Fiber Optics is the Future

Tech Talk Advisory: I saw this video and it got my inner tech geek all excited.

FDDI stands for Fiber Distributed Data Interface. FDDI uses optical fiber to distribute its data. Standard FDDI will run at 100Mb/s. FDDI is not regularly used because of how expensive it is, but offers many advantages that might make you think otherwise.

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The first and I think most important is the fact that a fiber optic cable can transmit data over 100 km, as opposed to the 100m from regular Ethernet. This allows many companies to set up long range WANs. Many of the other advantages are things like speed and fault-tolerance.

Why This Matters

That is just a brief overview of what FDDI is, what I really want to talk about is the future of fiber optics. I watched a mind-blowing video that informs you of the many things we have to look forward too for the future of data usage.

The video is a promotional video for a company that sells network infrastructure services to large companies. Many of their goals include having companies with energy efficient machines, endless amounts of space through cloud computing (which is yet another way to have disaster recovery with backups), and networks in general that will stand up to the exponential rise in computing needs. Anyway, the video gives you some figures that show you the depth of the data problem we will face without infrastructure changes.

The Numbers

The first mind-blowing figure is August, 2011–5 billion connected devices. Most predictions of that number in 2020 are between 50 billion and 1 trillion connected devices. As of now, in my house alone, there are at least 15 connected devices. That is just from mobile devices and computers.

In 7 years, I would expect that number to include devices like each one of my lights, the refrigerator, laundry machines, my air conditioning, my cars, and most likely tons of things I haven’t even thought of yet. So let’s say in 7 years, my number of household internet-connected devices are 10 times what I have now. That’s 150 devices. Imagine the amount of data transmitted daily from that list of devices.

To that point, I have another statistic to share. In 2010, total US mobile data transferred reached 1 exabyte. 1 exabyte is equal too 1 billion gigabytes. 2011, global digital data reached 1.2 zettabytes, 1 billion terabytes. Predictions say by 2020 it will be 35 zettabyte, yes 35 billion terabytes. We thought 120gig hard drives were amazing–1 terabyte even. Well not anymore.

Here’s an interesting info graphic that shows you some of the picture I’m trying to paint.

Are We Ready?

The reason I bring these numbers up is it should strike fear into your heart. How in the hell can we sustain that kind of traffic? I firmly believe that fiber optics is necessary to that. Technology in wireless networks will continue to rise, as well, and will definitely be a major part to this, but fiber optics is more important to the success of the internet in the future.

There have been many projects and studies on fiber optics that have broken record speeds. The most recent that I can find, the record speed came to around 109 terabytes/s. I should mention that they did that over a 100-mile connection. They accomplished this by bundling 7 fiber optic cores together in one wire, each core transmitting at 15.6 tereabytes/s.

The point is this will need to become a standard for large internet providers. If they are not able to transfer data at crazy speeds like this, we will, at some point, bottleneck the entire internet. There will just be so much data transfer that companies won’t be able to handle it. If you don’t know, there are a handful of main hubs around the world that mostly every packet transferred over the internet will go through. I may be completely wrong in saying this, but I’m pretty sure Google has a big part in that.

Google will have a huge hand in this infrastructure revamp, I think. Right now, they are working on Google Fiber. This is a new form of fiber optic internet service. Recently in Kansas City they have begun rolling it out and we’ve seen a few of the first speed tests.

The video below shows you how jaw-dropping awesome Google Fiber is.

You may be asking yourself, ‘that’s ridiculous, why would anyone need that kind of speed?’ And you’d be right, I can’t think of any residential need for that kind of speed… Yet! When I have 150 internet connected devices, it definitely will be necessary.

Now for all of this to make sense of why I’m posting this on a gaming site.

Another number that should have popped out for you was that 1ms ping. Right now I have Verizon Fios, and I get around 85mb/s download and 65mb/s upload with a ping of 50 (this speed puts me around 99% faster than most internet connections). That ping can be noticeable at times in online games… well, rarely noticeable. If that ping was a consistent 1ms, then this thing we call lag in games will be a non-issue.

I think I can safely say that gaming is a large portion of the massive amount of data transfer (I could not find the statistics to support this claim, I will update this post if I find any figures on this.). When I say gaming, I do include mobile games, Facebook games, and such.

If you add all of those numbers together, it is going to be a very substantial number. We gamers can have a huge impact on the future of internet infrastructure. We can demand insane speeds from our providers, and over time our money and demands will add up, and hopefully not be taken advantage of.

I hope that internet providers everywhere will get their stuff (you know what word I really wanted to use there) together soon and start implementing a sustainable infrastructure that will provide my future with endless gaming pleasure.


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