Cable management for the year 2000

Y2K. The Millennium Bug. The worst-case scenario is familiar to us all by now. At the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, the master clock on every computer system in the world rolls over to the year 2000. Every application thinks that it is the year 1900. With the tick of the clock, the Social Security Administration suddenly thinks I have yet to be born. It`s not that I wouldn`t enjoy reliving certain select parts of my life, but the reality is that I`m not getting any younger and I would

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Your Y2K risk resides not in the cable, but in the connecting points.

Richard Elzinga

Y2K. The Millennium Bug. The worst-case scenario is familiar to us all by now. At the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999, the master clock on every computer system in the world rolls over to the year 2000. Every application thinks that it is the year 1900. With the tick of the clock, the Social Security Administration suddenly thinks I have yet to be born. It`s not that I wouldn`t enjoy reliving certain select parts of my life, but the reality is that I`m not getting any younger and I would like to see those Social Security checks in the mailbox while I`m still young enough to cash them. Undoubtedly, the Social Security Administration will solve the problem before I reach retirement age, but there are more immediate concerns. If I happen to be in the air at the time, will that Boeing 777 fall out of the sky, or will air-traffic control place it in on a collision course with the Airbus 400 I see out of the left window? This has absolutely nothing to do with cable management, but it`s scary, isn`t it? (I think I`ll just stay home and fix that leaky faucet I`ve been meaning to get to for the past year or so.)

The Millennium Bug will have an impact on cable management as well. While the effect will be less dramatic than the airplane scenario, it will be very real and very disruptive...unless you do something about it. The time to start is now. The clock is ticking.

Cable management: Why2K?

Cable and wire management is about managing wires and cables, of course. The last time I checked, there were no internal clocks in copper wires--whether shielded or not. I also checked coaxial cable, fiber, infrared light, and radio waves--no clocks there, either. It seems as though copper, glass, and space are immune; the same goes for electromagnetic energy, whether in the form of electricity, radio, or light. Having gone through this exercise, I felt a whole lot better...at least until I realized that it`s not about wires and cables--it`s all about connectivity systems.

Connectivity and systems are the operative words here. Cables and wires are passive. Systems are active, and connectivity is their mission. Evaluating your communications exposure to Y2K requires that you examine the connectivity system from end to end; in other words, from port to jack and from termination to termination. You also have to examine the devices to which you terminate, from telephone to private branch exchange (pbx) and from PC to router, and everything in between.

The sources and sinks--that is, the transmitters and receivers, or the network elements at the far ends of the connection--include telephone sets, data terminals, pbxs, automatic call distributors, and host computers. The intermediate elements include repeaters, bridges, concentrators, hubs, switches, and multiplexers. These are all active devices; from the simplest to the most complex, they all are intelligent at some level. In other words, they all contain microprocessors, so they all are computer systems at some level. And most have internal clocking mechanisms that are ticking away toward the year 2000.

Even passive transmission systems rely on active, intelligent devices. Fiber-optic transmission systems, for instance, rely on light-emitting diodes or laser diodes to create the light signals and on photointrinsic diodes or avalanche photodiodes to detect the light signal at the receiving end. Optical repeaters and light pumps are used to boost signal strength over the long haul. Terminating multiplexers, add/drop multiplexers, and wavelength-division multiplexers also have their places in this optical world. They all are intelligent, active devices. Effectively, they all are computer systems, and they all have internal clocks that are ticking away.

The terminator

Managing your way out of this Y2K connectivity problem involves three phases: audit, documentation, and reporting. In total, these steps provide the basis for taking action.

The audit phase involves a careful audit of the connectivity system. Every wire and fiber must be tracked from end to end, from port to jack. Every connected terminal and switch and every intermediate device must be identified. Both physical circuits and logical channels must be detailed to present a complete picture of the network`s connectivity.

The documentation phase must take place simultaneously with the audit phase, and pencil and paper just won`t do the job. The detailed results of the audit must be entered into computer databases. A Y2K-compliant computer, database, and application software package are preferable. Every attribute of every physical and logical element involved must be detailed. The attributes of a passive cable system include cable, pair, gauge, color, segment length, and point of termination. Points of termination include the originating port, the zone between the main and intermediate crossconnects, the intermediate device ports, and the jack.

At this point, cable management yields to equipment inventory. Every device must be audited and documented, with a focus on Y2K.

Once the equipment is also inventoried, the reporting phase begins. Reports can be run against the database to isolate the various categories of active devices, by manufacturer, version or generation, and generic software load. Each manufacturer should then be contacted to determine its product`s Y2K compatibility; a written statement to this effect is preferable.

Devices that are not Y2K-compliant should generate either a trouble ticket or work order. Trouble tickets can be tracked to ensure that the manufacturer takes whatever steps are required to effect a Y2K solution. Work orders should be issued to replace equipment that cannot be made Y2K-compliant, and those work orders are tracked carefully by the system. Periodic and frequent reports can be run against the database so progress can be monitored as the clock ticks.

Telemanagement: a system solution

Management of the Y2K connectivity issue is a lot more than just cable and wire management. Rather, it involves a telemanagement system comprising a suite of application software modules: cable and wire management, equipment inventory, problem management, and work-order management. Each of these modules must be interlinked through a common database, with a relational database management system (rdbms) providing maximum performance and reporting flexibility. The result is a comprehensive and complete view of the situation. The objective is the resolution of a potential Y2K problem--and well in advance. Once all the solutions are implemented, it`s a good idea to test the system, just to make sure.

The year 2000 may be the most important date in the life of your connectivity system. Make sure you don`t miss it. Set the alarm clock early. Tick, tick, tick.

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A bidirectional Autocad-to-cable-master interface allows you to modify design plans.

Richard Elzinga is president of The Angeles Group (Westlake Village, CA), maker of Cable-Master, the asset management core application of the Quantum Series telemanagement software suite. For more information, visit www.angelesgroup.com.

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