They say death and taxes are the only two certainties in life but I wonder if in the technology space we could come up with a couple of certainties as well. I would say the need for "bandwidth" and the pace of "change" are the two certainties we must contend with in tech. As bandwidth hungry IP communications becomes more prevalent companies need to focus on network capacity to ensure they can easily carry voice and video with excess capacity left over for other important network functions. Not every company is carrying voice and video on their networks today but it seems the trend is certainly going in that direction.
The challenge for IT departments of course is knowing what the applications of importance will be six months from now and perhaps as importantly six years from now. One answer to the dilemma is to buy the most expensive bandwidth solution you can find – or the most expensive fiber in the hope that the technology will have you covered for years to come. Of course with the continuous change in fiber technology taking place, who knows if today’s fiber deployment will be obsolete in a few years.
I had a chance to speak with Sumitomo Electric about a solution to the problem which is their FutureFLEX Air-blown Fiber Technology. The solution uses tubes and instead of laying dark fiber. This is a great solution as it does not require you to purchase the fiber before you need it. This allows you the ability to avoid purchasing obsolete technology and overspending. In addition you don’t need building permits or construction to lay new fiber. The solution uses empty tubes that are ready at any time to be filled with fiber, instead of laying dark fiber.
When you want to add more fiber you can blow out the old fiber and blow in new fiber at 150 feet per minute. This is done via distribution boxes which are located throughout a building. This allows you to preserve your fiber investment.
The company’s current customers include many household names such as CNN, ESPN, Mayo Clinic, DFW International Airport, Pentagon, Nissan, Johns Hopkins University, Homeland Security and Intel so it is surprising the air blown fiber market hasn’t received more publicity.
Recently I found out that University of Phoenix Stadium (Home of the Arizona Cardinals) became the First NFL facility to deploy Sumitomo’s FutureFLEX solution. The 1.7 million square foot facility includes wireless network access from every seat for fans, seamless voice, data and video for facilitating Cardinal team-member communications, and quick-response FutureFLEX-enabled network reconfigurations for the stadium’s concession vendors, event customers, and numerous broadcasters that demand quick network changes to meet their continuously changing requirements.
Mark Feller, technology director for the Cardinals said in an announcement, “The FutureFLEX infrastructure makes it possible for us to bring on new capacity in hours or days, rather than weeks or months. It resolves many IT issues by providing immediate scalability and quick and easy fiber installations (without construction crews disrupting operations or the facility) for a bandwidth-ready network backbone.” He continued, “The FutureFLEX system also eases the planning and budget process for not only expected network growth, but enables us also to meet quickly any unexpected network expansions, moves, adds, and changes required to accommodate future technology and new projects or events, such as the hosting of the Fiesta Bowl and 2008 Super Bowl XLII. Based upon these benefits, FutureFLEX is changing the way IT views the physical layer.”
Ballparks are looking to become more technologically advanced these days and Cisco is an integral part of the solution in Arizona. In addition, Cisco recently made it known they are working to build the most advanced stadium in the world for the Oakland A’s in Fremont, California. Cisco insiders tell me the company had excess real estate acquired during the bubble times and they felt their future expansion could be handled with real estate they have on hand. Subsequently Cisco seems to be potentially donating some or all of the land in exchange for marketing and other stadium rights.
But getting back to certainties in tech, "bandwidth " and "change" are what many IT managers have to contend with on a daily basis. With that in mind, Sumitomo Electric wants to be the equivalent of your doctor and accountant, enabling the rapid evolution of the physical layer of your network regardless of what your bandwidth needs will be or how technology changes.