Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Advancements in Pushable Fiber & Fiber Management Drive Down Data Center Costs

The strain of adding data center capacity has extended the focus beyond redundancy of servers and switches to the physical media – the highway used to transport it all around. Two advances are reducing the cost of deploying fiber: high density fiber management and pushable fiber, writes Cheri Beranek of Clearfield.

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Cheri Beranek is president and CEO of Clearfield, Inc. Follow her blog at




Effective data-center design is crucial to the long-term viability of cost-effective broadband management. The strain of adding data center capacity has extended the focus beyond redundancy of servers and switches to the physical media – the highway used to transport it all around. Two advances are reducing the cost of deploying fiber: high-density fiber management and pushable fiber.

High Density Fiber Management

With the explosion of data services at the business level resulting in a need for sophisticated fiber management solutions, network operators are tasked at implementing cost effective solutions with zero down time and optimum performance. Simply providing a dedicated T1 line is no longer enough. Businesses demand network reliability to perform daily operations requiring the standard of quality for fiber management and termination to be raised.

Fiber management design has long promoted the need for density. We push to increase the number of ports per rack-unit space while balancing the need for fiber access. Regardless of whether you own, rent or choose to co-locate, real estate is a real cost of doing business.

To create a cost metric for the savings of space that fiber management can provide, let’s use the cost per square foot to rent space in a co-location environment (a cage) from a third party. A traditional frame, requires 5 square feet of space ( a 24x30” footprint) and houses 1,728 ports. The cost per port per year, using a $30/square foot/month metric, comes to $1.04. But a high density frame increases the number of ports to 2,016 and reduces the square foot requirements to 4.5 feet (18x36”). The result is that the cost per port/per year of a fully loaded frame drops to .80.

Pushable Fiber

Not only is real estate expensive, but new infrastructure (including the labor to install it) is also very costly. Without question, bringing new fiber into a data center can be a cost prohibitive dilemma. To make matters worse, too often, existing conduit is considered “exhausted” when it simply cannot support more fiber. However, with the use of high tension and crush-resistant microduct coupled with pushable fiber, data center managers are bringing fiber through an existing installed duct without the creation of additional infrastructure.

Due to its small size and high column strength, microducts can be deployed as a rod directly within a larger occupied duct that was previously thought exhausted. The lack of space and the costs associated with constructing new pathways through the riser space can be just as prohibitive as digging up city streets.

Coupled with the polymer chemistry of the pushable optical fiber cable, delivery paths can be quickly established. Pushable fiber is just what it sounds like – fiber that can be pushed. One to 12 250um fibers can be placed in a 3-millimeter jacket. The jacket is constructed of an extremely durable, flexible, crush proof material that is manufactured to prevent any bend radius violations, thereby protecting the fibers inside. This pushable fiber is then placed and “pushed,” most often by hand, through 10-mm "ruggedized" microduct that has been previously placed. Both the ruggedized microduct and pushable fiber materials are rugged and will not fold, kink or crush.

A recent installation provides a great example. There was a one-and-one-quarter-inch innerduct installed within the building. The challenge was that the one-inch conduit already had four Cat5 cables and a 25 pair telco cable in it. Additionally, there were a total of 22, 90-degree sweeps in the route. Two 10-mm microducts from the rooftop hut to the equipment room were installed. After installing the microducts, the fiber was pulled from the rooftop to the equipment room in one pull through 22, 90-degree bends.The time and money savings of being able to utilize an existing duct are significant.

It’s Just Plumbing

While much has been written about the information highway, too little time and energy has been focused on the infrastructure that makes it work. Laying fiber and protecting it is an investment in the lifeblood of your network – rather than focus simply on reducing the cost of your capital equipment, place some attention on the plumbing – while it’s not sexy, it will reap significant rewards.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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