How High-Speed Copper Enables Network Growth

High-speed copper cabling allows enterprises to future-proof their networks to meet the technology demands of tomorrow. 

In today’s digital era, the demand for high-speed connectivity is greater than ever. From real-time data analytics and robotic machinery to inventory tracking and biometric security tools, a myriad of IoT applications are helping businesses improve their processes. The catch is, these devices require an increasingly fast and reliable connection in order to function and provide value.

Between WiFi 6 (802.11.ax) and 5G cellular networks, it seems that all anyone can talk about in 2019 are wireless developments. While these wireless standards are indeed designed to help networks accommodate the influx of emerging IoT devices, they are not enough to get the job done by themselves. To keep up with the technologies of tomorrow, IT leaders will need to focus on wired solutions as well. If CIOs truly want to create networks built to meet future connectivity demands, they must invest in their physical IT infrastructure.

How Cables Impact Network Performance

When people think of information technology, they often think of IT teams delivering solutions that sit within the top layers of their networks, such as software or applications. But IT teams and CIOs also need to think about the physical infrastructure of their networks, which is becoming an increasingly important factor in keeping up with today’s digital needs.

Given that IoT technologies continue to gain popularity at an incredibly fast pace, enterprise IT teams need to ensure that their networks can accommodate new devices and bandwidth requirements. If current networks aren’t optimized, IoT and other new technologies might end up creating more problems in the workplace than they solve. By making investments in the physical infrastructure of an IT network, enterprises can build a dependable foundation for their business.

One of the most important facets of an organization’s wired infrastructure is their structured cabling. For a long time, cabling with a maximum transmission rate of 10G or 40G was sufficient for most business networks. But with the rise of new applications and technology with extremely high throughput demands, 100G switch ports are becoming the norm in the enterprise. 400G is even possible at hyperscale data centers.

Although most businesses are still deploying 40G cables — and may find this data rate sufficient for some time — throughput demands show no sign of slowing anytime soon. As such, the only way to truly future-proof your physical network infrastructure is to make cabling investments that support speeds of 100G or more. High-speed copper ensures that cabling is not a bottleneck on an IT network for years to come.

What is High-Speed Copper? 

When we talk about high-speed copper, we’re talking about Direct Attach Cables (DAC). They can run at speeds of 100G, 200G, and even 400G if needed. These cables are increasingly making their way into the enterprise, where operators are looking to build faster, more power-efficient infrastructure at better prices.

A DAC is a Twinax copper cable that connects directly to the ports on active network equipment, such as switches, routers, servers, or data storage devices. Increasingly, they are making their way into office environments as a low-cost, high-performing connectivity option. DACs have three primary value-adds: affordability, power-consumption, and reliability.

Direct Attach Cables vs. Active Optical Cables

Active Optical Cables (AOCs) are often discussed alongside DACs as a popular option for the enterprise. DACs and AOCs are both a form of high-speed cables that are used to connect switches to routers and servers. AOC, however, is run over fiber as opposed to copper.

While they serve a similar function, copper is limited in its distance capabilities as compared to fiber. AOCs are considerably lighter than DACs, and are immune to electromagnetic interference since they are unable to conduct an electric current. Despite these advantages, AOCs have a main prohibitive factor — their cost.

When utilized in the enterprise or a large data center, DACs can offer significant cost savings over same-length AOCs. DACs are a considerably more affordable option than using two optical transceivers and a fiber cable, which many businesses do. While AOCs are an incredible, lightweight option for some, high-speed copper DACs are often a more realistic and extremely viable option.

DACs also offer their own advantages aside from cost. Since DACs are made of copper — which boasts a better thermal design than fiber optic cables — their cooling requirements are not as strict. This saves additional costs down the line by reducing power consumption. What’s more, DAC cables are very dependable options. High-speed copper cables are made from Twinax copper, which is a physically strong material that decreases the risk of damage.

High-Speed Copper for Your Business 

When it comes to choosing between an AOC or DAC implementation for your office, the answer is highly dependent on your space, budget, and network needs. Both are great options — but for businesses looking for a cost-effective choice, DACs are a strong contender. All DACs are a fixed length unlike AOCs, which makes them an ideal solution for an environment that only calls for short length cables, such as an office setting.

While many tend to approach the network infrastructure discussion by posing the fiber versus copper question, this debate doesn’t always cover the practicalities of network planning. In fact, enterprises often end up choosing both DACs and AOCs. With AOCs serving as a strong backbone of a building’s infrastructure and DACs bringing connectivity to individual endpoints, both options can be leveraged for fast and reliable results.

Of course, best-in-class cabling requires a custom solution built for your needs. Many businesses will need support in designing and installing new infrastructure in their buildings. Luckily, Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) can help support DAC or AOC implementation at the best prices. At TTI, we offer state of the art high-speed copper cabling and can work with your technical team to ensure that your network needs are met. Schedule a consultation with our experts today to learn more about how high-speed copper can elevate your enterprise.

By Bob Gissubel

December 11, 2019

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