From the planet's largest machine to the latest quantum encryption, optical fibers play a key role in technology innovation as they enable phenomenally high data rates. Installed at the depths of the oceans, throughout cities, and in the most hostile environments on earth, optical fibers serve as the backbone for connecting global communications systems and delivering massive amounts of data every day.
For engineering teams designing, installing, and maintaining fiber optic networks and devices, ensuring they perform as intended requires a significant amount of testing pre-deployment which is typically performed in a lab setting. To accomplish this successfully, engineers must accurately simulate the intended field network in order to closely replicate the expected optical performance and latency characteristics.
Whether one is seeking to select the appropriate fiber type when architecting new network routes, certifying a device for a specific application, or training staff to maintain installed systems on an existing network, network simulation testing is critical. Skipping this important testing phase entirely or not performing it to a high degree could result in serious financial losses if the equipment does not meet the network requirements and needs to be changed or replaced, not to mention other challenges like lost customers due to inferior service delivery and more.
With that being said, let’s take a look at just a few best practices everyone can follow in 2022 that are proven to deliver both accurate results and added benefits when seeking to effectively simulate fiber network link and latency performance.
Best Practices for Simulating Fiber Networks and Latency in 2022
1. Use Actual Lengths of Optical fiber
The most accurate way to simulate the performance of fiber in the field network is to utilize those same fiber types and lengths in the test lab. By doing this, one can replicate the important optical performance characteristics and properties like attenuation/loss, chromatic dispersion, and other variables that must be accounted for in a network. Additionally, signal latency which is one of the most important performance factors in networks today is also precisely replicated in the test environment. (Technical Note: There are multiple factors related to optical fiber that affect signal latency in the field including temperature changes, but using the similar fiber lengths and types in the lab will still closely mimic the expected results)
It is a fact that optical fiber takes up physical space in the lab, however, there are now solutions available from companies like M2 Optics that provide extremely efficient setup approaches. For example, using a solution like the 6RU rack-mount Fiber Lab 3200R shown below which holds up to 340km per unit, an engineer can utilize over 2,300km to simulate a submarine fiber span in just a single 42RU rack.
2. Select a Customized Solution to Maximize Value
No two fiber-optic networks are the same, as they are comprised of different fiber types, varying lengths, connector types, and system configurations suited to specific applications. Since the major fiber manufacturers like Corning®, OFS®, and Prysmian® are focused on the mass production of fibers to meet global cabling demands, most fibers are manufactured to just a few standard lengths like 25.2km or 50.4km.
However, since a network will rarely if ever have those exact lengths, a custom solution is absolutely necessary when seeking to accurately simulate optical performance and latency for specific links. Utilizing a custom solution also ensures you are investing in exactly what is needed and will provide the intended results, rather than paying for extra hardware or adding unnecessary complexity.
The physical lab environment is also a consideration when acquiring optical fiber spools, since some labs may have greater space constraints than others. Also, one lab may prefer to utilize rack chassis while another requires portable spool solutions. An experienced manufacturer of these types of spool solutions should be able to offer a wide array of customized solution setup configurations to suit a variety of needs.
In summary, investing in a customized solution is proven to not only provide the best test results but maximize the value of your optical fiber over the long term.
3. Protect and Organize Fiber to Improve Use and Efficiency
As stated by many engineers over the years, bare optical fiber can be a pain to work with, but it does not have to be. Optical fiber is delicate and prone to breaks and damage when using it or handling it, but by investing in a protective fiber spool enclosure solution, these risks are greatly mitigated or in most cases totally eliminated, saving time and money.
Shown (Image 1): Damaged fiber from a broken shipping clamshell
Shown (Image 2): Protected fiber in a portable Fiber Lab enclosure
The spool enclosures associated with quality network and latency simulators not only protect the fiber but clearly identify the fiber types and lengths while managing the fiber in a more efficient and professional-looking format. Not having to sort through unsecured fiber spools, check spool labels, or be overly concerned about breaking the fiber results in easier use and fiber management by individuals. For the larger test labs that require many spools or are using test automation systems, investing in a network simulation solution setup is absolutely critical as the fiber must be organized efficiently for connectivity purposes.
4. Clean Connectors / Connections Frequently
Whether in a lab or in the field, it is of utmost importance to always follow connector cleaning best practices and it is no different when using optical fibers for network and latency simulation testing. Dirty connectors lead to poor performance results, so one should regularly be cleaning both the connection ports on the network simulator solutions as well as the connectors on the cables being plugged into the spools.
Improve Fiber Network and Latency Simulation Testing - Design a Fiber Lab
If you require custom lengths of optical fiber for accurately simulating network link performance and latency, Fiber Lab solutions from M2 Optics are trusted by leading communications engineering teams around the world for enhancing testing capabilities and providing the most consistent performance results.
Offering the largest selection of efficient portable and rack enclosure styles, all standard and specialty fiber types are available from leading manufacturers and delivered in precise, user-specified lengths to match your testing needs.
To learn more or design a solution 100% customized to your needs, view the Fiber Lab portfolio of solutions or contact M2 Optics today.