The benefit of structure: remembering life before SCS
A structured approach to cabling has brought many benefits to modern enterprises, but it wasn’t always this ordered. CommScope structured cabling expert Ricardo Diaz gives us a glimpse into how things used to be, and how they have evolved.
I still recall one of my first structured cabling projects — and, in particular, the first walk-through of the building before we started. This was a large office building with several hundred workstations spread over three floors. During the site inspection, we removed a few ceiling tiles, revealing all manner of cables completely foreign to me. Single- and two-pair shielded cable, various coaxial, and some multi-pair — most of which was run in point-to-point fashion.
The adage that “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line” was definitely the theme. The neat cable bundles I had come to expect in the twisted-pair cabling world were nowhere to be seen. When I asked the installer what these strange cables were, and why they weren’t part of the structured cabling project, he patiently explained how the facilities network was different from the IT network.
He said building management systems (BMS) used different protocols and, ultimately, different cable technology. Other applications like security, lighting control and A/V also used different cabling, installed separately and in advance of the IT cabling. He explained how there were multiple installation crews, each running separate cables in a point-to-point fashion, and that, ultimately, these applications were beyond the scope of a structured cabling project.
Thank goodness for SCS
Much has changed since that site visit nearly two decades ago. The de facto protocol for LAN networks (i.e., Ethernet) has spread to the facilities side with its low port cost and addressing capability. And, with advances to the power over Ethernet (PoE) standards, a wider range of devices can now be powered and networked via the same twisted-pair cable.
Applications such as IP security, access control and even low-voltage lighting have migrated to Ethernet and twisted-pair cabling. Unlike traditional desktop connections, they increasingly find their way into the ceiling, replacing the myriad cable types I had seen on my walk-through many years ago. And they are being installed per the structured cabling standards — properly bundled and routed overhead. Our customers are increasingly using concepts such as the universal connectivity grid to plan for ceiling-based connectivity over twisted-pair cabling.
This evolution from multi-cable chaos to a more structured approach has brought many benefits: lower overall costs, easier maintenance, greater bandwidth and a future-proofed infrastructure. And let us not forget that SCS has not stopped evolving.
The construction of smart buildings
CommScope is proud to consider itself at the forefront of structured cabling, and we recently had an opportunity to practise what we preach when we opened a new office in Madrid, Spain. This was our chance to exercise the best practices we had outlined in our recently published eBook: Smart building connectivity. Implementing PoE-driven LED lighting from Philips, and managed with the imVision AIM system, the network consisted of GigaSPEED X10D Category 6A cabling. Mobile connectivity is provided by the ION-E in-building wireless system. In addition to delivering true smart building technology to its occupants, this office also serves as a showcase to other end users interested in the latest in innovative workplaces.
Smart buildings like this have replaced chaos with structure. Where there had been duplication and inefficiency, there is now a single, consolidated approach to delivering the bandwidth, availability and manageability that modern enterprises and data centers need. I doubt I will walk round another building with the multi-cable mess I saw that day — and I’m delighted I don’t have to work in one, either.
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