The cabling industry’s top stories of 2014

Dec. 23, 2014
From standards to non-acquisitions and the return of a familiar name to the cabling industry, here are our most-read stories of the year.

Like just about every other website you visit, we have determined the top stories of the year. Or, better said, you have determined for us the year’s top stories—because the list and links on this page incorporate the stories and articles that were most viewed on our site in 2014. We have collected and grouped them here according to whatever themes or trends emerged from our number crunching (e.g., Category 8 must be popular because it’s not even a completed standard yet and stories about it are at the top of the list).

Without further embellishment or over-analysis, here are this website’s most-popular stories of the year.

Category 8 – Several stories reporting on Category 8 technology and the progress of the standardization effort were at the top of our most-viewed list. Leading off is an article that actually was published last year, yet continued to attract readers throughout 2014. Contributed by OCC, the article titled “How Cat 8 cable will economically solve data centers’ need for high bandwidth” provides a nuts-and-bolts description of what Category 8 eventually will be.

Nearly a year-and-a-half after authoring that article, OCC announced the availability of a Category 8 field-terminable plug.

After studying the U.S. structured cabling market, and Category 8 in particular, for just a brief time, IHS research analyst Sarah McElroy commented, “Never have I encountered a topic where I have heard such opposite viewpoints expressed.” Welcome to the cabling industry, Sarah. In response to the wildly fluctuating “technopinions” being offered to the industry, she authored this piece, titled “Separating Category 8 fact from fiction” in March. Later in the year, at BICSI’s Fall Conference, Sarah McElroy moderated a panel of technical experts on the topic of Category 8.

Through its periodical document Standards Advisor, CommScope in September provided an update on the Category 8 standardization efforts. We summarized it this way: Milestones reached, work remains.

The Perilous Life of a Cable Installer – Two stories we published close-in-time to each other proved popular, even if they were harsh reminders of the interpersonal dangers and hassles that cable installers and technicians face on a daily basis. In July we told you about this Comcast technician who found himself staring down the barrel of a handgun because the residential customer took issue with the service-call fee. Shortly after we became aware of that story, a slightly more lighthearted view of cable-installer life emerged. When we became aware of Consumerist’s column “25 reasons why cable technicians hate you,” we had to share it.

Sale/No Sale – For a brief time in the winter, it appeared as if distributor Anixter might be up for sale. The company never commented on the widely spread rumor, but those who were spreading the word soon said, “Never mind. Nothing to see here anymore.”

Once and future king? –The return of AT&T to the enterprise cabling business was a wildly popular story for about a week in the late August/early September timeframe. After initially reporting on the return, we learned that the company’s product lines are not available to the U.S. market.

Standards fare – The development of standards is always a popular topic in general. Many times we’ve made the assertion that standards are the bedrock upon which physical-layer infrastructure systems are designed, built, and managed. It’s not surprising then that a couple stories specifically detailing standards efforts emerged among the year’s most popular. In July, a consortium introduced 25G and 50G Ethernet standards, outside the auspices of the IEEE. This consortium’s bold move prompted the IEEE to take up 25G and 50G efforts officially; those standards are currently under development.

In March we told you about the TIA’s decision to remove the word “Tier” from its 942 Data Center standard series, and to re-issue the standards. The decision by TIA ended a long-standing philosophical disagreement between the TIA and the Uptime Institute—the organization that originally developed the “Tier” nomenclature as it relates to data center capability and redundancy.

Passive Optical LANs – A feature article published in the February 2014 issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine, titled “Optical LANs: What contractors need to know,” became one of the year’s most-clicked on our website. Authored by FOA founder/president Jim Hayes, the article discusses optical LANs including the type most frequently referred to as POL—passive optical LAN. The article includes the case-study description of the POL installation at the San Diego Central Library.

The case for installing the best available – The IEEE’s current efforts to define 2.5GBase-T and 5GBase-T to run over existing Category 5e and Category 6 cabling respectively, remind us that there is merit to the mantra of opting for the best-available cabling at the time of an installation. The Category 5e cabling upon which the proposed 2.5GBase-T will operate could have been installed as many as 15 or 18 years ago, at a time when Gigabit Ethernet was the highest practical data rate. The fact that this many years later, that same infrastructure may be sufficient to support 2.5 or even 5 Gbits/sec is testament to A) the engineering behind the cabling components, B) the care with which it was installed and maintained, and C) the end-user organization’s investment in 5e over Category 5 or Category 3 cabling continues to pay off.

In that vein, the final two stories among this year’s most-popular examine what could/should, or couldn’t/shouldn’t, be chosen for a 2014 or 2015 new-cabling installation. In June, CommScope provided a list of 10 reasons to use Category 6A cabling in enterprise-network installations—providing rationale why it’s time for 6A to be used as more than strictly a data-center infrastructure. And more recently, we showed you a video clip from Ideal Industries describing and showing the benefits of installing Category 6 rather than Category 5e.

Thanks to each of you for visiting our website in 2014. It has been and remains our privilege to provide information related to your jobs as professionals in the cabling industry. We look forward to continuing to be a useful resource to you in 2015.

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