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.

In my first post, I talked about media conversion at the physical layer. Today I want to talk to you about how to use optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR)-equipped small form-factor pluggables (SFP) to detect fiber breaks.

Fiber breaks are a significant component of the cost and manpower required to manage a fiber-optic network. Finding the break means tracing the cable all the way through the network. This can become an urgent situation because in many cases a fiber break reduces available bandwidth for data communications and, worse yet, could indicate that the network has been tapped and that data is getting into the hands of unauthorized third parties.

OTDR technology injects a series of optical pulses into the fiber optic network and also reads the light coming back from the network. It either reads the light that is scattered or reflected back from a point, or points along the fiber. The OTDR instrument can then analyze these reflections to understand the change in the impedance of the cable which is analyzed to determine the location of the cable break.

Handheld OTDR instruments are available to be plugged into a cable when a problem is detected, but with today’s mission critical dependencies on networks, detecting and fixing the break is time critical. To meet these needs, a new generation of “smart” SFP-based media converters has been developed to provide this OTDR capability. When a break is detected, the network manager can remotely initiate the OTDR functionality to rapidly detect the location of the cable break.

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