Media conversion is a critical network function for growing data centers, but too many purchase decisions are based solely on data sheet information or worse yet, from price lists. There is a difference in media converters and a strategic way to plan and implement them. The always increasing demand on data center networks requires constant upgrades to network size, reach and throughput levels. Trends such as virtualization, big data, cloud access, and mobility are key factors behind an increase in demand for data center bandwidth. In this scenario of rapid change, media conversion is more important than ever to ensure connectivity, rapid service turn up and to maximize the cable plant investment.

This seven-part blog series will provide a glimpse beyond the speeds and feeds to other key factors data center operators need to consider when adding or expanding a media conversion system.

Today's Topic: Convert Network Types at Physical Layer

In the early days there were only stand-alone, unmanaged, fixed configuration media converters, but the industry now offers chassis-based media conversion systems that provide a central point of wiring, small form factor pluggable (SFP) ports that can accept any network interface, and secure management with alarms and web access.

Media converters are important because in both multi-tenant telco or enterprise data centers, it’s important to convert data at Layer 1 at the “meet-me” room or other area in the data center that serves as the demarcation point between WAN/MAN connections and the link to a customer’s equipment cage.

Using a Layer 2/3 switch at this point in the network could lead to data co-mingling and potential for data to be intercepted by other customers. In addition, the packet processing involved in switching at this point can add up to several microseconds of latency to the connection. Many applications, especially those used by financial institutions, are latency sensitive.

Replacing the switch with a chassis-based media converter system maintains the direct link to the customer’s servers while also dramatically reducing latency during the media conversion. Media conversion can be executed at any point in the network link, which enables data center managers to better leverage existing copper networks up to the full 100 meters even when data rates and network distances increase. This allows enterprises to install fiber-optic cabling only where absolutely necessary, in order to minimize the cost of the fiber network.

This best practice, combined with products that are designed with the right network technology, can make the correct and strategic media conversion decision a lot easier. Stay tuned for more best practices on how to pick the best solution.