Bandwidth needs top list of enterprise optics drivers

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A recent survey of Lightwave readers suggests that overall bandwidth demand, rather than emerging applications such as storage area networking, will provide the strongest impetus for increased use of optical technologies in enterprise networks. Readers also indicate that reliability and performance slightly outweigh cost when evaluating optical communications.

As reported last month, Lightwave invited 5,000 randomly selected readers to participate in an Internet-based survey last December. Government/military and manufacturing are the two most frequently cited applications among enterprise respondents, with utilities and computer/communications firms tied for third.Th 147468

While price decreases and an emerging interest in SANs help, general increases in bandwidth demand will provide the strongest impetus for new optical infrastructure today and in the future.

The respondents indicate that they expect their use of fiber to grow across the application spectrum. Corporate backbones currently represent the widest use of optical technology; 63% of our reader respondents report that their companies have installed fiber for such applications. Additionally, 59% use fiber across campuses, 48% in the department/work group, 37% for dedicated SANs, and 26% to the desktop. Two years from now, however, our readers say their department/work group, SAN, and desktop use will grow (to 63%, 44%, and 41%, respectively). Campus use is expected to hold steady at 59%, while corporate backbone use will decline slightly to 56%, probably because deployment will already have been completed in many cases.

While SAN applications will benefit from an increase in optical technology and has received significant attention in the market, our readers indicate that an overall increase in bandwidth requirements is a stronger driver for optical investments. Two-thirds (nearly 67%) of respondents identify bandwidth growth as a current reason for increasing optical infrastructure, as opposed to one-third (33%) who say a move to optical SANs would drive their purchases today. Two years from now, the need for bandwidth will drive purchases for 74% of respondents, with SAN requirements dropping to 30%.

An expectation of increasing bandwidth demand also appears when we asked about technology choices. For example, 52% of respondents say they run Ethernet technology on their networks today; Fast Ethernet appears in 44% of networks and Gigabit Ethernet in just over 59%. Two years from now, however, the respondents estimate that Gigabit Ethernet use will grow to just over 70%, Fast Ethernet will trend up slightly to 52%, and 10-Mbit/sec Ethernet applications will fall to 22%. Interestingly, IP traffic is expected to fall from 68% now to about 41% two years from now, reflecting a trend toward Ethernet as the transport protocol of choice.

Finally, survey respondents were asked to rate the influence of price, performance, reliability, and recommendation from a value-added reseller, integrator, or consultant on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most important. Reliability receives the highest rating, with an average of 4.48; performance follows at 4.15. Price earns an average rating of 3.48, and recommendations from outside sources rate only 2.11.

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