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While it may not quite be at the level of Game of Thrones or Pokémon Go, single mode fiber optics and cabling are all the rage in the data center industry. The hype, albeit over the top at times, is not entirely unjustified. Increasingly we are seeing a debate between deploying single mode fiber optics and cabling versus multimode fiber.
There are different reasons for each choice, but they tend to root back to the same causes and characteristics:
1. Square footage: SMF enables support for very large data centers with more than 80,000 square feet where “leaf to spine” cable runs have exceeded the distance limitations of multimode fiber transceivers.
2. Required speeds: Some customers are deploying 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) on SM today and are already looking to 400GbE and beyond as soon as they can get there. The standards path, as it sits today, targets 400GbE options using single mode fiber cabling that fit the near-term lines and distances that larger data center operators are looking for.
3. Applications that drive significant revenues: Data centers are an integral part of any business operation. If it goes down, the business immediately loses the ability to function and service their customers adequately. To conceptualize this, look at your smartphone. Look at each app on your phone and ask yourself the question, “If this company’s data center had a noticeable interruption, would they be able to service their customers?” The additional cost of SM optics is justified by enabling the scale and time to market that large operators require.
4. Enabling efficiencies in the business: Enterprises are excited about the efficiencies that computing is bringing to their business and are actively trying to expand upon that. Their data center forms the foundation of their business, not just a tool in their bag. They view investments in data center infrastructure as part of their business strategy and look to define long-term strategies for increasing data capacity.
5. Fear of Missing Out: The hyperscale cloud companies have been very boisterous about driving down the cost of single mode optics. Others don’t want to appear behind the curve and are eager to embrace single mode fiber. This is balanced against the investment costs, scale and timelines that the business requires.
Hyperscale cloud service providers were the first to embrace single mode fiber plants throughout their data centers because of their unprecedented scale and bandwidth consumption. Multi tenant data centers, large enterprise and telecom service providers deploy single mode fiber plants in their data centers in various measure to support WAN connectivity and longer reach for metro and campus area networks. While a few very large enterprise data centers have chosen single mode for reasons that are similar to the hyperscale operators, most have not yet found a business case for changing to single mode.
For more information, I encourage you to check out this Cabling Installation & Maintenance article on single mode.