Cabling categories, color confusion, and cabinet cooling concerns

Random thoughts as the calendar turns to August and I look forward to my first trip to Seattle for the BICSI Fall Conference at the end of this month.

Random thoughts as the calendar turns to August and I look forward to my first trip to Seattle for the BICSI Fall Conference at the end of this month.

This month's "Ask Donna" column (page 14) reminds me of my early days covering this industry, in 1997. Donna's update on "Augie 6," the next breed of UTP cabling, brought to mind the days of enhanced Category 5—a better-performing cable, based on a medium already in the market, to support the up-and-coming protocol that the IEEE is putting forth. The difference is that enhanced Category 5 was a step beyond Category 5, which supported 100Base-T. Augmented Category 6 will be a step beyond Category 6, which doesn't support anything that's not also supported by Category 5e. I can't remember who it was (but I'm 99% sure it was an advocate of optical fiber) who said that Category 6 would be a repeat of Category 4. I scoffed at the time, but I don't anymore.

Speaking of optical-fiber advocates, they don't get off the hook so easily. Brian Milligan's story in our Industry Spotlight section (pg. 44) about the hubbub over aqua-colored cable is noteworthy, too. It sounds to me like this "crisis" all started because of one thing: a marketing/branding plan that worked.

The idea was to identify the highest-throughput, longest-distance cable by its jacket color. Before long, people were just asking for the color, not the rocket science-esque specifications behind it. So, more and more cable manufacturers began offering aqua cable.

But not every aqua cable met the same specs. That's what got the issue bubbling and boiling with the vendors involved, and it also, I believe, will be exactly the problem if there ever is a specification that says only a cable of such-and-such performance can have an aqua jacket. TIA specifications are voluntary. Any outfit, from any country, with enough capital can make multimode cable with 62.5-µm FDDI-grade fiber inside, and put an aqua jacket on it, if they so please. That won't be good for the hundreds (maybe thousands) of people who only know enough to make sure the cable is aqua.

We did our best to minimize the alphabet soup in the article by Chris DiMinico and Jonathan Jew, on the data center standard that is nearly finished within the TIA (pg. 18). For those of you who are cabling contractors and have not worked in a data-center environment, I think the article does a good job of presenting the information in a perspective that will be familiar to you. There are new phrases and acronyms to learn—and, of course, new technology behind them, including the physical positioning of equipment to keep pathways cool. But DiMinico and Jew have, both in this article and as co-chairs of the TIA TR-42.1.1 Committee, brought a sense of practicality to data-center design.

It's August, so I have hit the "angst" stage of being a Boston Red Sox fan. Sox fans go through seven stages of emotion each season, changing every month. April: joy that it's baseball season again, because this is the year we'll win it all. May: confidence, because we're frequently in first place. June: unease, as we start talking about the Wild Card race instead of the division race. July: appreciation for the All-Star break so our tired, fragile pitching staff can rest up. August: angst as the trading deadline passes and we didn't get this year's marquis player. September: joy that it's football season again, because the baseball season has destroyed either our nerves or our spirit, or both. October: despair, for obvious reasons, followed by the syndrome known as ABY (Anybody But the Yankees). The five months of the off-season match up conveniently with the five stages of grief. And just as we reach acceptance in March, they're ready to do it to us again.

I have always felt a kinship with Chicago Cubs fans as the summer turns to fall and some other team wins the Series. So, I would be interested to hear if the cycle is much different for them. And, of course, I'm always interested in your thoughts on the real issues affecting your work, from categories, to colors, to data centers and more.

Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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