For many people, “fiber optic” technology seems to represent the future itself. Service such as Google Fiber capitalize on this belief, often persuading the public that fiber optics are the best and most efficient way to network in any situation. This is simply not the case, and is, in many ways, a misunderstanding of the way that networking technology today works. Read on to find out more!
The most important misunderstanding here is found in the belief fiber optic technology and Ethernet technology are somehow primarily opposed formats. What many don’t know is that the newest Ethernet technology actually uses fiber optics. While some of these innovations are not widely available yet, sources such as Wikipedia report that Ethernet technology with the ability to transmit over 400 gigabits per second is slated to hit the market as early as 2017. In this way, it’s not a question of choosing Ethernet over fiber – it’s a matter of Ethernet transmitting data over fiber!
The Ethernet standard is among the oldest computing standards still widely used, as the technology was first developed in the mid-1970s. For this reason, a number of changes to the format have been required in order to keep up with the times. In 2013, writer Alexia Chianis reported on this phenomenon for the business and technology news website Business Bee. In the course of her comparison between Ethernet and fiber optic technology, she explains a few of the ways in which common conceptions of Ethernet as an outdated or unreliable technology are not accurate, especially given innovations in Ethernet technology. For example, while Ethernet copper cabling is indeed more susceptible to interception than fiber optic technology, switches have been developed which massively improve the security of Ethernet-based networks.
She also addresses misconceptions surrounding the speed of Ethernet technology. “Until recently,” Chianis writes, “fiber Internet-optic cable would almost always beat Ethernet cable speed. But as the technology behind Ethernet cables has advanced, Ethernet cables can provide speeds as fast as some fiber optic cables.”
Of course, perhaps the primary reason for choosing Ethernet-based networking strategies is the fact that Ethernet has been, and remains, the industry standard. A truly reliable format, Ethernet has shown that it can withstand the test of time, and can change and grow as needed. In addition to being available in far more areas, Ethernet technology can also handle a wide variety of unique connectivity and workflow needs, including (as discussed in another article) direct connections between sites or offices. For some organizations, especially those in extremely fire-prone or high-voltage situations, fiber optics may indeed be the superior choice. However, if the last forty years are anything to go by, Ethernet isn’t going anywhere – thankfully!