Office Space: The Benefits of Fiber-to-the-Desktop for the Mobile Enterprise
Today’s technology makes it easy for the modern day professional to stay connected whether on the go or looking to synch to networks while in the office. Savvy devices are making the workplace a convenient, accessible location from anywhere.
The consumerization of IT—the trend of information technology spreading from the consumer market into businesses—is now a permanent feature of the corporate IT landscape. “Bring your own device” (BYOD), the practice of employees bringing their own laptops, tablets and mobile devices into the office, has become a huge part of this trend as organizations look to reap the productivity benefits of a more engaged workforce.
This year, Juniper Research projects that nearly 350 million people worldwide will bring their smartphones or tablets to work to use on the job. According to a survey conducted by Info-Tech Research Group, 89 percent of the organizations surveyed already allow personal devices to be used for email. As more professionals bring personal devices to work, companies are adopting cloud solutions to provide employees access to in-demand SaaS, voice, video and data services. These cloud solutions require significant network support and high bandwidth availability.
Because of the higher bandwidth requirements necessary to support BYOD and cloud computing, companies are turning to fiber-based Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN) infrastructures to provide fast, critical connections for their increasingly mobile-connected workforce. The newly formed Association for Passive Optical LAN, a nonprofit organization composed of manufacturers, distributors, integrators and consulting companies who are actively involved in the passive optical LAN marketplace, was created with the mission of advocating for the education and global adoption of passive optical networks in the LAN industry. Association members Corning, IBM, SAIC, TE Connectivity, Tellabs, Zhone, and 3M have joined forces to raise awareness for the benefits that passive optical LAN can provide, including expanded bandwidth and minimized costs from equipment upgrades. While passive optical LAN is still an emerging concept in the telecommunications industry, it has demonstrated significant cost and performance advantages over traditional Ethernet.
As data and video consumption are predicted to increase substantially over the next few years, the demand for cost-effective and high-quality voice, video and data will continue to grow. The number of company employees accessing company networks will rise and more bandwidth will be necessary for support. Passive optical LAN is a solution that supports the changing corporate landscape by providing the simplicity, scale and bandwidth to address current and future demand, offering a distinct advantage over traditional copper solutions. Fiber technologies benefit stakeholders including employees, businesses and service providers. Employees gain seamless network connections, businesses are able to tap valuable cloud applications, and service providers can capitalize on the influx of mobile devices for new revenue streams.
Copper doesn’t cut it
The flood of connected devices in the workplace presents challenges for traditional copper-based infrastructures. To address the issues of bandwidth overload, reliable network access and efficient energy use, businesses in all industries are in need of comprehensive and affordable technology solutions.
Copper solutions were introduced to the telecommunications industry soon after the creation of the telephone. The use of copper held benefits as it prevented corrosion of wires and decreased noise in the lines. Additionally, copper lines were durable enough to withstand long distances. In 1884, an experimental long distance telephone line made of copper was set up between Boston and New York and soon after, between New York and Philadelphia. Copper wire usage soon expanded into electrical transmission lines and throughout the electrical industry. As interest grew, early telephone companies sought more efficient wires, which led to the evolution of cables containing up to 100 copper wires. They were insulated with cotton and wrapped in lead. Demand continued to grow and a larger number of cables were needed to replace the aerial wires currently present in city infrastructures. The end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century were a time of change as the industry expanded rapidly.
As the telecommunications industry has evolved through the centuries, it began to outgrow copper’s potential. While copper has been essential since the 19th century, fiber is now becoming the go-to material. Compared to fiber, conventional copper wire is expensive, inefficient and unreliable. Several miles of fiber optic cable can be made at a fraction of the cost of equivalent lengths of copper wire and are nearly 86 percent more efficient, according to Zhone Technologies field research. That means companies can reduce costs by as much as 92 percent annually with fiber-to-the-desktop solutions. Optical fiber also provides a better signal connection by comparison. Among the most important benefits, passive optical LAN offers greater bandwidth, allowing service providers space for new revenue streams by adding services.
Alleviating stress, increasing productivity
Fiber-to-the-desktop solutions provide access to LANs by using fiber optic cables and delivering converged voice, video and data services at greater speeds than traditional copper solutions. Businesses can reap increased benefits from their LAN by facilitating access points (desktop computers, laptops, tablets) for interoffice communications. Because smooth and efficient transfer of digital information is necessary within a corporate computer network, fiber is an ideal communication solution for a wide range of industries.
Industrial factories are largely looking to manage and monitor vast security systems. The hospitality industry, meanwhile, has an ever-increasing demand for high speed Internet to keep guests connected.
The Clayton Crowne Plaza is a great example of a hospitality industry member seeking increased Internet bandwidth for guests. While renovating its guest rooms, the full-service, four-star St. Louis hotel was thinking of the future and installed fiber cable throughout the hotel with the ability to push fiber to each individual guest room as renovations progress. Increased bandwidth has allowed the Crowne Plaza to provide high-speed wireless Internet capabilities to all of the 255 guest rooms and nine meeting spaces spanning two towers and nearly eight floors.
Before renovations, the nightly guest occupancy rate ranged in the mid-70s; it is now in the mid-90s. Fiber LAN technology has enabled Crowne Plaza to provide the proper bandwidth to host all of the guests’ devices and they have noticed guest scores of Internet usage have significantly improved in surveys.
Increased bandwidth has benefited not only hotel guests, but company employees as well. Cloud applications and BYOD require significant enterprise LAN infrastructure upgrades, but ultimately, fiber-to-the-desktop solutions give employees the benefits of a seamless network connection using both corporate computers and personal devices.
Simon & Schuster, the publishing arm of entertainment giant Viacom, incorporated fiber-based LAN network solutions to aid not only the business functions of file management, printing and email, but applications related to publishing such as editing, marketing, production, imaging and digital archiving. Similar to Crowne Plaza, Simon & Schuster chose to implement an all-fiber infrastructure so it would be ready for the future. Fiber infrastructure suited its business space more efficiently than copper and the publishing group was in need of a network component that aligned with long cabling runs.
Copper is unable to extend beyond 100 meters from a wiring closet, but multimode fiber can easily cover up to 300 meters, as specified in the ANSI/TIA/EIA Centralized Optical Cabling Guidelines. Distances between server rooms and hubs at Simon & Schuster’s various sites averaged 200 meters. The company found the new, all-fiber network to not only be a fit for its workspace, but it also provided the necessary bandwidth for current company use and future needs.
By providing bandwidth relief for new cloud and desktop applications, companies alleviate demands on already strained networks, enabling reliable high-speed connections and convenient cloud access to applications from any device, anywhere. According to a survey by Citrix, ensuring that employees have seamless broadband connectivity allows enterprises to leverage fiber technology solutions to gain the benefit of a more industrious workforce.
The bottom line
Fiber-based LAN systems are transforming enterprise telecommunications by helping enterprises overcome the challenges of traditional network designs including bandwidth overload, unreliable networks, spotty cloud access, and poor energy efficiency. Unlike antiquated copper networks, fiber solutions offer reliable, speedy connections; reduced need for equipment; and increased efficiency.
Significant savings can be realized in almost every aspect of an implementation, including equipment costs, power cooling, installation and floor space. This new technology serves as the optimized means to deliver voice, video, data, wireless access, security and high-performance building automation for the federal government and commercial enterprise. Businesses in all industry sectors are changing to adapt to mobile enterprise trends. Service providers must also adapt to meet the needs of enterprise customers, or risk falling behind the curve. n