Enhancing a network with Passives can be as easy as child’s play

Most of us spent a part of our childhood buried deep in the imaginary world that is made up of Legos. Small, compact and versatile, these tiny plastic blocks literally begged to be connected to one another in ways that could only be conceived in our own minds. Over time, a greater variety of Lego® shapes emerged, further expanding the creativity of young builders who would then blend the original blocks with these newer versions to create even more unique designs. One need only browse blogs such as www.brickd.com to see how imaginations have expanded using these colorful building blocks.

The key to Legos is that any part can mesh with any other part due to an “interference fit,” in other words a firm, friction-based connection, between the two parts. Similarly, an important consideration when building out a fiber network to provide new services is how well any added equipment will mesh with existing infrastructure. This is true not only of the fiber and optical components, but also of any of the supportive structure that must interact with them such as splice trays, housings, closures, etc. The most successful deployments are often those that effectively “bridge the gap” between old and new technologies.

As bandwidth demand drives network growth and advancements, key to being able to exploit already-deployed fiber assets is the assurance that new passives and other peripherals can readily fit into the network as it is currently configured. Backward compatibility allows newer technologies to advance without superseding current network elements. Properly designed fiber products take into consideration factors such as existing hardware, industry standards, network company operations, space availability and much more. Due to these myriad challenges, product manufacturers may often suggest replacement of existing equipment with a whole new “system” of passives, housings and other peripherals, sometimes indicating that such an approach will “prepare a service provider for the future.” In my role as the leader of of Product Development, I view it as my responsibility to assure that we create new products that address backward compatibility with a provider’s current hardware and network architecture.

Our idea of a more prudent approach, however, is to design products that can successfully move a network provider and its end-users into the future, while taking advantage of already-deployed assets. New components that work within these already defined network boundaries provide the simplest and lowest cost approach to providing new service revenues.

This design philosophy is evident in ASB’s approach to passive optical components and how they integrate into existing and new networks. By way of example, what if a service provider is looking to relieve at-capacity fibers using xWDM technology? Placement of the WDM components in outside plant splice closures must be considered. In many cases, closures may have also reached capacity through a lack of cable ports or splice tray availability. Many vendor solutions would require an additional closure to handle the new passive device.

Consider instead combining a compact modularly-designed passive, an accompanying splice tray built to fit in an unused portion of the closure, and an adapter that allows the tray to mimic the other trays already deployed in the splice closure. In this way the time and expense of a second closure can be avoided. Such an approach:

  • Maintains the current network infrastructure model
  • Leads to greater customer satisfaction
  • Accelerates the revenue model
  • Minimizes construction and deployment costs

Essentially, careful design of new components to fit into current infrastructure elements increases the scalability of the network. Contrast this with the costs of beginning the transformation to a network design that requires new passives, new closures, new housings, etc. Such a comparison should make it readily clear that network components specifically designed to fit into current ecosystems are the wiser decision.

Although we didn’t it realize it while playing with those colorful blocks back in our childhood, we were setting the stage for the design of some of the most versatile and advanced optical passives currently available.

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