Data Center

Designing for Fiber TAPs in the Data Center – What You Need to Know

Designing for Fiber TAPs in the Data Center – What You Need to Know

9 July 2018 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

Understanding TAP Modules 

There’s a growing need for real-time network traffic monitoring and evaluation in today’s data centres. Today, administrators require better visibility over their networks in order to optimize the performance of mission-critical applications and keep networks secure.

Installing a traffic access point (TAP) is a straightforward way to achieve the real-time network monitoring and visibility needed. Integrated into the fiber cabling infrastructure at the physical layer (layer 1) and above, TAP modules enable real-time monitoring without interrupting network services.

The TAP module is a compact package of fiber-optic couplers or splitters that passively diverts a fixed percentage of light energy away from main transport channels to monitor the traffic status without disrupting main channel traffic. The optical couplers inside a TAP module split the light energy from the input port into two output ports according to a designed split percentage, usually diverting from 10-50% to the TAP, as the image below shows (this example shows a 70/30 split).

TAPS are one of the most efficient ways to monitor traffic and network link quality in data center networks because they continuously pass all traffic running between the endpoint network devices with zero latency – while duplicating that exact same traffic to the monitor ports simultaneously. TAP modules can help managers understand how applications perform and ensure that they meet a required standard, while also being used to meet compliance or legal requirements for a business to deploy tools to secure the data center network. 

Mitigate Insertion Loss with TAP Solution Design

By diverting network traffic for monitoring, a TAPS solution can introduce additional insertion loss into the network, which itself needs to be mitigated.

Although industry standards to Ethernet and Fibre Channel are not specifically designed to support the added loss of TAPs; pre-engineering and the use of high-performance cabling systems can enable us to deploy TAPs while still retaining useful channel topologies.

Indeed, the evolution of higher speed applications includes reduced loss budgets which highlights the need for low-loss components and engineering guidelines. For example, with a 16GFC & 40 G Ethernet Application the loss budget is 1.9 dB, which falls to 1.5 dB for a 100G Ethernet Application.

When designing a TAP solution for a particular application, key considerations include:

  • Loss created by the TAP splitter
  • Length and number of connections within the main and two monitor channels
  • The intended application (such as 10G Ethernet or 8G Fibre Channel)
  • Monitoring equipment capability

While beneficial for real-time network monitoring, using TAPs in high-speed fiber links can be complicated, particularly in a do-it-yourself retrofit application. Rather than relying on trial and error, today’s best practice is to design an engineered solution in the data center. Including TAPs in data center design from the outset enables the addition of monitoring capability when it is needed in the future, and proves the operational links to be reliable from day one.

You can learn more about data center solutions, technologies, and architectures to best optimise networks here.

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