Today, it is more important than ever that networks can scale up easily, with regards to footprint as well as number of users. There are many reasons you may need to scale up networks. You might need to accommodate a large number of new devices to support IoT or edge computing applications. Or business might be booming and you might need to introduce a large number of new employees – and if this is required for a temporary project, you will need to scale down again.
Scalability could be described as the ability to handle increased workloads by repeatedly applying a cost-effective strategy for extending a system’s capacity. Scalability refers to how well a hardware or software system can adapt to increased demands. For example, a scalable network system would be one that can start with just a few nodes but can easily expand to thousands of nodes.
Scaling up a LAN, for example, is a lot more complex than simply adding new devices to the network. There are factors to consider related to compatibility, interoperability, management, security and maintaining bandwidth and latency. When adding a large number of ports, to accommodate more devices, or cover a larger area, any delay between server and end user, caused by the network’s reserves being stretched, can result in system-wide delays, or even unavailability.
When nodes or resources are moved further apart, a node or resource might freeze up while it awaits a response from another, thus hogging system resources. It is also important to remember that although a Wireless Access Point may be theoretically capable of supporting a vast number of devices, the average bandwidth per user drops with each new device. If a very large number of devices are connected, available bandwidth can become so diluted that it becomes unusable.
Ideally, you will not want to mix different devices, standards, protocols and so on, as even the smallest incompatibility may introduce issues related to management, operation and security. Of course, in business-critical or medical environments, this is to be avoided at all costs. In an environment offering, for example, patient care, reliability and redundancy levels can never be high enough.
An ideal solution would offer maximum flexibility for expansion and a long useful life, though multiple technology upgrades. However, simply adding ports every time you need to scale up presents challenges related to cost, downtime and network management.
Investment costs and networking needs should be balanced in a pay as you grow model, allowing you to avoid making enormous and costly expansions and ending up with underutilised capacity.
One approach to making LAN scalability in critical environments easy is following a Fibre To the Office, FTTO solution. This provides Gigabit Ethernet to end user devices by combining passive fibre cabling and active switches. Floor distributors are not required and distances of over 100 metres can be covered seamlessly.
FTTO offers high bandwidth reserves and availability of a single fibre bundle with up to 144 connections ensures readiness for future growth. Short link lengths, 3-5M, between switch and end devices, and the absence of cable bundles, reduce power and heating losses. FTTO grows with user needs and may easily be adjusted to new technologies and applications, combining fibre’s long operational life expectancy with copper’s practical, cost-effective aspects.
By Arafat Yousef, Managing Director Middle East and Africa, Nexans Cabling Solutions.