Co-location Data Center Operators Testing Next Generation Cabling.

February 28, 2013 / General

I recently had occasion to visit with several individuals from a high growth sub segment of our industry. Co-location data centers enable organizations to rent equipment space and bandwidth. These facilities provide space, power, cooling and security services for servers, storage systems and networking equipment, and connect them to network service providers. 
These types of data centers have become increasingly popular, particularly for smaller and midsize companies, because they allow them to focus their IT staffs on critical business needs rather than “keeping the lights on” and other basic infrastructure support. Customers benefit from features such as scalability, increased reliability due to redundant systems, continuous network and systems monitoring, and higher network bandwidth at lower costs. 
Keeping cost conscious customers happy is a highly competitive business.  Companies that offer co-location services need to be competitive in terms of what kinds of services and bandwidth they can provide, what types of carriers they provide, accessibility and security capabilities and what kinds of onsite help they have available for customers. 
In this competitive environment, data center providers can no longer just promise a good service level agreement. In order to win over and keep customers and grow their business faster, they must gain the confidence of their customers by consistently responding in a cost effective way to ever-changing needs.   
In the future, Enterprises will expect to be able to migrate to high bandwidth fiber infrastructure in their caged off areas.  Some of this cabling could incorporate new connectivity options such as MPO cabling to increase density and support 40 Gbps. 
Effectively testing the fiber in data center networks is a key part of maintaining a high level of confidence and trust among customers. The most successful providers use standardized procedures and tools that enable them to get new sites and new customers up and running quickly.  But until recently, there was no practical way to field test MPO cabling.   
Companies such as Fluke Networks provide tools and services to ensure that data center teams can deliver outstanding support, whether they’re commissioning new sites, turning up a customer circuit or solving a critical trouble ticket. One such tool is MultiFiber Pro Optical Power Meter and Fiber Test Kits, the first tester to automate MPO fiber testing.
The tool provides automatic scanning and testing of all fibers in MPO connectors, and ensures correct end-to-end connectivity of MPO fiber trunks with built-in polarity verification. An on-board MPO connector eliminates the need for fan-out cords when testing fiber trunks, and the tool provides easy to interpret test results with a simple user interface that displays all 12 fibers. 
With MultiFiber Pro, companies can troubleshoot MPO links with the capability to drill down to a single fiber test result. It eliminates the complexity of polarity issues, and makes cassettes easier to test in the field.  Typical data center fiber installation means time-consuming, manual and imprecise MPO validation. MultiFiber Pro is 90% faster than the single fiber testing method because it measures power loss and validates polarity on 12 fibers in a single connector, reducing test time from weeks to just days.  
Fluke Networks offers other tools than can be useful for co-location providers. These include OptiFiber Pro OTDR, a troubleshooting and certification tool that provides the exact functions needed for troubleshooting data center fiber networks; OptiFiber Pro’s EventMap, which allows them to find damaged fiber patch cords instantly; and OptiView XG’s Graphical Path Analysis, which enables them to isolate a failed or overloaded switch port.