Cabling crystal ball looks at future technologies

March 18, 2013
Sizing up the trends believed to hold the keys to the cabling industry’s future.

At the same time we asked our audience to nominate individuals whose work has benefited the industry over the past two decades, we also asked the same audience to tell us what, not who, will shape the industry’s future. Specifically, we asked them to “name any current industry trends that you believe will have long-term impact on the cabling industry in the future.”

We received and went through hundreds of responses, and the following topics rose to the top. Here then, we present the trends that your peers believe will shape the course of the industry in the years ahead.

Cloud computing. This topic was a clear favorite as a game-changer. But exactly how it will change the game apparently is up for debate. Take these two perspectives for example. “The cloud computing space is changing the landscape for the cabling space,” one industry professional said. “10, 40, 100G networking is driving greater multimode fiber to the rack and that is feeding up the line to high-fiber-count singlemode cabling to the cloud facility. We are seeing demand for deployment solutions for 288 and 576 core solutions to facilities. This may begin to put a dent in the deregulation and dot-com boom duct infrastructure installed in the late 1990s.”

Then there’s this perspective: “Current industry trends such as cloud computing and server virtualization will have long-term impact on the cabling industry because there will not be any need for structured LAN cabling in the small and medium business segment, where they will simply rely on servers located in the cloud. Today for SMBs the only deterring factor to embracing cloud computing is the cost involved.”

Those two viewpoints sum up the prognostications.

Data centers. Going hand-in-hand with cloud computing is the data center environment. As one industry professional noted, “Although cloud computing is the forthcoming industry trend, data center server virtualization seems to be the controllable long-term solution for many firms. It will be under a company’s direct control and most companies are willing to make the investment to install servers and maintain their own servers. That being said, more and more companies are using their own IT staff, or hiring seasoned cable infrastructure managers, to cable their data centers. These IT staff or cable infrastructure managers are better able today in managing cable projects and intelligently adhering to new cable industry standards in order to provide their firms with proficient, clean data center cable installations.”

Wireless. As we recognize our own 20th year in business, we also must recognize that wireless LAN technology has been an influence upon the structured cabling industry for at least that period of time. And the responses to our inquiry about what will impact the cabling industry in the years ahead proved that wireless still is very much on the minds of our industry’s professionals.

A mere sampling of the responses we received includes, “Wireless networking will eliminate the high-density cabling systems currently being designed and delivered to the office environment, as soon as privacy and partitioning are addressed,” as well as, “Wireless continues to erode the wired market. I think this trend will remain the norm. Major phone companies are not investing in infrastructure due to the wireless wave. This is trickling down to users as well. We are not wiring for phones or computers in new-construction projects like we were just a few years ago. The trend seems to be more wireless access points and fewer wired locations.”

And “wireless” now extends beyond the wireless LAN to include distributed antenna systems (DAS). In many cases, DAS is seen as a business and technology opportunity, whereas wireless LAN, as the above-quoted observations suggest, is viewed as more of a threat.

Said one commenter, “The movement to DAS systems for wireless access is due to more-and-more companies moving to BYOD for cell phones and computing devices. Thus, there is a higher demand for DAS by end users.”

Also popular among the trends promising to influence the industry’s future are passive optical LANs and IP-based lighting.

Keep your proverbial seat belts fastened, as these and other technologies will be certain to make our professional lives interesting, to say the least.

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