Taking to the Fiber

This week’s blog post comes from Lightspeed featured author, Tony Pearson.

While I often write of my travels around the world as I visit partners, customers and friends in the optics industry, I don’t often stop to consider just how much easier it is to travel the globe now than it was 25 years ago when my optics journey began. Of course, the advances in travel and transport over the past 100 years are mind-boggling when you consider changes since the start of the twentieth century.

For example (note: these are my rough estimations, but you get the point), let’s say that public transport in 1908 was 99% foot traffic at approximately 4 mph, or at the cutting edge, the Ford Model T, which began mass production that year, had a top speed of about 40 mph – that provided a phenomenal 10x increase in speed. Today, many of us travel at 500 mph on flights around the world, enjoying a 10x speed increase over that first mass produced car.

Turn your attention now to data traffic.

It was about 30 years ago that Ethernet first found its way into Local Area Networks, seamlessly connecting our computers with an operating speed of 10 Mb/s over copper cable. Today, these data rates in “Computer Rooms” (or Data Centers as we now call them) have increased to 100 Gb/s – a 10,000x increase in speed!

Of course, there have been many contributing factors to this increase in speed, just as the combustion engine, the tire, the paved road and electronic traffic signals have aided the advancement in our global public transport network. In the communications networking world, advancements in Semiconductor IC technology, software and the Ethernet standard itself through Fast Gigabit, 10 Gigabit and most recently 100G Ethernet have helped us get where we are.

The real game changer in the last decade has been the medium used to connect ‘computers’ in these ever faster networks. Just as “taking to the air” led to a major step function in our ability to travel quickly over long distances around the globe, ‘taking to the fiber’ has had a major impact on our ability to transmit data at orders of magnitude higher speeds over global networks. This optical revolution has made it possible to move unfathomable quantities of data over short distances inside the data centers few of us have ever seen with our own eyes, yet whose existence we all depend on every time we send a tweet/text/email, search the web for information, or instantly stream a movie.

Finisar high-performance Active Optical Cables (AOCs) and optical transceivers, running at 10G, 40G and 100G data rates support the fastest HPC/supercomputers and largest data centers in the world. Leaping forward, there are new developments in optical engines (Board Mounted Optical Assemblies or BOA) and ever faster, smaller, lower power pluggable transceivers for 100G including CFP2, CFP4 and QSFP28. As you can plainly see, the race continues to satisfy the ever increasing thirst for more data with even faster processors, servers, software, and the fiber optic network that connects it all together.