Conference a whirlwind of technology, transactions

As is often the case, this page of the magazine is the last one filed for this month’s issue.

As is often the case, this page of the magazine is the last one filed for this month’s issue. Consequently, my typical procrastination gives me an opportunity to provide somewhat-up-to-date information on some of the industry’s goings on. In particular, the details in this column come from the BICSI Fall Conference and Exhibition, which was held late last month.

As you may remember, in the July edition of this column, I compared 10GBase-T equipment to the elusive clownfish in the movie Finding Nemo, and suggested it might be a long while before we see hardware built in compliance with 10GBase-T specifications. In fact, the wait was significantly shorter than I anticipated.

Representatives of the company SolarFlare Communications had on display a working 10GBase-T physical layer transceiver (PHY), running over a four-connector, 100-meter channel. On the first evening of the exhibits, as I approached the booth in which the setup was displayed, SolarFlare’s Chris DiMinico (who obviously read and remembered my July editorial) greeted me with two words: Here’s Nemo. And there it was. We’ll have more comprehensive info in next month’s issue, but in short, the PHY will be offered to network-switch manufacturers and someday-sooner rather than later, I guess-10GBase-T switches with this capability built in will in fact be on the market.

On another, self-promotional note, SolarFlare’s DiMinico is editor of the forthcoming TSB-155 specification for running 10GBase-T on the embedded base of Category 6 cabling. Look for a detailed article by DiMinico on the TSB-155 specifications in a future issue-most likely January 2007. Sources tell me that the specifications should be completed by then.

DiMinico and I have joked for years about a controversial editorial that ran in this publication some 10 years ago. (I did not author the controversial editorial, of course. My frequent references to Disney movies, my children, and the Boston Red Sox have not been known to raise the ire of many.) In the decade-old editorial, an analogy is drawn to twisted-pair copper cable and the proverbial “bad penny” that keeps turning up. DiMinico has ribbed me many times by reminding me that if copper cable really was a bad penny, and manufacturers of the cable suffered so much that they could not support this publication with advertising, then Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine “would not be worth a plug nickel.”

Be that as it may, I like to think I observe copper-based infrastructure, as well as fiber-optic systems, and even wireless technology, without prejudice. So, it’s not just a make-good to Chris DiMinico, nor just a horribly bad pun, when I say that in light of these recent technological milestones, copper cabling systems make sense (or cents) for a great many users.

Also at BICSI, I learned that ConEst, a creator of estimating software aimed primarily at the electrical-contracting trade but also at information-transport systems contractors, has acquired the RapidBOM, a network estimating system offered by Mainstay Software Corp.

Finally, as a general observation, I’d say that the concept of quantification was a theme that shone through at the BICSI Fall Conference, and I suspect has emerged in several variations throughout the industry. At the conference, the idea of quantification was addressed through cost-model tools for computing cabling system costs. It showed up as statistical data proving the stability of certain connector types. And it was all over the show floor, manifested in equations that yielded savings of money and/or time.

The cabling industry is as competitive an environment now as it ever has been. End users are extremely savvy, and many bolster that cognizance by hiring consultants to administer projects. Cabling contractors are significantly challenged to meet the demands of these discriminating customers.

The old Chinese blessing/curse is reality; we live in interesting times.

Chief Editor

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