Cable management software reaches the next level

Exciting times are ahead for users of cable management software (CMS). Why? Because many of the barriers that have slowed progress in this important sector of the cabling industry are finally being overcome

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TIA/EIA-606-A may be a more user-friendly document than its predecessor.

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Exciting times are ahead for users of cable management software (CMS). Why? Because many of the barriers that have slowed progress in this important sector of the cabling industry are finally being overcome.

Among those barriers have been:

  • A dearth of vendors sufficiently capitalized to make long-term commitments to what has admittedly been a niche market.
  • The high development cost of specialized software, leading to high prices that only the richest enterprises have been willing to pay.
  • A lack of standardization and interoperability among the many different cable and network management software packages.
  • A widespread perception among end-users that cable management is a frill rather than a necessity.

Within just the last year, however, several seemingly unrelated events and trends have converged to create a major impact on this specialized area.

The most visible trend has been a consolidation of the major players. The Crimp software product first launched by Cablesoft in the U.K. in the mid-1980s has evolved into Crimp Enterprise Server 5.0, introduced in 1999 by a renamed iTRACS Corp. that relocated to the U.S. and is now headquartered in Tempe, AZ. Another international entrant, Physical Networks, has recently transferred its headquarters from Paris to Herndon, VA. Long-time software maker The Angeles Group has been acquired by Veramark, and the IMAP product line has been added to Greenlee Textron's growing family of cabling-industry companies.

Acquisition by larger corporations means long-term capitalization of what have sometimes been small operations run on a shoestring. A second benefit is the ability to spread up-front software development cost over a longer period of time and a wider customer base, and so lowering product price.

At the same time, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) has undertaken the first revision of TIA/EIA-606, Administration Standard for the Telecommunications Infrastructure of Commercial Buildings. First published in 1993, this administrative standard has specified the designation, labeling and documentation requirements for commercial-building cabling systems.

Standards, however, are voluntary in terms of compliance, and TIA/EIA-606 has been widely ignored. The most significant reason behind the standard's unpopularity has been the end-user's belief that cable-plant planning, labeling, and documentation, although desirable in theory, have not in practice been worth the time, effort, and cost.

It would appear that the revision of TIA/EIA-606 will take into account some of the real-world issues that have made the original document unpopular. For instance, one provision of TIA/EIA-606-A will be to break down administrative requirements based on the size of the cable plant, from under 100 in a single building to a full-scale multi-site enterprise employing thousands of users.

If TIA/EIA-606-A is a more user-friendly document than its predecessor, and if the half dozen or so software manufacturers which appear to be in the market for the long haul can agree to standardize their products, the prospects for interoperability are good. Then the only remaining task will be to continue to educate contractors and end-users alike to the benefits that can result from using proper cable-management procedures.

Arlyn S. Powell, Jr.
Editor-at-Large
arlynp@pennwell.com

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