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Choosing the right optical time domain reflectometer for your datacenter

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Network professionals need a more accurate and faster methodology to assess the integrity of the infrastructure and ensure the reliability of the fibre in datacentres.

Chris Taylor, Regional Sales Director - Asia Pacific - HATA Region, Fluke Networks explains that datacentre technology is advancing at a tremendous pace to meet the challenges of reliable delivery of critical applications for enterprises. 

Observing that the integrity of the datacentre infrastructure relied upon the strength of the fibre network, he commented that datacentres are getting bigger and faster, and their architecture becoming increasingly complex, especially at the physical layer. The high-speed traffic exchange among servers, storage and networking devices consumes an ever-larger amount of fibre. 

However, this can also pose a challenge to network professionals in maintaining high availability using the diagnostic tools currently available. A new class of Optical Time Domain Reflectometers (OTDR), capable of characterising and certifying enterprise fibre has now emerged to address this issue. 

According to Taylor, choosing the right device not only solves this new generation of datacentre testing requirements but also helps professionals work efficiently and increase the reliability and value of the enterprise fibre network. 

Key criteria for choosing a datacentre OTDR 

A simplified and task-focused user interface 

Populating a datacentre with thousands of tested fibres is an enormously time-consuming job. Most OTDRs on the market today have very complicated user interfaces, which require the user to grapple with numerous buttons and controls, and navigate cumbersome multi-level menus – a situation not suitable for enterprise network technicians. An OTDR designed around the enterprise workflow, with an intuitive user interface greatly improves operating efficiency. Simple-to-use test equipment shortens the learning curve, reduces testing time and ultimately saves money.

Precision fibre channel information 

With the increasing use of short patch fibres and multi-fibre connectors, details on every link including loss, connector and reflectance are critical to ensuring performance. OTDRs with an attenuation dead zone of more than three metres are no longer applicable for testing datacentre fibre. Ultra-short dead zones are needed to find issues that jeopardise the link-loss budget or cause serious signal degradation. Fast problem resolution also requires that faults and events be presented in a simple, graphical map so users at various skill levels can efficiently perform fibre troubleshooting and accelerate network recovery. 

Effective planning and documentation 

Given the continuously evolving nature of datacentres, enterprise network technicians may find it challenging to coordinate projects and ensure all fibres are installed with certified quality. It is important to select a project management software application integrated with an OTDR. Integrated project management capabilities with cable-by-cable granularity can save time and planning effort. An OTDR with built-in project management capability lets enterprise network technicians plan day-to-day activities without a PC or laptop, using a single tool to control, monitor, consolidate and document all test results.

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