Editor's Picks

Feb. 1, 2011

COMPILED BY PATRICK McLAUGHLIN

JDSU unveils 40G copper-cable certifier
JDSU has introduced a new cable certifier, the JDSU Certifier40G. The handheld test set is billed as the fastest and most advanced cable certifier for growing enterprise network bandwidth demands - including local access networks (LANs), storage area networks (SAN), and data centers.

The JDSU Certifier40G is designed to enable contractors and network owners to ensure that network cabling infrastructure performs reliably, meets industry standards, and establishes warranty conditions so installers and cable manufactures meet the expectation of high-quality work and solid network performance. Among its features is the ability to view complete test results at both ends of the network, eliminating the need to walk back to the main device. This feature significantly increases productivity by reducing installer test time, JDSU says.

"The Certifier40G is a powerful tool with the most advanced technology to drive installation of cabling infrastructure to support high-quality video teleconferencing, cloud computing and other advanced services," said Assaji Aluwihare, a director in JDSU's communications test and measurement business segment.

NECA 301 standard defines neat, workmanlike fiber installation
The FOA NECA 301 standard, Installing and Testing Fiber Optics, has been revised for a second time. According to The Fiber Optic Association, this second revision adds considerable new materials. The standard, the FOA says, is derived from the association's educational material, put into standard format, and approved by the American National Standards Institute.

"It's specifically written to be used in contracts todefine 'installation in a neat and workmanlike manner,'" the FOA says.

The National Electrical Contractors Association's executive director of standards and safety Mike Johnston adds, "Optical fibers have largely replaced copper wire in telecommunications networks in the U.S., so it's important that electrical contractors, specifying engineers and inspectors are fully aware of their correct installation procedures. When you consider that much of disaster notifications are communicated through fiber-optic systems, they become even more important to ensuring safety and security."

NECA notes that in its most recent revision, NECA 301 was carefully crafted to reflect the latest provisions and requirements of the National Electrical Code and conform to TIA-568-C, TIA-569-B, TIA-606-A, TIA-607-A and NECA/BICSI-568.

The standard costs $20 for NECA members and $40 for non-members.

Single trader holds half of world's copper
The Wall Street Journal reported in late 2010 that a single trader, rumored to be J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., holds approximately half of the world's exchange-registered copper stockpile. This single trader's copper holdings are said to be worth about $3 billion.

The WSJ said the price of copper was up 28 percent in 2010. It quoted Barclays Capital as saying that copper demand would outstrip supply last year by about 455,000 metric tons. Of J.P. Morgan, the report said the company "recently had a large position in copper, though it is unclear whether the U.S. bank increased its holdings or whether a new player has taken a dominant position."

As we reported last year, a rise in copper prices is one of several drivers pushing up the price of cable.

Report: 10GBase-T market set to grow
The 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) market is finally taking off with shipments of SFP+ optical transceivers driving early growth - but 10GBase-T is nearly ready to challenge for ports, says market research firm LightCounting LLC in its latest report, "10GBASE-T to Dominate 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Eventually."

Highlights of LightCounting's report include the following.

Optical 10GbE port shipments have finally started to take off: Going forward, SFP+ will be the dominant optical interface. 10GbE SFP+ port shipments with a reach of less than 300 m are used in server-to-switch and some switch-to-switch applications. Shipments have tripled over the past three quarters, and LightCounting expects the high-growth trend to continue.

10GBase-KR LAN on Motherboard (LOM) for blade servers has been shipping since 2009: In March 2009, HP announced the first 10GbE LOM in its blade servers under the BladeSystem brand when it refreshed its blade servers with Intel's Nehalem family of processors in March 2009. Once blade servers offered LOM implementations of 10GbE, 10GbE port volumes grew dramatically. The significance of LOM is huge, LightCounting asserts. Prior to this generation of blade servers, 10GbE could only be enabled via adapter cards.

10GBase-T for adapters becomes feasible in late 2011: Because the use of 10GBase-T PHYs on dual port server adapters (the predominant version of shipping optical 10GbE adapters) has not been feasible to date and optical interconnects are much more expensive than copper to end users, the market for 10GbE has been stunted, LightCounting says. However, the newest versions of 10GBase-T PHYs, developed using the 40nm semiconductor process, have finally overcome 10GBase-T power constraints, enabling dual-port 10GbE adapter sales to begin in earnest once adapters using these parts are sold to end users next year.

The opportunity for 10GbE LOMs based on 10GBASE-T in 2011 is rapidly closing: 10GBase-T chipmakers will miss having their products built into Intel's upcoming Romley server platform, which is due out late in 2011. The design-win window is rapidly closing for these server platforms, and LOM versions of 10GbE controllers with embedded dual 10GBase-T PHYs are not available from multiple chipmakers. Hence, LightCounting's forecast for 10GbE based on 10GBase-T remains constrained for the next few years.

"The design-win opportunity for 10GBase-T on the motherboard is rapidly closing for the next generation of Intel-based servers," says Kimball Brown, LightCounting's vice president and senior datacom analyst. "We do not foresee the opportunity for ubiquitous adoption of 10GBase-T LOM for a few more years - in the meantime, look for thriving markets for 10GbE adapters based on 10GBase-T PHYs or SPF+ technology using optical transceivers and direct attach cables."

FC connector now part of AFL'sFuseConnect line
AFL has added the FC connector to its FuseConnect family. Using a fusion splicer, AFL's FuseConnect consists of four components, which the company says simplifies the field-installation process. The connector has a prepolished ferrule, thereby eliminating polishing from the termination process and minimizing operator error as well as connector scrap. The FC connector interface is the newest in the FuseConnect line, which also includes SC, LC and keyed LC interfaces.

Additionally, AFL has introduced the LC Duplex Clip, which is designed specifically for its FuseConnect and FAST connectors. FAST connectors are prepolished and field-installable. They encompass a translucent wedge that enables the use of a visual fault locator to provide a pass/fail signal once contact is achieved. FAST connectors are available in SC, ST and LC versions.

Fiber-cleaning wipes are easily field-portable
MicroCare Corp. is introducing its latest version of the Sticklers CleanWipe system in a transportable design that the company says is easily carried in trucks and toolkits. MicroCare says the material and the new packaging of the CleanWipe system enables field technicians to clean fiber endfaces more quickly, more gently and at a low cost.

"At the heart of the CleanWipe system is a high-modulus wiping material that outperforms traditional cellulose, paper or fabric wipes," MicroCare says. "The material is soft, highly absorbent and inherently static-dissipative, which minimizes three very common cleaning problems. Most importantly, the exceptionally strong material is highly resistant to linting and shredding," which MicroCare says eliminates the biggest source of contamination, especially on LC enfaces. The new cleaning tool is compatible with MicroCare's Sticklers Connector Cleaning Fluid, making wet/dry cleaning fast and convenient even in the field, the company says.

The transportable version of the CleanWipe system contains 400 cleanings, as opposed to the 3,200 cleanings in each box of the economy size CleanWipe system. MicroCare says its field research has documented that 400 cleanings per tool is the optimal size for field technicians, and enables them to produce perfectly clean connectors for pennies per cleaning.

568-C.2 verification for Hitachi's Cat 5e, 6 and 6A cables
Hitachi Cable Manchester and Underwriters Laboratories jointly announced that HCM's Category 5e, 6 and 6A copper cables are the first that UL has verified to TIA 568-C.2 specifications. "The verification demonstrates that the cables meet the performance requirements of the TIA standard," the announcement said.

"End users installing cables with UL verification can be confident their infrastructure will support any and all applications intended for that category of cable," the announcement continued. "The 568-C family of standards is replacing the 568-B family, which was released in 2001, as well as all subsequent addenda."

Sumitomo expands Lynx2 fusion splice-on connector line
Sumitomo Electric Lightwave has broadened its Lynx2 CustomFit fusion splice-on connector product line to include the Lynx2-MPO and Lynx2-ST field installable connector products. The MPO and ST types join existing SC, LC, and FC connectors within the Lynx2 family.

The company says that market demand for a multi-fiber MPO fusion splice-on connector prompted the introduction of the Lynx2-MPO in either 12-fiber ribbon or ribbon cord options to meet the need for fast and easy on-site customized terminations in data centers, enterprise networks, MDUs, and other high-density network applications. As a small form factor connector, the MPO connector also reduces the space required in racks and panels.

All Lynx2 connectors are designed to offer the full media types required for singlemode and 62.5µm, 50 µm, and 50 µm laser optimized gigabit multimode fiber types in APC, UPC, and PC (MMF) polishing options. The connectors are designed for excellent insertion and return loss performance, with built-in flexibility for permanent, on-site customized terminations. Termination speed may lower labor costs, while facilitating faster network repair and restoration, notes Sumitomo.

Kin to the Lynx2 CustomFit Splice-On Connector is Sumitomo's new Lynx2 mini, billed as among the shortest splice-on connectors available. Identical to the length of a factory terminated SC, LC, and FC connector, the Lynx2 mini is ideal and economical for production and factory terminations.

Molex purchases Luxtera's active optical cable business
Molex has acquired Luxtera's active optical cable (AOC) business. Under terms of the acquisition, Luxtera will transfer all aspects of its existing and future AOC business to Molex, including current QSFP+ 40-Gbit/sec Ethernet and InfiniBand products and customers. The acquisition also includes an exclusive agreement for Luxtera to develop and supply advanced chipsets for future Molex products, based on Luxtera's silicon photonics technology. A statement said the companies will work together on future product planning to provide customers with interconnect solutions at 10, 14 and 25 Gbits/sec, as well as faster data rates.

Doug Busch, vice president and general manager of Molex's global fiber-optic products group, said the acquisition, "immediately adds QSFP+ 40-Gbit/sec products to our existing portfolio and further contributes to our tradition of innovation for customers, allowing them to deliver high-performance products. We are very excited to be partnering with Luxtera on future AOC development because the combination of our interconnect expertise with Luxtera's long-reach, low-power and low-bit-error-rate optical solutions will enable us to offer the highest level of photonics integration and performance available."

Luxtera's chief executive officer Greg Young said, "This agreement is a milestone validating the growing commercial significance of silicon photonics. Luxtera will continue to accelerate its growth by focusing on our core silicon photonics technology platform, while at the same time expanding the reach of our technology to global markets and customers. Partnering with Molex will help us bring the benefits of silicon photonics to customers worldwide."

Anixter acquires security distributor
Anixter has acquired Clark Security Products and General Lock. San Diego-based Clark distributes security products and locksmith supplies to commercial, industrial and government entities. It has major distribution centers in San Diego; Dallas, TX; Sacramento, CA; Denver, CO; Lexington, KY; Silver Spring, MD; Phoenix, AZ and Kent, WA. Clark's product offerings include locking hardware, access-control devices, closed circuit television and technical support services.

Anixter is paying $36.6 million for all of Clark's assets and operations. The final purchase price will be determined when the net asset balance from Clark is confirmed. The company said annual sales for Clark were expected to be $115 million in 2010.

Bob Eck, president and chief executive officer of Anixter, said, "Clark immediately positions Anixter as a significant player in the access control market. Combined with Anixter's existing security business, we will continue to lead the security market as it increasingly migrates toward IP-based systems."

Texas municipality opts for free space optical wireless network
Optical wireless technology vendor SkyFiber says the City of Dumas, TX, has chosen its free space optical systems to expand the broadband connectivity of such city institutions as the city hall, fire station, and police station. The new network will support 100-Mbit/sec connections, expanding usable bandwidth by almost 100 times.

SkyFiber says its Optical Wireless Broadband (OWB) technology uses infrared light to provide over 1-Gbit/sec connectivity for much less cost than microwave, millimeter-wave, and fiber. Dumas city officials considered the technology's low cost, ease of deployment, data security, and high capacity in making their final telecommunications technology decision, asserts SkyFiber.

Rhonda McSpadden, the IT director for the City of Dumas said, "We needed to find a way to increase the bandwidth available to our critical municipal facilities without compromising the security of the data. Our key institutions need to share large amounts of data quickly and securely on a daily basis, but our previous networks would grind to a halt under the load."

McSpadden added, "Fiber access was an available option that we considered, but it was so cost-prohibitive that it really wasn't a viable solution for our needs. In contrast, SkyFiber's innovative Optical Wireless Broadband technology will allow us to increase our bandwidth between these important city buildings by almost 100 times, for a very low monthly cost."

SkyFiber's Optical Wireless Broadband is offered via an on-demand licensing model. A monthly subscription fee provides bandwidth to meet the customer's current capacity needs, eliminates ongoing equipment maintenance costs, and enables the customer to maintain flexibility to increase capacity, says the company.

WiFi in the cloud: Aerohive acquires Pareto
Wireless local area network provider Aerohive has acquired Pareto Networks, a cloud-based networking vendor. Aerohive said it will immediately integrate Pareto's routing, virtual private network (VPN) and cloud-services technology into its HiveOS operating system and HiveManager Online cloud-services platform. The company said it will begin to deliver new features and platforms in the second quarter of 2011.

Aerohive explains that its approach to WiFi in the cloud "is unique, as failures in the WAN [wide area network] link, or the cloud, do not impact the ongoing operation of the network. This is because no data goes to the cloud and no control or policy enforcement functions, such as RF optimization, channel selection, load balancing, authentication, roaming and QoS, are carried out in the cloud."

David Flynn, chief executive officer of Aerohive, said the acquisition "offers a unique opportunity to accelerate our entry into the broader cloud-based networking space and establish an immediate leadership position. Pareto was the first to market with a cloud-based router solution, designed to eliminate the cost and complexity of large, highly distributed branch/teleworker networks. Adding this technolgy and talent to Aerohive's existing expertise in cloud-based WiFi network management will enable Aerohive to reduce the cost and complexity of mid-size enterprises, branch and micro-brand networks in the same way it has for enterprise WiFi."

Yankee Group senior vice president and distinguished research fellow Zeus Kerravala said, "This is a good move for Aerohive as it leverages their existing cloud-based WiFi footprint and capitalizes on Pareto's early market entry and cloud networking technology."

CommScope seconds CCCA's negative assessment of offshore Cat 6 copper patch cords
Cabling infrastructure supplier CommScope, Inc. announced that it "commends and supports" the recent study conducted by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) on electrical performance testing of Category 6 copper patch cords.

According to the study, the CCCA discovered an 85 percent failure rate in patch cords produced offshore by companies who are largely unknown in North America. A second, large sample set of Category 6 copper patch cords produced by multiple, well-recognized manufacturers was also tested and showed 0 percent failure rate.

None of the failing products was identified as using independent, third party testing laboratories to verify quality. Patch cord testing and verification programs are available from independent testing agencies and generally provide a level of quality assurance to buyers.

"CommScope always has stood behind its tremendous research and development teams with their efforts to design and manufacture quality copper patch cords that will serve our customers for years to come," comments Mike Werner, director of product management, CommScope. "CommScope is proud to provide high performance copper network infrastructure solutions for next-generation enterprise networks. We proudly support the CCCA and the results of its study."

CCCA's patch cord testing program follows the communications cable testing program conducted in 2008 and 2009, which uncovered a serious fire safety hazard with non-compliant copper data communications cable imported into North America.

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