Fiber guru Beam balances coppers benefits

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of talking shop with Tony Edward Beam, global systems marketing director for netconnect premises-cabling systems at amp netconnect (Winston-Salem, NC), knows him to be soft-spoken, modest, and unassuming. "There is no doubt that the cabling industry has been good to this `country boy,` " cracks Beam, who despite his "down-home" demeanor, is a warrior at heart.

Ron Karjian

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of talking shop with Tony Edward Beam, global systems marketing director for netconnect premises-cabling systems at amp netconnect (Winston-Salem, NC), knows him to be soft-spoken, modest, and unassuming. "There is no doubt that the cabling industry has been good to this `country boy,` " cracks Beam, who despite his "down-home" demeanor, is a warrior at heart.

While Tony Minichiello likes to call himself an ordinary foot soldier, Tony Beam prefers to pattern himself after the five-star variety of foot soldiers: Generals Robert E. Lee and George S. Patton. Like his heroes, Beam graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, earning a bachelor`s degree in general science. He then spent five years as an Army intelligence officer.

All of which prepared him well for the kinds of battles he soon would have to face as a cable-equipment manufacturing executive and standards committee chairman in a highly competitive and restless industry. But before joining the cabling industry, Beam landed his first civilian job, working at the Texas Instruments Department of Defense division as lead manufacturing engineer for machined metal parts in weapons guidance systems. "After two short years in Dallas," recalls Beam, "my wife and I realized we were not `big-city folk,` and we longed to be back in the Carolinas. I told a headhunter to get us back home no matter what. So my career path was not planned by me; I was just fortunate that a job opportunity opened up in the cabling industry in North Carolina."

That`s when he joined Siecor Corp. in Hickory, NC, and was indoctrinated into the emerging world of fiber-optic cable and equipment in the mid-1980s. He eventually became systems engineering manager, specializing in fiber-optic premises cabling in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During that time, Beam says he also took the lead in revising Siecor`s uts Design Guide for Premises Networks, which formed the basis for the Fiber Optic Section of bicsi`s tdmm.

Fiber`s go-to guy

"I attended my first tia-568 meeting in 1987," says Beam, "and I was basically the only fiber-optics expert on the committee, so I rapidly became the go-to person for fiber-optics recommendations." He later would spearhead development of the optical-fiber specifications currently written in tia/eia-568a and is actively involved in the standard`s rewrite, tia/eia-568b. Beam is also leading the charge for development of more cost-effective, short-wavelength, 100-Mbit/sec fiber Ethernet, as well as 10/100-Mbit/sec fiber Ethernet.

In 1993, Beam made some career decisions that thrust him into the middle of the heated fiber-versus-copper cabling wars. He became a key spokesman for fiber-to-the-desk when he made the transition from engineering manager to marketing manager within the same company. "Some questioned whether someone with so much candor and yet unsophisticated in marketing could handle the transition," offers Beam, adding in an understated way, "most people believe I have been successful."

Also that year, he was named chairman of the tia`s TR-41.8.1 Fiber Optic Task Group and led the development of the tsb-72 Centralized Optical Fiber Cabling Guidelines. "With the publication of these guidelines," explains Beam, "users now have the authorization and guidelines to follow an alternate cabling topology that allows them to achieve the benefits and values that fiber-to-the-desk offers." In 1993, he also became chairman of the bicsi Engineering and Methods Committee`s Fiber Optic Panel as well as co-chairman of tia`s Fiber Optics lan Section.

Copper comes into his life

Up to that time, Beam was focused on laser beams as the only high-bandwidth, high-speed solution for data transmission in offices. But in 1995, when he took his current assignment at amp, he experienced another bout of evolution, or revolution. While spearheading the company`s netconnect Centralized Network Administration system, which combines centralized fiber-optic cabling with amp`s Raylan fiber electronics, Beam worked to introduce many copper-based systems. Fiber`s field general became a copper proponent as well.

"I probably have evolved as much as the industry," says Beam. "I expanded my horizons with the move to amp by evaluating, understanding, and properly positioning and communicating the benefits of high-performance copper-cabling systems in addition to fiber-optics, not only for the North American market but also globally. High-performance systems are what the market requires, and the choice of copper or fiber must be based on individual customer requirements. I am now taking a balanced approach to fiber and copper."

But he says all that pales in comparison to spending time with his wife of 18 years, his teenage son, and his two younger daughters. He says he has little time for hobbies, except "like most people born and raised in North Carolina, the only thing more important than Atlantic Coast Conference basketball is nascar racing."

Then there`s the race of another kind--the ongoing race to the desk between fiber and copper. "The cabling industry will recognize the value of high-performance copper- and fiber- cabling systems in futureproofing networks. Networking overall will be driven more by the cabling industry than in years past when it was driven by specific networking applications. Customers are also becoming more aware of the importance and value of a quality, high-performance, and properly designed, installed, and tested cabling system to their overall network. This understanding will continue to increase, but we still have a long way to go before the overall customer base fully appreciates the value of their cabling system."

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