Plugging in

BICSI emphasises diligence in cabling implementations at its 4th regional conference.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  June 26, 2005

|~|BICSI-presentation_m.jpg|~||~|The 4th annual BICSI Middle East & Africa district conference and exhibition, which took place on June 12-13 at the Shangri-la Hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) was a great success with network professionals learning about the latest developments in technologies and standards. “The objective was to update ITS professionals with the latest developments in technologies and standards, and give them an opportunity to network. From the content of the presentations and feedback from the participants at the conference, we are very happy that the objective was fully met,” says Kandasamy Ganesan, district chair for BICSI Middle East and Africa. “Awareness of BISCI in the industry has gone up significantly and this will encourage professionals to join and benefit from BICSI activities such as training programmes,” he adds. The not-for-profit body takes an interest in training end users, installers and vendors on the finer points of network implementations. The presentations at the event offered an educational and informative take on the issues facing network professionals dealing with all kinds of ITS. “Historically, ITS has been an afterthought in building construction, it usually happens when the building has already been built or is well under way,” says Steven Brewster, registered communications distribution designer (RCDD) and ELV Consultant with PMK International, who made a presentation on key design elements for premises distribution. “Events like BICSI are valuable in raising awareness of the importance of ITS,” he adds. The event was attended by hundreds of BICSI members and other interested network industry players, with attendees coming from countries across the region such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Algeria and South Africa. Response from attendees at the event was very positive, with a number showing interest in the RCDD qualification. One example was Iran-based systems integrator Sadad Informatics Corp (SIC), which saw the event as invaluable in providing guidance for future work with clients, including Bank Melli Iran. “The most important thing in our company is staff training and BICSI fits well with this philosophy,” says Zahra Saif, a network specialist at SIC. “The RCDD exam is an international qualification, and as Bank Melli Iran has decided to unify cabling across its branches, BICSI and the RCDD qualification could prove very useful in preparing our staff for the project,” she adds. The conference featured a host of lively presentations and the exhibition played host to a number of vendors and systems integrators showcasing their technologies and solutions. In both, one issue towered above all else – 10Gigabit Ethernet over copper. As the 10Gigabit issue is pivotal to the future of the cabling industry, it was not surprising that matters got heated at times, with presenters being interrupted by rival vendors offering alternative points of view. The controversy on 10Gigabit revolves around the release of pre-standard unshielded twisted pair (UTP) solutions. Vendors and installers fall into two camps with one favouring shielded solutions and others preferring unshielded. R&M falls into the latter group and its director of development and test labs, Rene Trosch, led an attack on UTP during his presentation on the advantages of shielded components in 10GBase-T cabling. “It is too early for UTP, while STP meets the parameters required. I’m sure in the future, we’ll see workable UTP systems but the secure option for the moment is STP,” says Trosch. R&M’s argument centred on concerns with UTP solutions’ ability to deal with interference called alien crosstalk, which results when cabled frequency is upped to create extra bandwidth. STP solutions have no such problem with alien crosstalk. The UTP vendors countered with speakers from vendors such as Systimax and HCS Cabling Systems. Systimax in particular emphasised that draft standards close enough to being completed to give vendors a very good idea of what they need to achieve the desired performance. Nevertheless, Systimax’s global technical director Matias Peluffo, who made a presentation on the challenges faced in creating a 10Gigabit UTP solution, says that users should look to the ISO standard, as it has the more stringent criteria. Systimax says that it can overcome the issues created by alien crosstalk but can only guarantee performance with an end-to-end Systimax solution. “Alien crosstalk is an issue for cables and connectors. You can’t make them in isolation, put them together and expect excellent performance,” says Peluffo. Ergun Riza Akan, assistant general manager at HCS provided a twist on the argument by emphasising the importance of balance in cabling, saying that if this is unsettled, systems can fail to perform as desired. Akan illustrated with an example of Cat7 cabling from an unspecified vendor, which failed to meet some Cat6 standards, meaning it was not backwards compatible. Although the example of shielded cabling was used, the problem of unbalanced cable components is just as pertinent in UTP systems. While copper cabling was a huge cause of debate at the event, fibre was also a major talking point, with John Struhar from Ortronics leading the way with a presentation that focused on dispelling the 2.6dB 10Gbytes/s insertion loss myth and also called for data centre building standards. The cable plant loss budget in a fibre optic link is the amount of attenuation or loss that may occur between the optical transmitter at the near end of the link and the receiver at the far end. Struhar argued that new manufacturing techniques can have a significant effect on insertion loss and therefore the reliability of fibre cabling. He hailed the MCVD fibre manufacturing process, which has each layer sintered prior to deposition of the next layer and has less exposure to contaminants. He also stated that there was great variation in how data centres are put together, and predicted that recently and soon-to-be published standards will have a big impact. The published TIA-942 paper has outlined guidelines on how to create redundancy in the data centre, covering areas such as fire protection and water intrusion, as well as cabling.||**||

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