With 2016 almost completely in the rearview mirror, I look at the reflection and it occurs to me that, as years go, this has been a pretty active one in the realm of technological, business, and standards developments having to do with cable. Here are the highlights in my mind.
Twisted-pair cable has become a building system. I'm talking mostly about the cabling's ability to deliver direct current power. Sure, it has been doing so for more than a decade. But 2016 has been the year in which this capability took on critical importance. With Type 3 and Type 4 powering soon to be finalized via the IEEE's 802.3bt spec, combined with other standardized and some proprietary powering technologies, twisted-pair cabling can do a lot more for building owners and tenants.
We may have been jolted out of our seats. To quote somebody (maybe Voltaire, maybe SpiderMan's Uncle Ben, I really don't know), with great power comes great responsibility. The ability to send more and more wattage over twisted-pair cabling brought with it significant scrutiny over what happens to the cable, in the way of heat rise, under numerous conditions. Table 725.144 in the 2017 National Electrical Code has become the embodiment of this scrutiny. And now to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill, I don't think 725.144 is the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning, of how cabling professionals implement remote-powering systems using twisted-pair cabling.
Fiber-optic cabling had an interesting year too. Om5, wideband multimode fiber (WBMMF), achieved standardization in 2016. This technology can change the game, if users want it to. As I mention elsewhere in this issue, even though the IEEE chose not to include a WBMMF/short-wave WDM option for 100G in the 802.3cd effort, we're likely to see the market develop an end-to-end 100G system on duplex WBMMF. I, for one, am eager to see how it all unfolds.
And singlemode. We'll cover this in greater depth in future issues, but long-wavelength optical systems supported by singlemode fiber have been deployed more frequently in "enterprise-class" data centers. For years a generally accepted truth was that long-wave/singlemode systems were the stuff of hyperscale and cloud data centers, while short-wave/multimode dominated elsewhere. That truth is not entirely true anymore. We'll dig deeper into this in 2017.
Will 2016 go down as the year that cable changed forever? It may very well go down as the year that forever changed how we specify, buy, install and use it.