Editor's Picks

March 1, 2010
Thanks for taking an interest in our premier “Editor’s Picks” section of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

Compiled by Patrick McLaughlin

Thanks for taking an interest in our premier “Editor’s Picks” section of Cabling Installation & Maintenance. As part of our magazine redesign, we decided to combine what used to be our New Products section and what we called Industry Spotlight—a news and analysis section. From here forward, these pages will be filled with a selection of newly introduced products, other news, and my opinions on what’s happening in the industry.

Self-terminating Category 6A FTP jacks

Legrand/Ortronics (www.ortronics.com) recently introduced a self-terminating Category 6A foiled twisted-pair (FTP) workstation jack. The product is a rear-loading, rugged cast-encased jack featuring a tool-less termination process that the company says dramatically reduces termination times. The jack’s wire-lacing

feature includes a wiring diagram, maintains pair geometry, and limits pair untwisting. By closing the jack housing, the technician fully seats the lacing cap onto the jack insulation-displacement contacts, terminating all four pairs simultaneously. Die-cast metal construction creates an integral shield that provides 360-degree coverage, Legrand/Ortronics says. A supplied cable clamp provides a shield/ground wire connections.

Cisco offers 10GBase-T

Here’s what I think is the biggest news to affect our industry in a long time. In early February Cisco Systems (www.cisco.com) announced it was coming out with 10GBase-T switches. Their first products will be in the Catalyst family, and later this year they’ll roll out 10GBase-T Nexus switches.

Until now, Arista Networks (www.aristanetworks.com) and Extreme Networks (www.extremenetworks.com) were the only providers of 10GBase-T switching equipment. I believe that once these Cisco products come to market within a couple months, the adoption rate of 10GBase-T will increase significantly. Evidently, at least one other person sees it that way as well. George Zimmerman, chief technology officer of Solarflare Communications (www.solarflare.com), commented, “Cisco’s entry validates the compelling operational economics and simplicity of running 10 gigabits over the existing infrastructure, and avoiding forklift upgrades to 10G by allowing triple-speed 100/1000/10G PHYs to connect to existing endpoints at a lower speed when only one end has been upgraded.”

He later stated, “This is obviously a big inflection point for 10GBase-T deployments. Movement by Cisco, the giant of the Ethernet industry, indicates widespread adoption. Expect to see many announcements and products with 10GBase-T this year.”

Within a day of the Cisco announcement, PHY developer Aquantia (www.aquantia.com) announced it entered full volume production of its 10GBase-T PHY solution. Last year Aquantia secured $44 million in a round of private funding. “We are seeing the momentum quicken for 10GBase-T,” the company’s president and chief executive officer Faraj Aalaei said. He added that the $44 million in funding “underscores that the commitment to this mainstream, standardized and cost-effective solution is growing in both switching and server architectures. Aquantia’s recent move to full volume production is in direct response to the strong uptick in market demand.”

Intel (www.intel.com) joined Cisco in making the announcement and explaining that both cost and power-consumption have come down, which is good news for 10GBase-T. Along with executives from Cisco and Intel was Panduit’s (www.panduit.com) vice president of technology, Jack Tison, who discussed Category 6A cabling and its ability to support 10GBase-T.

Not everybody is on the 10GBase-T bandwagon. David Richards, RCDD/NTS/OSP, owner of DR Consulting commented, “I don’t think we’re in an, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ world these days. Customers are growing savvy to emerging technologies, are tracking their IT dollars more closely, and are asking questions like, ‘Do I really need this?’”

I wonder how many users do in fact believe they need connectivity speeds as high as 10 Gbits/sec, but have been waiting precisely for this—a copper version of the technology from Cisco Systems.

TIA-942 data center standard being revised

In the second half of 2009, members of the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (www.tiaonline.org) TR-42.1 Commercial Building Cabling Subcommittee began working on a revision of the TIA-942 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers. TIA was published in 2005 and, according to ANSI guidelines, the standard must be revised, affirmed, or rescinded in five years.

At its August 6, 2009 meeting TR-42.1 unanimously approved the creation of a project to revise the standard. The revision ultimately will be published as TIA-942-A. Minutes from TR-42.1’s final meeting of 2009, which took place November 5, indicate the TIA-942-A standard will include a number of changes and additions, several of which will focus on energy efficiency.

TR-42.1 met most recently on February 4 but during that meeting was unable to complete ballot comments. March 3 was the next scheduled meeting date for the group, so by the time you read this, more work on the 942-A standard will have been carried out.

One report from the February meeting indicates that the group has agreed to include an additional layer of distribution for larger data centers. The proposal called for an intermediate distribution area (IDA) to reside between the main distribution area (MDA) and the horizontal distribution area (HDA). The IDA would house an intermediate crossconnect (IC). Other proposals are being discussed as well; there is no set timetable for the completion of the TIA-942-A standard.

Worthy recipient

Playing no small part in the revision of TIA-942 will be Jonathan Jew, who also was one of the main architects of the original standard. Jew was honored in January with the Harry J. Pfister Award for Excellence in the Telecommunications Industry. Given annually by BICSI (www.bicsi.org), the Pfister is essentially a “lifetime achievement” award. Here’s what BICSI had to say about Jonathan Jew when it bestowed the award on him. “Jew has devoted countless hours of volunteer time, effort, and expertise that have resulted in immeasurable benefits to BICSI members and ITS professionals globally. He has been a subject matter expert contributor to numerous BICSI manuals and has acted as co-chair, vice-chair, editor, and a project lead on many standards and working groups.”

From a professional standpoint I can echo BICSI’s praise of, and appreciation for, Jonathan Jew and his selfless efforts. This magazine has benefited from articles he has either written or been quoted in on such topics as TIA-942, the TIA/EIA-606 series of labeling and administration standards, and other data center issues such as humidity and electrostatic discharge.

From a personal standpoint, I can’t overstate my appreciation for how willing he has been to contribute his time and expertise to these articles and other information products.

Jonathan Jew is one of many individuals who travel the country and the world constructing standards that govern the design, installation, and maintenance practices for structured cabling systems. One thing that separates him from many of his standards-making colleagues is that he is not employed by a manufacturer that sells products in the cabling market. He is principal of J&M Consultants (www.j-and-m.com), a data center design firm based in San Francisco. As far as I can tell, Jew makes these standards efforts on his own time and his own dime. He does this work because it will benefit the industry as a whole.

The world seems to have gone from “What-have-you-done-for-me-lately” to “What-are-you-doing-for-me-right-now-and-what’s-taking-you-so-long?” For anyone reading this, there’s a good chance that Jonathan Jew is doing something right now that will be to your benefit. Even if you’re reading this in the middle of the night, a global sandards meeting could be taking place halfway around the world from where you are.

Congratulations to Jonathan Jew, a very worthy recipient of the 2010 Harry J. Pfister Award.

Fiber connectors compatible with VFL

Leviton Network Solutions (www.leviton.com/networksolutions) has enhanced its FastCAM prepolished fiber-optic connectors; the SC and LC versions of the FastCAM are now compatible with a visual fault locator (VFL) to test for fiber continuity. Additionally, the connectors now allow termination of 250-micron, 900-micron, 2-mm, and 3-mm fiber cable.

The pocket-sized VFL assists in diagnosing optical-fiber damage by using a bright red laser to locate faults, which include tight bends, breaks, and defective connectors. The tool includes a 2.5-mm ferrule, 1.25-mm adapter, and a carrying case.

Leviton also announced it now offers two new tool kits for FastCAM terminations. One includes the LYNX cleaver, lint-free dry wipes, alcohol pads, a jacket stripper, and a pocket to hold the VFL. The second includes those items plus a work tray and gooseneck LED.

Slim Gig-E cable optimizes rack, floor space

The AMP Netconnect (www.ampnetconnect.com) business unit of Tyco Electronics recently introduced the “ultra-slim” RD MRJ21 Gigabit Ethernet cabling system. At 0.36 inches in diameter, the cable is about the size of a Number 2 pencil. The RD (Reduced Diameter) MRJ21 weighs 40% less than comparable four-pair cabling systems, Tyco says, occupies 45% less rack space, and requires 25% less power per port.

Paul Woods, global director of marketing for AMP Netconnect, said the following when the product was introduced: “Our ultra-slim RD MRJ21 cabling system is the thinnest Gigabit Ethernet cable available from Tyco Electronics. We’re excited to bring this innovative cabling technology to our customers and to the marketplace. It’s the perfect solution for today’s server-crowded data centers where space is at a premium. Tighter IT budgets coupled with escalating power costs are driving technology selection. The ultra-slim design of our RD MRJ21 cable improves airflow, dissipates heat more efficiently, and reduces overall power consumption.”

According to the company, the system installs six to ten times faster than four-pair cabling and frequently reduces the cable management and routing problems of bundled cabling systems. Designed to support more posts per rack, the MRJ21 cabling system supports six ports of Gigabit Ethernet interface, which the company says dramatically increases the number of ports customers can include in a single rack.

From the fringe

In late January the Harrison Daily Times in Harrison, AR reported that cabling installers working inside a school building during school hours escaped harm when a student grabbed a cable—presumably a twisted-pair construction—from the ceiling, stripped back the wires (with his teeth), and stuck the stripped cable into an electrical outlet.

The student got into legal trouble because of what could have happened to an installer, or anyone else, who might have grabbed the other end of the cable. Interestingly, the newspaper reported that the installation crew planned to go ahead and use the once-chewed cable as planned. After completely installing and testing it, they’d determine whether or not the incident adversely affected the cable’s performance.

It’s easy for me to say that cabling projects inside schools should be carried out while school is not in session. But I know the realities of scheduling. So I’ll steal a line from an old TV show: Let’s be careful out there.

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