Fat Data Pipes
for Fast Data Transfers
If your business data transfers
are pinched by low bandwidth connections, you need fatter pipes
for your WAN transmissions.
By: John Shepler
As the resolution of data increases, WAN bandwidth
can quickly become a choke point. Think of what happens when
you get a kink in your garden hose. The data is the water and
the pressure is the bandwidth demand. Any kink causes flow to
decrease to a trickle, while the pressure or demand remains.
A data link is like a water pipe in this way. Even when the kinks
are removed through diligent network engineering, you can only
move so much data though the pipe. If you want to move data more
quickly, you need a fatter pipe.
Who Needs Beefy Conduits?
Fat data pipes are becoming a necessity as electronic business
data increases in quantity and resolution. An example of resolution
is medical imaging files. They can easily be many Megabits, even
Gigabits, per image. Try transmitting those through a 64 Kbps
ISDN BRI channel and you'll feel like you're trying to fill a
swimming pool with a kinked garden hose. Engineering firms are
also switching from sending large drawings through the mail to
transmitting them electronically to branch offices or customer
locations. FAX transmissions need only small pipes, like telephone
lines. Detailed blueprints and 3-D models that can be printed
or modified remotely need fat pipes to transmit them in any reasonable
Video post production is another field
where the medium has gone from film to video tape to digital
data on disk. Sure, you can load the production onto video disks,
hard disks, or magnetic tape and physically transport them from
location to location. But that burns precious time. If you are
on a tight production schedule or need to support live programming,
a courier service isn't going to cut it. You need to be able
to press the send button and have the file transfer in seconds
or minutes to another location.
How Fat are Those Fatter Pipes?
So what is a fat data pipe in the telecommunications vernacular?
Serious bandwidth starts at the T1 level with 1.5 Mbps bidirectionally.
A T1 line will send files of a few Megabytes in seconds. Often
this is fine for text based contracts and specifications, low
to medium resolution photographs, smaller CAD files general accounting
and inventory updates, and many real-time IP security cameras.
If you want to transmit more files in the same time, transmit
larger files without having to wait hours or longer, or speed
up the transfer of what you are doing now, you'll need a fatter
You can fatten a T1 pipe by bonding in
more T1 lines. Bond a second line and you double your bandwidth
from 1.5 to 3 Mbps. Bonding works up to 10 or 12 Mbps in many
locations before it gets more expensive than moving up to a single
The next fatter pipe is the T3 line at
45 Mbps. That's a substantial jump of 28x the capacity of a T1
line (the bandwidths mentioned are rounded figures). T3 lines
are often used for real time video transport, high resolution
images, large engineering files, and data backups to remote data
centers. You can get this same bandwidth on a fiber optic carrier,
where it is called DS3 service. In fact, DS3 over SONET fiber
is more commonly found now than coaxial T3 lines.
Optical Carriers for Really Phat Fat
If your facilities are wired for fiber, there is practically
no limit to the available bandwidth. It's primarily a matter
of budget, as fiberoptic services start in the thousands of
dollars per month and go up from there. But, when time is of
the essence or team collaboration can multiply efficiency, even
massively fat pipes may well justify their cost. With fiber optic
services, you can get OC3 at 155 Mbps, OC12 at 622 Mbps, or OC48
at 2.5 Gbps. In many metropolitan areas you can also find native
Ethernet services at 10 Mbps, Fast Ethernet at 100 Mbps and GigE
at 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps. At these line speeds, the WAN bottleneck
can disappear as the speed of the entire network becomes equal.
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