Practicing Good Fiber Hygiene

There is something lurking about in today’s data centers that is not mentioned in polite company and quite frankly, is ignored. Although it will not go away, one hopes that it will not rise up and wreak havoc, bringing the enterprise to a halt.

That’s right . . . bad fiber hygiene!


Although everyone in the industry knows that one should keep their fiber optic connectors clean, most of us fell into bad habits. When our data centers were smaller and the LAN and SAN data rates were relatively slow (relatively), there was enough margin in the optic link that mildly soiled connectors did not impact the network performance. Make a move here, make a change there, re-patch at the cross connect, there was little, if no impact on the network performance. Over time, we became complacent. But in the back of our minds, we knew…

LAN and SAN speeds have increased to 10G, 16G, and beyond. Our data centers have grown in size to accommodate the growing amounts of data, applications, users, and new business models. What this does is use up whatever available link margin there may have been. It means that there is no room for error and the connectors in the link must be clean to make sure they meet their original Insertion Loss (IL) specs.

As an example, a customer started a project to migrate some of their SAN from 8G Fibre Channel (FC) to 16G FC. They started migrating some of the links and when they tried to bring them up, most came to life, but there were some with throughput issues and a few that would not connect. They gave us a call to see if we could help them solve the problem, so our local applications engineer went out to visit them.

The applications engineer started looking at the troublesome links and found that they had higher than expected link loss. In fact, one of the links had a pair of mated connectors with about 3.0db IL. Half of the power was being consumed, or blocked, by that high IL connector! The applications engineer then inspected the other problematic links and discovered that all of them suffered from some amount of poor fiber hygiene.

There is a lot of discussion within the industry about the issues involved with migrating to higher speed LANs and SANs. When making your plans to move to higher networking speeds, don’t overlook including proper fiber hygiene into your migration plans.

If you need more information regarding the importance of proper fiber hygiene, please click here. You will find an article from Processor Magazine, Troubleshoot Cabling Issues, where Panduit’s Doug Swalec addresses fiber connectivity and other trouble shooting issues.

Times have changed…it’s OK to talk about it.

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