The beating heart of the network

The beating heart of the network

While they may seem like a largely functional element, we should all pay homage to the humble fibre transceiver, which performs a vital role in every network and should always be given proper consideration, says Luke Harley, Switching Market Development Manager EMEA.

Do you every get bored when you are listening to a presentation? I know that I do – and it can be especially difficult to concentrate when you are working at home and it is just you, sat there alone in your workspace, completely separated from your colleagues and other attendees whom, under other circumstances you would be sitting next to in the same room.

It’s easy to understand how you might start drifting onto another train of thought. This is only to be expected – especially if the subject is particularly dry. This is exactly what I anticipated would happen to me when I received an invitation to attend an internal technical briefing on some new products that are being added to the Zyxel switch range.

I visualised losing interest, becoming distracted and not really taking it all in. Why? Because the presentation was going to be about transceivers. Now, if you’re immediate response is: ‘What’s a transceiver?’, do please read the next couple of sentences. If you know what a transceiver is already, you can safely skip the next paragraph.

Keeping data on the move

A transceiver is the small connector used to plug a fibre cable into the back of a switch. You have to use the right transceiver for the distance between the switch and whatever device it is being connected to. This could be another switch, a server, or even an endpoint device, such as a wireless access point or a printer – any device that has an SFP (fibre) port.

A transceiver is not the most fascinating of products. There is not a lot to say about it really. They are simple devices. But they are necessary to connect two network devices together using fibre optic cables. They are thus, if not the lifeblood of the network, it’s heartbeat. Transceivers are what keeps data moving across the network, between servers and switches, gateways and endpoint devices.

For this particular workshop this was the line the presenter chose to take. As a result, instead of finding myself falling asleep, I found myself thinking about transceivers in a whole new light and wondering why I had not paid more attention to them before.

Making the right connection

The choice of transceiver you make is really important because, while the role they perform is simple, you do need the right product for the right connection. If you want to get optimal performance out of a multi-gigabit fibre cable that runs over several kilometres, for example, (some of our transceivers can support distances of as much as 10 kilometres) you will need to make sure you have exactly the right transceivers. Install the wrong ones and you won’t get anything like the optimum throughput, or that the connection simply will not function. At Zyxel we even introduced economical 10 packs for the bigger installations instead of having to buy and use the more expensive single packs.

I have to admit that I was surprised when I started to find this presentation on transceivers genuinely useful and interesting. Instead of drifting of, I was quite consumed and animated. Having started with a perception that they are just an essential but functional part of the network set up, I have now become a genuine advocate and evangelist for transceivers. In my view, every network designer, engineer, and administrator really should make the effort to understand just how vitally important they are to the smooth running and optimum performance of the network.

If you’d like to learn more, please contact your trusted Zyxel partner or nearest Zyxel office.