The Benefits And Downsides Of Optical Technology

Optical technology is all the rage these days because it offers so many benefits versus traditional communication methods using copper wires.  Even though it is an incredible amount faster, its implementation is anything but simple considering all of the technology that has to be designed around it for its use.  On one hand optical technology can be used in any part of a system, but there are still instances when copper is much better than optical technology for sending information.

Image by peyri

Optical Is Still More Expensive

Even though copper prices are on the rise, the amount of money it takes to construct a high quality optical cable is much higher.  Regular optical cables that are found within the home are nothing compared to the specialized ones that are used in data centers or to travel long distances.  The problem comes with how fragile the glass is on the interior.  Optical cables use a type of glass to run the signals through so it can travel as fast as possible and still be bent enough to go around corners like a regular cable.  If the glass is broken then the signals will be modified at the breaking point and the same information will not come out on the other side.

Use Optical For Longer Distances

Even though they are typically able to be hot-swapped, a Cisco GLC-T optical module or comparable version will have to be purchased in place of the Ethernet style Cisco brand modules that were there before.  This means that a conversion from one type to another is highly expensive, and it is also significantly more expensive than the components and wires used for standard Ethernet transmission.  Ethernet cables are often used for internal communication since it is so much less expensive while still providing the bandwidth and latency needed by the individuals running the system.  Optical technologies are popular for longer distance travel since it takes significantly less time to send information from one place to another through the wire.  Copper wires suffer from slowdown because the electric impulses only go a certain speed, whereas the optical lines transfer at the speed of light.

The Last But Not Least

The last reason is due to the simplicity that Ethernet connections bring to the table.  Even though there are different protocols used based on the need of the connection, most modules will detect what the other is compatible with and work properly as a result.  This can also usually be modified if needed through the software that is running the server system.  This ease of connection is a huge reason that Ethernet continues to be a popular method of connection for servers and home system alike.

Eric Blair writes about FluxLight GLC-T, SFP modules and other related devices for the IT department.