A Guide to Buying Fiber Optic Switches


A switch is an integral part of a network which establishes connectivity among various connected devices on the network such as computers, phones, cameras, and so on. It also facilitates data transmission from source to destination.  There are various types of switches depending on the network such as Ethernet switches for copper cable networks, fiber optic switches for fiber networks, and so on. If you plan to upgrade to fiber optic network or blend fiber optics into your existing legacy network, you will require a fiber optic switch which is compatible with the other devices on the network. This article offers a buying guide on fiber optic switches and many other aspects of network switches.

Understanding Various Optical Switching Techniques

Simply put, fiber optic switches are an important circuit switching device which facilitates communication control among devices and selects the path of light signals for data transmission over a network. So, it also works as a common network switch. They also help increase the speed and transmission rate. Fiber industrial switches are used for large and complex networks across industries. Aside from big players, most small and medium businesses also need good-quality switches with ports for both copper and fiber connectors.

Optical switching is a process, wherein the source to destination transmission of optical signals or light pulses is done with the help of optical switches. This activity happens on the Layer 2 or datalink layer of the network model. Light signals with huge bit rates are switched between fiber lines. There are three switching techniques and addressing them will improve your understanding of these switches.
  • Optical Circuit Switching: Data packets need to be converted from optical to electrical form because headers of the packets cannot be read and interpreted in optical form. In conventional circuit switching buffering of new data flow happens at the ingress. Ideally, the data flow from ingress to egress must happen directly and without buffering. Active packets, on the other hand, are sent as soon as they occur. This is a mostly static technique, wherein there is dedicated wavelength for each path from source to end. The data packets remain in optical form till they reach the destination.
  • Optical Packet Switching: This technique is still evolving but offers a huge bandwidth and flexibility. This technique promises finer granular data than burst switching. There are some challenges to be resolved before this becomes a fully developed and commercially implemented technique. But for basics, it comprises sending IP packets over an optical backbone directly.
  • Optical Burst Switching: Optical burst switching technique falls somewhere between circuit and packet switching. It allows dynamic sub-wavelength data switching. It puts together packets with similar features or properties and offers a huge bandwidth.

Factors to Consider When Buying Fiber Switches

Even after noting down and studying all your requirements and specifications concerning the switches, the vendors you approach would offer several different specifications and configurations. Choosing the right one out of this can be overwhelming, and you will have to consider a number of factors when buying them. So, here is a buying guide on fiber optic switches:
  • Type of Switches: Broadly, there are two types of switches- managed and unmanaged. Managed switches are intelligent switches which do not require human intervention when functioning. However, it does require a technically sound workforce. Unmanaged switches can be manually programmed and controlled, and are easier to use in comparison. They can meet various business requirements including fast transmissions of voice and video files. So, the switch you choose would depend on your application requirements, budget, and a technically sound team.
  • Speed: High speed connectivity is an important aspect considering global expansions and increasing business demands. So consider and data transmission rates a network requires. With a good fiber switch and other modern network devices, you can achieve speeds up to 1000 Mbps, while most businesses may not even require that much. In that case, you can extend the connectivity between a Gigabit Ethernet switch and a connected device by a few kilometers using a copper cable. In case of fiber switches, you can achieve a transmission distance of up to 100km.
  • Number of Ports: Ports are basically physical connections on a switch. There are a number of ports ranging from just four to sixty depending upon the model, some of which are specific for SFP or SFP+ modules, while others are for regular RJ45 connectors connected to copper cables. Small form factor pluggable modules are for fiber optic connectors. Look for a more number of ports and ensure they are suitable for both types of networks. More number of ports facilitate connectivity of many devices, and leave scope for future expansions. This makes your network scalable.
  • Scalability: This is an important factor for any business as they need to create space with future plans in mind. For a network to be scalable, it is important to choose a fiber switch which is compatible and ensures connectivity of multiple devices such as printers, cameras, computers, smartphones, and more. A scalable network eases the expansion process and saves on cost and time later.
  • Compatibility: You need to check the compatibility with other devices on the network to facilitate seamless and accurate data transmission via a switch. Most Fiber switches, Gigabit Ethernet switches, 10/100/100 modular switches and so on are designed for compatibility with digital and analog devices. However, checking compatibility and interoperability is important as without that the switch would not function to its full capacity.
  • PoE: If you have your network running in a remote area, difficult terrain, or a place where there are power and connectivity issues, PoE is definitely recommended. Some switches have PoE ports which prevent the need for extra electrical supplies and cabling. This definitely saves on costs and offers uninterrupted power supply to the network.
  • Form Factor: Switches are available in various sizes. In case of small businesses in compact offices, you can opt for a desktop switch which is small and functions quietly. For big scale operations, in data centers, server rooms, and so on, you have rack mountable switches.

Benefits of Fiber Network Switches

Fiber optic switches offer a number of benefits for business networks. Here are some of them:
  • Optical switches are far more efficient in terms of switching speed than most other earlier switches. Also, the fact that fiber networks do not have to deal with noise and EMI boost the speed and reduces disruptions.
  • Most copper cable networks face congestion or network traffic issues. Fiber switches eliminate congestion as signal transmission happens the way they occur.
  • Optical switches support the existing QoS levels and utilize the network optimally, especially in case of packet switching.
  • They are ideal for heavy traffic and complex networks.
  • They offer switching protection. In case one fiber fails, the switch reroutes the signal to some other fiber.
  • They save on room space as well as power consumption.

Conclusion

Surely this buying guide on fiber switches would be useful for anyone who wants to buy switches to scale up their network. Since years various network switches such as Gigabit Ethernet, PoE, and fiber switches are being used to improve network. Fiber network switches offer great transmission rates and connectivity speeds, and hence are gaining traction. Also, the fact that many businesses opt for blended networks for high speeds and geographical distances have increased the demand for fiber switches and other fiber network devices. However, it is crucial that you source these devices from a reputed manufacturer and supplier. VERSITRON offers Ethernet switches, fiber optic switches and various other network devices which are compatible with most devices in blended networks, and help increase the transmission speed and distance.  The company offers them in various configurations to help you upgrade your network and make it scalable. For details, you can visit www.versitron.com and go through the information on various network switches and other devices such as fiber media converters, modems, and so on.