Structured Cabling Systems

Contents:

Today's Structured Cabling Decisions Determine Tomorrow's Business Capabilities

Today's businesses require advanced information technology to maintain a competitive advantage. The ability to network, or share information, has made the PC as important as the telephone. Anixter recognizes the influence this has on business and can get you up to speed.

As technology continues to evolve, the corporate network must support voice, data, video and multimedia applications. Rapid increases in processing power, the growing size of networks and the introduction of higher-speed access methods create an overwhelming need for reliable, manageable structured cabling systems. Yesterday's Ethernet and Token Ring networks will soon be replaced by today's 100BASE-TX and ATM switched networks--and tomorrow's Gigabit Ethernet, Fiber Channel and 622 Mbps ATM technologies.

Processing speeds double every 18 months. New technologies are on the horizon.


At the same time, a successful enterprise demands both teamwork and flexibility. Organizations face constant change, requiring the movement or relocation of people, their workspaces and the services provided to them. As many as 18 percent of employees move within a building every year.

Designed to accommodate frequent moves, adds and changes, a structured cabling system is the foundation of the modern information network. Through all the changes and challenges that confront your business, a structured cabling system can alleviate the workflow disruption and network downtime associated with office restructuring.

No other component in your network has a longer life cycle or requires such close consideration. Careful planning will prevent congestion that can dramatically diminish your network performance.

Annual intrabuilding employee moves by sector


Source: AT&T Report On Office Churn

What Is Structured Cabling?

A structured cabling system provides a universal platform upon which an overall information system's strategy is built. With a flexible cabling infrastructure, a structured cabling system can support multiple voice, data, video and multimedia systems regardless of their manufacturer. Wired in a star topology, each workstation links to a central point and facilitates system interconnection and administration. This approach allows communication with virtually any device, anywhere, at any time. A well-designed cabling plant may include several independent cabling solutions of different media types, installed at each workstation to support multiple system performance requirements.

A structured cabling system consists of several building blocks:

  • Backbone cable: originates at the main distribution point and interconnects all telecommunications closets in a building (Number 3 in the drawing below)
  • Cross-connect products: provide a means for terminating cable while establishing a field for moves, adds and changes
  • Horizontal cable: the medium over which communication services are transmitted to the workstation (Number 5 in the drawing below)
  • Information outlets: the termination point for cable at or near the workstation
  • Patch cable assemblies: connectorized cables that attach workstation equipment to information outlets--these make moves, adds and changes quick and easy

The six subsystems of a structured cabling system

Just as the efficient exchange of information is vital to your organization, structured cabling is the life of your network. No matter how your network grows throughout its life span, a flexible and reliable structured cabling system will adapt to meet new demands.

Choosing a structured cabling system is an important decision--one that will affect the performance of your entire network. Structured cabling's extended life expectancy requires you to consider all potential bandwidth requirements for the next ten years. What will your network be running? 100BASE-TX? 622 Mbps ATM? Gigabit Ethernet? Although your exact requirements are difficult to predict, the demands on your network will surely continue to grow at a rapid pace.


High-End Cabling Will Prepare You For Tomorrow

Over the past several years, the industry has established standards, including the ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard, to simplify material choices and installation practices. These standards create an "open" architecture that can be used by any application or access method, ensuring consistent system performance, especially when mixing components from different manufacturers.

Standards typically develop after products and technologies are created and introduced to the market. Then, once the industry adopts a standard, it sets forth minimum criteria that may meet only yesterday's communications needs. Substantial performance differences can exist even among systems that meet a specific standard. This is particularly true of copper Category 5 systems; many of these systems just meet the standard, but some far exceed it. Although these high-end systems are superior, they are all considered Cat 5 because a higher-performance standard has not yet been developed.

Manufacturers continue to improve cable designs with new methods to insulate, twist and jacket the cable. These modifications can achieve superior performance, but only with proper installation. Because traditional installation practices may yield lower performance levels, installers must follow stringent guidelines specifically for high-end installations.

New LAN technologies currently being evaluated and the percentage of organizations considering them

Graph: New LAN technologies currently being evaluated and the
percentageof organizations considering them.
Source: Network Cabling Today & Tomorrow

In addition to advanced cabling products, the market develops new architectures for the ever-changing workplace. Zone cabling with copper or fiber optics simplifies office restructuring by reducing both installation time and material costs. A hybrid version of this architecture, using both high-performance fiber optics and low-cost copper-based electronics, creates a migration path for implementing Fiber-to-the-Desk (FTTD®).

Installing a high-end cabling system can really pay off. An investment in quality components that exceed the minimum standards will ensure your network performs at its intended level and will function under your operating conditions. It also provides the capacity to accommodate future applications. Extending the life span of your information system is worth the modest investment in a high-end structured cabling system.

Financial Benefits

Graphs showing the financial benefits of a structured cabling system.

As an investment, structured cabling provides exceptional returns. A structured cabling system will outlive all other networking components. It requires minimal upgrades--and ultimately saves your business both time and money. Many companies are already considering high-speed access methods like ATM, Fast Ethernet and FDDI. High-performance cabling can further extend the life of your network at minimal incremental cost, so it makes good sense to choose a system now that will meet your anticipated requirements well into the future.

Choosing the right cabling system is critical for performance as well as reliability. Physical management problems account for 50 percent of network problems, yet structured cabling is only two percent of your network investment. Because the cost of downtime can exceed $50,000 an hour, it's easy to see the significance of your investment. Anixter will help you make this important decision.

Value-Added Capabilities

Service You Can Trust
With the variety of technology available on the market today, it can be difficult to know if you are making the right decision. Anixter is committed to providing you not only with the solutions you need, but the service that will keep your network running smoothly.

Anixter is dedicated to training its employees and customers alike on the latest technologies and products. Workshops are available to familiarize you with fiber optic and copper-based applications and solutions at Anixter's facilities or at your site.

Anixter offers a level of service unmatched in the industry thanks in part to 200 Registered Communication Distribution Designers (RCDDs) certified by Building Industry Consulting Services International (BICSI)--more than anyone else in the industry.

Anixter can help you every step of the way. We can assist in developing individualized corporate cabling standards, facility drawings and proposal documentation. On-site help with product selection and training is available from system engineers who can design a complete solution with your current and future needs in mind. Anixter can also provide technical and multisite project support as well as recommend partner contractors to perform installation.

Mount Prospect Lab
Image: Anixter's Mt. Prospect Lab.

When you need to make sure that your particular solution will work before it is installed, Anixter has the answer. Our multimillion dollar structured cabling interoperability and active data laboratories can evaluate products and systems in a live, multivendor environment.



Industry Participation
Anixter has shaped many of the current industry standards, and we continue to keep our customers aware of the latest trends through our participation and membership in the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the ATM Forum and BICSI.

Infrastructure Management and Synopsis

Cabling Administration
One challenge to maintaining a complex network is following the rigorous cross-reference methods required by the TIA/EIA-606 Cabling Administration Standard.

Effective management of your structured cabling infrastructure is made possible by infrastructure modeling and cable management software. These management systems combine the power of a database with the graphics capabilities of a computer-aided design application (CAD). Customized programs incorporate user-friendly features to organize moves, adds and changes for optimum network capacity.

Considerations
Structured cabling is designed to handle a broad range of communications--from telephone, fax and modem traffic to high-speed data and video. Ultimately, your network's specific requirements will determine the appropriate cabling choices for your information system. Here are several points to consider when planning a structured cabling system:

  • Performance and bandwidth requirements
  • Future network applications
  • Life cycle cost
  • Product features
  • Support and service

At Anixter, we take all of these factors into account to provide you with a total solution that meets your structured cabling needs. You'll get the best possible equipment for your information system to help your network upgrade go smoothly. In addition, our top-of-the-line services will ensure that you become comfortable with your new equipment, enabling you to get your point across effectively no matter how you choose to communicate.

 

All contents © 1997 Anixter Inc.