THREE TIPS for Optimizing Optical Transition

According to a recent report from Modor Intelligence, the optical fiber market will grow from

US$9.2 Billion today to US$20 Billion by 2026, over 14% CAGR. As telcos increase transcontinental fiber capacity and enterprise networks are being pushed to provide more bandwidth, copper links are being transitioned to optical fiber. Drivers such as 5G, IoT and Big Data require increased security, speed and scalability offered by fiber links. A big question on the minds of Network Managers is how to efficiently make this transition. Copper based monitoring and security tools represent a challenge to the budget and to functionality during an optical transition.


Optical Links and Copper Monitoring

Transitioning from copper to optical links has many benefits but also can require substantial capital expenditures. Beyond the basic changes in switching equipment, there are downstream costs to update monitoring and visibility tools. However, there are TAPs and Packet Brokers that not only connect tools to links but also transform traffic on optical links to legacy copper tools. Therefore, it is possible to continue to utilize the existing investment in copper based tools even after transitioning to optical links.


TAPs such as the SmartNA, SmartNA-X and Hybrid TAP/Packet Broker SmartNA-XL, from Network Critical, use a flexible chassis that provides access to a variety of different modules. Each four-port module may be configured for a specific input from live links and a potentially different output to a monitoring or security tool.


The modules have varied physical and operational characteristics. All modules, however, connect with the chassis backplane which performs the traffic aggregation, filtering, transformation and mapping to the required output ports. A few examples of link to tool connections through the backplane include:


• Single Mode Fiber link to RJ45 copper tool up to 1Gbps

• Multi-mode Fiber to RJ45 copper tool up to 1Gbps

• Single Mode Fiber link to SFP (flexible speeds up to 10Gbps)

• Multi-Mode Fiber link to SFP (flexible speeds up to 10Gbps)

• RJ45 Copper links to a variety of fiber, copper and SFP outputs for links that are not transitioning


Any of these modules can be deployed in any chassis slot in any order. This provides maximum flexibility within the chassis for a variety of connection options. It is also simple to make changes as traffic conditions dictate.


Faster Links to Slower Tools

These ethernet TAPs and Packet Brokers also solve another problem encountered during a copper to fiber transition. One of the reasons networks upgrade from copper to fiber is faster speeds. The visibility problem with moving to faster optical links, however, is that the legacy copper tools likely are not designed to process at the same speed as the new links.


The SmartNA-XL Hybrid TAP/Packet Broker has solved that problem with integrated load balancing. High speed optical link traffic can be distributed among multiple lower speed copper ports based on a variety of options: hashing, bandwidth, cumulative traffic, packet rate, connections, and more. Now network managers can save CAPEX by continuing to utilize existing slower copper tools after the transition to faster optical links.



Help Existing Tools Work Harder

All tools do not necessarily need to see all traffic. Most networks have a variety of specialized visibility tools designed to carry out specific tasks. Some tools are tasked with traffic monitoring for diagnostic and planning purposes. Others are focused on malware detection, intrusion prevention or other security issues. There are also tools to optimize performance. In this era of specialized visibility, it is important to optimize the utilization of each tool.


Filtering incoming live traffic prior to sending it to tools helps each tool perform faster and more efficiently by eliminating traffic that is not relevant to that tool. Filtering not only helps the tool perform more efficiently, it also cuts down on the amount of traffic being sent to the tool. That leads us to the other efficiency tool that will prove helpful in this transition, aggregation.


Many optical links are not fully utilized, particularly when they are first installed. If there are multiple 10Gbps links that are only carrying 1Gbps of traffic, it is not necessary to provide individual 10Gbps tools to each of those links. The incoming traffic from multiple optical links can aggregated on the TAP backplane and sent to a single tool for processing. For example, four 10Gbps links that are operating at a 1Gbps rate each can be aggregated and sent to a single 10Gbps tool with room for additional growth.



Plan for Visibility

Network TAPs are often an afterthought in network planning. However, with many advanced features integrated in network TAPs and Packet Brokers, it makes sense to closely review visibility strategy early in the planning process. As networks move from copper to optical fiber links, ethernet TAPs and Packet Brokers can help save CAPEX during the transition as well as help existing network tools continue to effectively monitor and protect network assets. To find out more on TAP strategies during optical transition check out our optical TAP webpage. Have more questions? Contact Us or Request a Demo today!





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