Fiber Optic Cabinets, Cables, Pedestals and Terminals

While Moore’s Law is as much a cliché and marketing tool as an actual rule, one thing is certain over the decades: electronics and photonics continue to shrink in size and gain in capabilities. The continued evolution of both have fundamentally shifted and disrupted our innate understanding of the telecommunication network and the data center in ways we have yet to fully understand.

If we turn the clock back to the mid-1990s, the first commercialized 40 Gig DWDM circuit built by Ciena took up one full rack of equipment in a central office. Getting to 400 Gbps took 10 racks of gear and finding space in a crowded building built around proprietary switches that generated lots of heat and sucked down plenty of power.

Last year, Ciena rolled out a 400 Gig transceiver that fits in the palm of your hand that slides into a 1U or 2U rack unit and provides the resources to aggregate up to 10 terabits in the same space. This and corresponding power-and-space shrinking with the increase in performance has led phone companies to convert COs into surplus real estate, like one tower in downtown New York that converted into condos.

The reduction in power and space along with the use of off-the-shelf servers for telecom means that anyone can run a network in a small footprint and at much lower costs than before. A data center becomes the data closet while the telecom switch turns into the telecom server, taking up just a portion of that rack. Anyone that can find space for a rack can now run a broadband service provider with minimal overhead, be it a large enterprise, a rural electric co-op in middle America, or a one-stoplight municipality overlooked for upgrades by its incumbent provider.

With such power and speed available in smaller packaging, it is now possible and practical to put more computing power out at the edge of the network to decrease latency and provide distributed resources for resilience and new opportunities. Today, Alexa goes back to an AWS data center for voice recognition and processing, but tomorrow she may live the foot of a cell tower or hosted in the basement server closet for quicker response time, with her virtual neighbors including image processing, facial recognition, and increased network security, just to rattle off a few examples.

It's difficult to overstate the impact and speed at which electronics and photonics are continuing to evolve, but the next couple of decades will continue to surprise and delight us with new opportunities at affordable prices.

Kevin leads the marketing efforts for Clearfield as Chief Marketing Officer. He joined the fiber company in 2016, leveraging his extensive experience in advanced communications technology, fiber optic systems, and business product marketing. Prior to joining Clearfield, he spent two decades serving in various senior marketing positions at ADTRAN. Before that, he spent a decade at telephone operating company BellSouth, now a part of AT&T, where he worked as the lead broadband product evaluations resource in the Science & Technology department.

Morgan is currently the Fiber Broadband Association Chair of the Board of Directors. Morgan has also served in various leadership positions at the Fiber Broadband Association, including Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for 2021. Morgan holds an Electrical Engineering degree from Auburn University and an MBA from the University of Alabama.