Dark Fiber for Bandwidth Control Leasing unlit fiber optic strands offers extreme bandwidth, low latency and security.
Higher and higher bandwidths are expected in business IT infrastructure. That includes the local networks and leased lines for metro and wide area bandwidth. It’s about more than that, though. Just as important are parameters such as latency, packet loss and jitter. Security is a major concern for all network operations. Finally, the ability to make changes, create workarounds and rapidly bring resources online are important to keeping network operations running smoothly.
Big Bandwidth Means Big Pipes
The need for increasing bandwidth has resulted in a mass migration from copper wirelines to fiber optic cables. Copper may still make sense to the desktop, but outside network connections need the capacity of fiber.
Fiber leased lines are available from 10 Mbps to at least 10 Gbps, with 100 Gbps service becoming more readily available. They can be configured as point to point dedicated lines or dedicated Internet access. Many companies need some combination of the two. The Internet is essential to communicating with customers and suppliers. Direct lines to cloud service providers and between company facilities provide more consistent performance, lower latency and higher security.
Wavelengths are Like a Private Fiber Link
Fiber optic cables are said to have unlimited bandwidth. While that might seem like an exaggeration, in practice it is pretty hard to run out of bandwidth. Each cable has multiple fibers, sometimes as many as 100 in a bundle. Each of those fibers can carry multiple streams of non-interfering data through a process of wavelength division multiplexing.
There are two schemes. Coarse Wavelength Division Multiplexing can divide the fiber into a dozen or more laser colors called Lambdas, all traveling the same time. Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing ups that count to 80, 96 or more separate wavelengths using more sophisticated equipment.
Note that each wavelength acts like its own fiber. It is unaware of other wavelengths on the same strand. When you lease a wavelength your data is not multiplexed with anyone else’s. You have exclusive use of all the bandwidth on that wavelength, which might be as high as 10 Gbps. Need more bandwidth? Lease another wavelength. Until the fiber bundle is fully loaded, you’ll never have to run more cable.
Dark Fiber Gives You Ultimate Control
What’s better than a wavelength? Having the entire fiber to yourself. That sounds great until you think about the cost of running your own fiber. It makes total sense on your own property, but what about connections across town or across the country? Unless you are in the business of providing carrier services, you’ll find trenching your own fiber to be cost prohibitive.
There is a way to get pretty much your own fiber. Lease an unused strand from a service provider. That’s more doable than you might think. Remember that it doesn’t make sense to go to all the trouble of burying a single fiber strand when you can bury a multi strand cable or even multiple multi strand cables for not much more cost. That way, a carrier only has to lay in the fiber once and have capacity to spare for decades.
These unused strands are called “dark” fiber because there is no laser light illuminating them. It could be your job to light the fiber. The carrier will simply give you access at each end of the fiber and the rest is up to you.
Clearly this beyond the capability of smaller companies, but they are likely well served by lit fiber options already available. Larger and more sophisticated IT organizations may be able to make good use of dark fiber for research labs, medical campuses, video content creation and transport, engineering & manufacturing, and other demanding applications.
Benefits of Dark Fiber
Owning exclusive rights to use an entire fiber is the next best thing to building your own. You do need to provide the termination equipment at each end and manage those resources. That may include your own DWDM equipment to generate multiple wavelengths for all the bandwidth you can reasonably use.
Without competing customers, there is no need for multiplexers to add and drop connections along the route. The fiber serves your locations only. The lack of unnecessary equipment in the line minimizes latency. Unlike the Internet there is no need for routers every so often to direct traffic. You not only have minimal latency, there is no reason it should vary from common carrier routing decisions, and no congestion as long as you are not overloading the capacity of the fiber or individual wavelength.
Security is another big benefit of dark fiber. There is no sharing of bandwidth among customers. This is similar to the old “nailed up” copper private point to point line. You need to trust the operator of the fiber, but don’t have to worry about the other customers. Of course, encryption on top of dedicated fiber gives you the most security you’ll get in point to point transmission.
Dark Fiber Availability
As fiber is being extensively deployed for Internet, cable television, and cellular towers, dark fiber is also becoming more and more available. Competitive fiber network operators and some cable system operators have lots and lots of extra capacity installed. They are more than happy to lease out unused strands when there are dozens sitting dark.
Do your needs demand the capacity, flexibility, and security that dark fiber offers? Find out what dark fiber options are available for your business locations.
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