Optical LANS Starting to Move From Cloud Giants to Data Centers
However, eventually, the benefits and business reasons behind optical LANs will convince many companies to make the change, Jones said, suggesting that enterprises now should start running pilot programs to get an idea of what an optical network entails. Casemore said what the industry is seeing now is "a little bit of separation" between large Web 2.0 companies and telecoms and enterprises in what they need in their networks. Where many enterprises currently get what they need from Ethernet, the others are always looking for more speed and more capacity from technologies that can also save them money. It's an indication of how differently these organizations look at their data centers. For many enterprises, their IT resources help them get business done. "For these companies [like Google and Facebook], it's how they earn their money," Casemore said. "It's what they do. … IT becomes a competitive advantage." "Big hyperscale customers have a slightly different view of technology," Gartner's Fabbi said. "IT is their business, so they will expend a bigger effort to optimize their infrastructure.""We want a library of the future that is flexible, built for now and built for the future," San Diego Library Director Deborah Barrow said in a statement at the time of the building's opening. "One of the early technology decisions we made was optical LAN, a future-proof backbone to allow the library to expand as future changes occur. In a public building, the flexibility, the cost and the energy savings all need to be considered, and that’s what we’ve done here." Barrow's comments echo many of the points made by Bernardino at the Santa Fe public schools. The optical LAN technology in place creates what he called a "ripple effect" of benefits that the school district will reap going into the future, from the centralized management to the impact on the buildings themselves. When laying out plans for a new school, the ability to eliminate the wiring closets, HVAC systems and various electronics, as well as being able to shrink the space the cabling needs, opens up enough space for another classroom, he said. The flexibility also is key. If a new teacher comes into a classroom, moving things around will mean just having to deal with a fiber optics cable rather than large amounts of bulky copper wire, Bernardino said. Students, administrators and faculty will have more network speed and capacity to do their work—"it allows us to be power users of the network," he said—and upgrades in the future will be less expensive and easier. Given all that, the choice on an optical LAN deployment was easy, he said. "Everything will be on the [fiber optics] system," Bernardino said. "That's the standard going forward."
The trend for optical LAN is up. Analysts at market research firm Dell'Oro Group expect revenues in the optical transport equipment market to hit $15 billion by 2018. While hyperscale and telecom environments may drive much of that, vendors are seeing some movement by enterprises and other organizations. In November 2013, the San Diego, Calif., Library System opened a new nine-story building that included an optical LAN infrastructure from Tellabs.