At the most recent BICSI Conference, held in January, I was late arriving to one of the conference presentations. Trying to quietly find a place to sit, I put my head down and quickly shuffled to the first available seat. Only then did I look up at the presenter. And that's probably a good thing, because had I looked at him upon entering the conference hall, I might just have stopped and stared in awe, and never have found a seat.
The presenter, Henriecus Koeman of Fluke Networks, had Category 6 test-adapter cords draped around his shoulders. All I could think of were hippies gathering at Woodstock wearing beads the way that Henriecus proudly (maybe defiantly?) wore his adapter cords. Talk about peace, love, and understanding. Well, I'm not so sure about peace and love, but the demonstration was intended to impart understanding upon the conference attendees. I think Henriecus made his point. And there is quite a bit to understand about testing practices and products today.
We offer you this supplement to Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine as an effort to help you understand a few of the many testing-related issues prevalent in the industry today. First, we posed questions to some manufacturers of handheld cabling testers. We asked how much longer installers will have to use vendor-specific Category 6 link adapters, how they view the challenges of testing Category 6 channels, and whether standalone fiber-test instruments are more desirable than fiber-testing attachments to existing handhelds. You may, or may not, be surprised to see that the individuals we interviewed do not agree on all matters.
Next, we offer a contributed article from a cabling-connectivity maker who explains the benefits of active testing. This vendor combined some of its hardware with cable made by its vendor partners, and had the systems tested while they were transporting simulated network traffic. The author explains the procedure and products used, and incorporates viewpoints from members of the independent-verification lab that performed the tests. Obviously, the vendor that went through the exercise of performing these tests did so with a belief that verification of this type adds a level of performance assurance to system users. Read the article, and take its message into consideration when you decide how much and what type of cable-system testing is appropriate prior to bringing your network online.
Then, another contributed article offers an alternative to the fiber-optic system-testing methods currently recognized in TIA standards. Because users now have numerous fiber-optic connector options-particularly small-form-factor connectors-throughout a cabling system, the question has arisen: "How do we test systems that have small-form-factor connectors?" The test methodology spelled out in this article, although not officially recognized in a standard, is designed to allow for testing such systems.
We wrap up this supplement with a products section, giving you a look at some of the test equipment that has recently come onto the market.
We at Cabling Installation & Maintenance realize that the breadth and depth of today's testing-related issues are vast, and could fill many volumes. In planning this publication, however, we tried to pinpoint some of the issues that affect you most, and most often, in your daily work.
And though you won't see anybody with adapter cords dangling from their shoulders on these pages, we hope you find it useful nonetheless.