Steve Gossage looks at fiber optics in a cable box that replaced heavier and bulkier copper cable for high speed communications throughout much of the labs

The stuff of world's largest fiber optic LAN: Sandia's network by the numbers

Whenever someone asks where the largest fiber-optic LAN in the world is, from now on, the correct answer is Albuquerque, NM. That may seem strange, but not considering that the network is on the campus of Sandia National Laboratories.

The Lab’s optical network offers 10 gigabit/sec speeds,  with the possibility of going as fast as 100 gigabits in the near future, the lab said in a release. And for the first time, being relieved of the 100-meter cable limit of copper means that even remote areas of the sprawling campus, such as the National Solar Thermal Test Facility, which sits in a far corner of Kirtland Air Force Base, is now wired to be part of the network.

Space also is saved as the thin fiber cable gives everyone at Sandia access to LAN, phone, data and video services. Most of the bulky infrastructure and overhead racks required to serve a copper network have been eliminated. 

Sandia manager Jeremy Banks in a statement put it this way: Where a conventional LAN serving 900 customers requires a space the size of three double ovens, an optical network serving 8,000 requires only a microwave oven-sized space.

Where copper cable required Sandia to maintain and manage 600 separate switches in the field, the new optical LAN allows technicians to operate a data center inside a single building with simple, standard ports going out to all offices. The network supports the high-speed throughput needed for the lab’s work, and calculations for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

What goes in to building the world’s largest fiber optic LAN? Here’s a look at the numbers.


Year the first building at Sandia went fully fiber optic.


The number of buildings now wired into the high-speed network.


Number of fiber network ports online at Sandia today.


Percentage of copper network that has been replaced campus-wide so far.


Dollars the used copper wires were worth when recycled.

15 million

Dollars the project cost all together.


Percentage of energy savings Sandia expects to achieve once the network is fully running.

20 million

Dollars the lab expects to save over the next five years due to the upgraded network.


Gigabits per second, the speed the new network is offering today.


Gigabits per second, the speed project leaders think they can achieve in the near future.


Days in 2011 that the core team spent working on the network project.


Years that Sandia expects the fiber optic network to serve the lab before it needs to be upgraded to something else.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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