networks migrate from copper to fiber, the need to migrate monitoring and security tools will follow.
Optical Fiber Drivers
There are many reasons that networks are moving from copper to fiber. Some of these include:
• Speed - Optical fiber offers nearly limitless bandwidth capability. Big Data, IoT and 5G technologies all require faster speeds and lower latency. Starting with mobile carriers who are implementing 5G technologies and moving down the chain to cloud providers and enterprise networks, rapid scaling of bandwidth is a top priority.
• Light Weight - Fiber is easy to hang on existing poles because it is light weight. Therefore, carriers providing community growth and service upgrades are finding fiber a very attractive alternative.
• No electromagnetic interference - Fiber cables are not susceptible to RF and electromagnetic interference like copper cables.
• OPEX savings - Fiber is not prone to weather degradation. Use of optical fiber in outside plant is attractive because it requires fewer truck rolls for weather related maintenance.
As carriers roll out more and more fiber, it is logical that downstream networks connecting to these carriers will follow suit. Rising consumer demand for bandwidth and the availability of high optical bandwidth in the core create a perfect storm leading to optical fiber upgrades in the enterprise.
Another benefit of optical networking is the simplicity of network traffic monitoring using passive optical TAPs. Optical taps work with specialized mirrors that deflect some of the light coming in from live network links to create a duplicate copy of the traffic to send to monitoring tools. The amount of optical power needed to maintain error-free network traffic is generally less than what is provided. Therefore, once the optical budget is understood, it is simple to determine how much light can be diverted to tools and how much must remain in the live network.
The optical power budget is the total amount of light necessary to transmit signals through a fiber optic connection over a certain distance. The total amount of available light can be split between the amount sent through to the live network and the amount of light sent to the monitoring tool. It is important to calculate the light budget for a link when determining what split to use for a TAP. The main elements in this calculation including power, distance, fiber loss, patch loss and insertion loss. A helpful chart showing the insertion loss by split ratio for multimode MPO TAPS as well as single mode and multimode LC TAPS is available here.
Many Advantages of Optical TAPS
Of course, monitoring tools can be connected using SPAN ports that are integrated into switches. However, the number of SPAN ports is limited so the number of tools that can be connected in this manner is also limited. Further, SPAN use increases internal switch traffic and does not always provide accurate traffic information.
Independent passive optical TAPS do not impact live traffic. They provide complete and accurate full duplex traffic, including errors, to monitoring and security tools. Completely transparent to the network, optical TAPs require no IP/MAC address. No power is required, saving rack space and eliminating power related network interruptions from the TAP or connected tools.
Optical TAP modules provide high port density allowing up to 24 ports in a 1RU frame. This allows network managers to utilize a variety of specialized tools for monitoring and security without physical port limitations.
There are many types of optical TAP modules and connectors depending on fiber types and speeds in the network. It is critical that optical fibers in the network exactly match the specifications of the TAP. For example, if a network link is using single mode fiber, the TAP must also be single mode. Wavelength match is also an important consideration. If picking the right optical TAP for your network seems a bit daunting,