Let's face it. Standing in front of your boss explaining why the network is slow or worse yet--down!--is no fun. For businesses today, networks are their very lifeblood. If the network is down, so is business, and by extension, so is revenue. Not a pretty picture. How can the above scenario be avoided? Enter---the switch, or better yet, the fiber optic switch.
Switches can go a long way toward smoothing out the bumps in your network. What if you could harness more bandwidth, AND avoid time consuming data collisions? As more users or workstations are added, available bandwidth decreases and the chance of "bogging down" is escalated. Because switches can "take a look" at each packet of data and process it accordingly, signal collisions can be avoided. No longer does a signal have to be repeated to ALL ports--as with hubs. That signal can in fact be mapped or filtered and sent only to exactly where it needs to go. Or, if there is a problem with the signal, not sent at all. Thus, the possibility of collisions become greatly reduced and the problems of an over-crowded network are eased.
Other important advantages to switches include the "plug and play" element. Switches can determine ethernet addresses in use on each segment and create a table as signal packets are passed through the switch. Furthermore, they are versatile enough to connect different network types together as with ethernet and fast ethernet as well as networks of the same type.
In fact, there are also no protocol issues with switches since they occupy the same hardware layer as a hub.
So, if a regular copper switch can do all of this, why choose a fiber optic switch? Simply put, there are several more advantages that a fiber optic switch can offer that a copper one cannot. First and foremost, a fiber switch will allow you to harness ALL available bandwidth. Fiber, by definition, increases the bandwidth available for consumption and switches over fiber are no different. Distances are also increased with the use of fiber, so you will be able to send more information farther with the use of an optical switch. Immunity to EMI/RFI disturbance as well as lightning strikes becomes a huge advantage in mission critical applications. In a word, network applications linked with fiber are simply more "secure" than their copper counterparts.
Exactly what kinds of fiber switches are available, and what specifically can they do? There is a fiber optic modular switch available that is amazing in its versatility. In fact, you can have the option of fiber to fiber connectivity, copper to fiber connectivity, or copper to copper connectivity with the option of swapping modules out later as your network changes or grows. Gigabit speeds are also possible with this optical switch. Never have there been more network options available in one package!
What are the specifics? The modular switch is out-fitted with 3 slots in the front where your choice of module slides in. There are two rear slots which provide a place for gigabit modules in copper or fiber.
One front slot module choice consists of 8 ports of 10/100 unshielded twisted pair copper (UTP) with RJ45 connectors. Another module consists of 8 port 100Base Fiber FX in ST and SC connectors with a further choice of multimode or singlemode fiber. It doesn't matter which kind of fiber is installed, this switch will accommodate it!
The back slots may house gigabit copper, gigabit multimode fiber, gigabit singlemode fiber. You can even fully load the switch with all fiber modules to create an all fiber switch. Think of the wealth of permutations this one switch can offer you. Here are a few:
- 24 ports TX + 2 Gigabit
- 16 ports TX + 8 FX + 2 Gigabit
- 8 ports TX + 16 ports FX + 2 Gigabit
- 24 ports FX + 2 Gigabit
Lastly, the fiber modular switch provides several management options. You can "see" the file transfer packets, allowing you to always know which port is up and which port is down. You can also have the option of increasing bandwidth through trunking (hooking one switch to another switch in full duplex). In addition, if you need to separate departments over separate networks the VLAN option will allow you to set specific ports on specific networks. You would be able to configure ports 1-10 on one network and 11-20 on another network. These ports will never "see" each other at the switch level. General types of management in this switch are console, telnet, snmp, and web browser. Thus, making remote management possible as well.
More specifically, the management features fall into the following categories. Basic management would include:
- General - System name, location, statistics collection, re-boot on error, Telnet login
- LAN Port - Configure speed and flow control, link type, and physical address, change configuration on each port.
- Console - Change baud rate, flow control method, modem control, set up string, enable or disable SLIP, configure SLIP address and SLIP subnet mask.
Advanced Management tasks would include:
- L2 switching database
- L3 IP networking
- Static Filtering
- Spanning Tree
- GVRP & IGMP
- Port Trunking
- Port Mirroring
- Software Upgrade
In conclusion, through the elimination of data signal collisions, the increased bandwidth opportunities, coupled with longer distances that signals can travel, and immunity to outside distrubances, fiber optic switches can take your network to greater heights of efficiency. Salt and pepper those switches with some management options, and you, not your network, are in the driver's seat. That unhappy scenario of a network administrator facing his boss with yet another network glitch need never be played.