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Wireville.com

Issue: December 2007
By: Frank Bisbee


Datacom/Telecom Glossary
In This Issue

Bits N' Pieces


BISBEE’S BUZZ

Happy Holidays and goodbye to 2007. The year ahead offers real business improvement, in spite of soaring oil prices, falling stock market values, and a terrible slump in the residential market.

The productivity of America's workers soared to the highest levels in more than 20 years. The economic recovery may be taking hold and businesses may soon be stepping up hiring and manufacturing. When you consider how many cabling projects have been held in abeyance and for how long they have been postponed, we could have a real surge in the cabling business during 2008. Wouldn't that be nice?

Plan ahead. Get the resources to stay up to date and maximize your competitive edge. There are some outstanding publications available to fill your library, keep you current, and educate your staff.

We recommend:

Electrical Contractor Magazine www.ecmag.com

Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine www.cablinginstall.com

Cabling Networking Systems Magazine www.cnsmagazine.com

Communications News Magazine www.comnews.com

Cabling Business Magazine www.cablingbusiness.com

The Electrical Distributor Magazine www.tedmag.com

Also make sure you visit www.mikeholt.com for all the news on the National Electric Code. Sign up for his newsletter, it's free.

And if you want to understand your customers better, add these to your subscription list:

Building Operating Management http://www.facilitiesnet.com/

Buildings Magazine www.buildings.com

As the economy struggles from neutral into forward gear, we suggest you consider membership in the following organizations:

BICSI - this is a MUST www.bicsi.org

NECA - National Assoc of Electrical Contractors www.necanet.org

FOA – The Fiber Optic Association Inc. - The Professional Society of Fiber Optics www.thefoa.org

ACUTA - Assoc of Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education www.acuta.org

CABA - Continental Automated Building Association www.caba.org

BOMA* - Building Owners & Managers Association International www.boma.org

NAIOP* - National Assoc of Industrial and Office Properties www.naiop.org

* These commercial real estate organizations control more than 15 billion square feet of office space in the U.S.A. The tenant turnover offers continual business opportunities for the contractor.

If you have filled your Christmas stocking with the above listed values, you will be better prepared to capture the opportunities that will develop in 2008.

Go forth and be profitable. Once again, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from your friends at wireville.com

Remember: Safety is too important to ignore.

But that’s just my opinion,

Frank Bisbee
"Heard On The Street" Monthly Column
www.wireville.com
4949 Sunbeam Rd, Suite 16
Jacksonville, FL 32257
(904) 645-9077 office
(904) 645-9058 fax
frank@wireville.com


Register Today For The 2008 BICSI Winter Conference

Look for your copy of the Conference Final Announcement that was sent with this month’s BICSI News.

In the Final Announcement you will receive important conference information, a Conference Registration form, seminar details, a Golf Registration form and information about hotel reservations, rental cars and much more. Visit the official conference Web site for additional information as well as the official conference blog for the most up-to-date information available.

BICSI Courses:

Don’t forget to register early for courses taking place before and after the Winter Conference. Take advantage of this great opportunity to advance your project management skills or to elevate your design status. Installation and design courses and exams are taking place around the conference for your convenience. Click here for the Training and Exam schedule.

New to this conference:

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to attend a panel discussion of “Future Trends-of-the-Industry.” Panel members include John Adams, Tony Whaley and Chris Diminico with moderator Don Nelson. The panel will address current trends in the key ITS areas of outside plant, networks and wireless. The forum will be open so that all conference attendees can share meaningful and beneficial discussions. Join us for this new format that will offer expert views and a discussion of key industry areas. Visit the conference schedule for more information. www.bicsi.org


From One Kind Act to Worldwide Giving: BICSI Cares—The Charitable Foundation of BICSI

BICSI Cares has partnered with Healing the Children of Florida/Georgia, Inc. to help provide funds for children in need. At the annual BICSI Winter Conference in January all donations will be collected and presented to Healing the Children to help the organization fulfill its mission of providing donated healthcare to children in need.

This mission is accomplished through three distinct programs.

  • The Local Kids program consists of community outreach, free children’s medical/dental clinics, and a network of volunteer physicians. Last year the program provided services to over 500 children throughout Central Florida. The program focuses its attention on uninsured children living in pockets of poverty. Children, who are without access to healthcare because of a lack of financial resources, receive donated medical care through our network of volunteer physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Most of these children come from households where both parents are working, but are unable to afford the rising costs of healthcare.

  • The International Inbound program provides transportation, housing, and donated surgical care to children in need from different countries. Once in the United States they are matched up with specialized medical and surgical treatment. During their stay in this country, children live with host families. When the medical treatment is complete, the children return home to their families, taking with them the precious gift of health. Last year the program helped fifteen international children.

  • In 2005 the third program began by offering volunteers the opportunity to travel abroad with the Medical Missions program. Volunteer medical and surgical health professionals travel at their own expense to treat patients and share their expertise with host country health professionals during procedures and in-service sessions. Other volunteers unpack and prepare medical equipment and medicines, provide transportation, organize patients and document activities.

    Most trips last eight to 10 days, and often the doctors treat as many as 100 children and screen more for possible treatment in the U.S. Specialties most often provided on HTC medical trips are plastic and maxillofacial surgery, dental services, ear, nose and throat services, and ophthalmologic, neurosurgical, urological, general surgical, and orthopedic procedures. The work is grueling, but rewarding. Many doctors report feeling renewed commitment to their profession and new certainty that what they do is worthwhile.

Without such a committed organization like Healing the Children, thousands would not receive needed medical attention.

Success Story

Meet Julian Castellanos a 2-year-old boy with Retinoblastoma (tumor of the eyes). Julian is from Colombia and his family makes $35 a month. Julian’s family could not afford his treatment and he was not able to receive the treatment in his home country. While awaiting acceptance by a hospital the United States he lost one eye. 

Through many phone calls and letters Healing the Children was able to acquire donated treatment for Julian at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. Thanks to the generosity of the hospital, doctor, and other medical professionals, as well as a generous host family in Minnesota, Julian was able to receive the life saving treatment.

Due to the efforts of many, a child has been saved and given a second chance at life. Recent visits back to the Minnesota hospital has confirmed the treatment was a success and he could return immediately to Columbia.

Healing Children “one child at a time.”

While at the 2008 BICSI Winter Conference, please stop by the BICSI Cares booth to learn more about Healing the Children of Florida/Georgia, Inc. Donations can be made at the booth, by calling +1 813.979.1991 or 800.242.7405 (USA/Canada toll free), or by visiting www.bicsi.org. Please help today — a child is waiting.


Twelve New Concentrates For Low-Smoke PVC Plenum Compounds Are RoHS-Compliant And Include Two Altogether New Colors

With the introduction of a range of RoHS-compliant concentrates for use with FireGuard® and other low-smoke PVC plenum compounds, Teknor Color Company now offers RoHS-compliant colors spanning the entire spectrum of the most widely used wire and cable polymers, the company announced today.

The new range of concentrates includes ten counterparts to non-RoHS-compliant colors offered for FireGuard compounds, plus two—rose and aqua—not previously available. Both old and new concentrates have the same low-smoke PVC carrier resins, and there are no appreciable differences between the new concentrates and the earlier formulations in terms of use levels and performance, according to Anne Upton, wire and cable market manager.

“Teknor Color Company has formulated the new FireGuard concentrates with pigments that comply with RoHS regulations yet provide the same coloring efficiency and electrical performance obtained with standard concentrates,” said Upton. “This is our third RoHS-compliant product line, joining a range of 16 colors for all PVC compounds other than plenum types, and a range of twelve Munsell® colors for use with polyethylene.”

In addition to Aqua and Rose, the new colors for FireGuard and other standard low-flame, low-smoke plenum compounds include Black, Blue, Brown, Green, Grey, Orange, Purple, Red, White, and Yellow.

FireGuard low-flame, low-smoke PVC compounds are manufactured by Teknor Apex’s Vinyl Division, an affiliate of Teknor Color. They meet or exceed all applicable UL requirements pertaining to applications in copper and fiber optic plenum cables used in commercial buildings. The Vinyl Division also produces Apex® PVC wire and cable compounds, used in virtually every type of wire and cable application.: www.teknorcolor.com.


ADC Adds Field Liaison Enhancement To PACE Program

ADC (NASDAQ:ADCT) (www.adc.com) announced today the introduction of a field liaison support element to its Professional Architects, Consultants and Engineers (PACE) Program to increase the support of PACE members serving current and prospective ADC enterprise and service provider customers. As field liaisons to contractors and designers across the United States and Canada, ADC systems engineers will directly provide their experience, technical knowledge and resources to these key industry professionals.

"Over the past year, we have consistently heard from our 900 plus members about a real need for another level of support in serving their customers. Enhancing the PACE Program with field liaisons demonstrates our commitment as a complete solutions provider and partner for our participants," said David Yanish, PACE program manager at ADC. "While a primary goal of this enhancement is to provide access to more training and tools across a broad scope of technologies and topics, it also will promote more collaboration with the consultant community, a group of important market influencers on the customers that we collectively serve."

Resources that the PACE field liaisons will provide include:

-- ADC system engineer participation in site visits with PACE members to match customer needs with the applicable technologies

-- Technology, product and application training, such as the emergence of 10G Ethernet and datacenter consolidation

-- Rich content, including industry standards updates, whitepapers and application notes

Launched in Feb. 2006, the industry-leading PACE Program is designed to inform, support and nurture ADC's relationships with consultants and designers. Other major elements of ADC's PACE Program include: ongoing subject-matter expertise, simple and concise content delivery, portal navigation and dedicated partner support and easily accessible and simple design and proposal tools.

"As we have said since introducing PACE, we deeply value our relationships with the consultants who are serving our industry and want to inform and support them as much as possible," said Yanish. "ADC is pleased to leverage our systems engineering team to provide industry professionals with additional PACE program resources to draw upon."

The PACE program includes information and support for ADC's TrueNet Structured Cabling System and OmniReach FTTX Infrastructure Solutions.

To register for the PACE Program visit www.adc.com/partners or e-mail pace@adc.com. There is no cost or obligation to participate. www.adc.com.


Anixter International Inc. Announces Share Repurchase Program

Anixter International Inc. (NYSE: AXE - News) announced a share repurchase program under which the Company may repurchase up to 1 million of its outstanding shares with the exact volume and timing dependent on market conditions. Anixter noted that all previously announced share repurchase programs had been completed prior to the end of the first quarter of 2007.

Anixter currently has approximately 37.5 million shares outstanding.

Anixter International is the world's leading distributor of communication products, electrical and electronic wire & cable and a leading distributor of fasteners and other small parts ("C" Class inventory components) to Original Equipment Manufacturers. The company adds value to the distribution process by providing its customers access to 1) innovative inventory management programs, 2) more than 350,000 products and over $1 billion in inventory, 3) 221 warehouses with more than 5.5 million square feet of space, and 4) locations in 250 cities in 49 countries. Founded in 1957 and headquartered near Chicago, Anixter trades on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AXE. http://www.anixter.com

CI & M Magazine

An insider’s take on cable-removal requirements

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You’re sick of having to read my rants about abandoned cable. What do I think, I’m going to advocate cleaning up the planet so I can win next year’s Nobel Peace Prize, emulating Internet inventor Al Gore? I’ll freely admit to climbing on the abandoned-cable soapbox time and again, and see no reason to apologize for it. So get ready (or get flipping the page), because here I go again.

Not long after I wrote an article in our July issue entitled “Abandoned cable removal a dogged challenge for all,” (p. xx), I received a call from a well-recognized veteran of our industry. This gentleman had just read my article and paid particular attention to the following line: “One potential reason for such unpredictable enforcement could be the sometimes-confounding wording within the NEC in which abandoned cable is referenced.” He suggested I might want to get in touch with a gentleman named Phil Janeway, who chairs BICSI’s Codes Committee. The caller also suggested it might be in my best interest to get in touch with Phil before he read the article and got in touch with me. Mr. Janeway, I was informed, would not use the word “confounding” to describe those parts of the National Electrical Code that deal with abandoned cable.

Shortly thereafter I had the opportunity to speak to Phil Janeway, and discovered the assessment I was given was absolutely true. He does not believe the abandoned-cable-removal requirements are vague, nor do they provide loopholes that would allow building owners to keep in place cable that will never again be put to any practical use. As a member of the National Fire Protection Association group that developed the original abandoned-cable requirements, he explained to me that those requirements were perfected over three NEC revision cycles before they were finally included in the document. At three years per cycle, that’s as much as nine years of work. In that time, he explained, the wording was examined, re-examined, re-re-examined, re-re-re … you get the picture. It was pondered exhaustively.

Then he gave me his perspective on how to determine whether or not a cable fits the definition of “abandoned.” And, believe it or not, I had never heard it put this way before. Rather than telling me when/if/why a cable not currently in use would have to be removed from a building, he explained to me the circumstances under which such a cable can stay in a building. Quite simply, it has to meet two requirements. 1) It must be terminated at both ends. 2) It must be tagged for future use. End of story. No need for debate about a cable that’s terminated on one end but not the other. No getting away with tagging an unterminated cable for future use just so you don’t have to rip it out.

As a person who has been guilty of treating NEC requirements for abandoned-cable removal like they’re the tax code, I found it enlightening to hear the thoughts of one of the men who helped craft those requirements. Hopefully you find it interesting too.

Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

Reprinted with full permission of CI & M Magazine – Nov 2007 www.cable-install.com


6A’s final hurdle: Testing, but not the kind you think

Committee members optimistically look at December as a potential publish date.

Patrick McLaughlin is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

If all goes according to plan, the final chapter of the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) standardization of Augmented Category 6 (Category 6A) specifications will be written before this calendar year ends. The group has its sites set on a meeting the second week of December, at which all outstanding issues may be resolved and the standard approved for publication.

“The standard is in great shape,” says Val Rybinski, global sales engineer with The Siemon Company and chair of the TIA’s TR-42.7 Telecommunications Copper Cabling Systems Committee. “The transmission numbers have been firm for a long time; they have not changed in two years,” she adds. In addition to establishing link and channel performance requirements, TIA standards also specify the performance of components within those systems. And it’s some of those component specifications—for connecting hardware in particular—that TR-42.7 must finalize before the standard is complete.

From a standards-process viewpoint, the only part of the standard that is still under review—and therefore still has the potential to change—is the procedure for measuring connecting-hardware component compliance. “We froze the entire body of the document except a few minor technical changes,” related to the component-measurement procedure, Rybinski states. So it is safe to say the link and channel specifications are indeed final, as they have been for two years.

The most recent category-rated TIA specification, Category 6, specified performance levels to 250 MHz. Category 6A doubles that frequency to 500 MHz, which is in sync with the maximum frequency of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE; www.ieee.org) 10GBase-T specifications. Such high frequencies have been new territory for the group, which has been challenged to make some minute measurements of connectors to 500 MHz without using ASTM International (www.astm.org) tests as references, because no such tests exist.

“We can make measurements with a certain amount of inaccuracy—say 1 dB for example,” Rybinski continues. “What we’d like to do in the standard is get that inaccuracy reduced, and the way to do that is to develop better test fixturing. We believe the new measurement fixture made specifically for connecting hardware will allow us to make very accurate measurements.”

Effectively isolating a connector and measuring that connector’s performance presents numerous challenges from technical and practical standpoints, and TR-42.7 formed a task group—headed by the committee’s co-chair Sterling Vaden—to develop and refine a test fixture for the purpose. Among the technical challenges the group has faced are maintaining good impedance around 100 ohms at 500 MHz, and one of the biggest practical challenge is isolating the twisted pairs from the measurement. Historically, the characteristics of the test leads used in the process have been subject to change during the testing process, due at least in some part to the leads’ movement while testing is underway. The fixture recently developed and currently being used by the test-fixture task group keeps the test leads very precisely located, thereby allowing them to be subtracted from the measurement and allowing as pure a connector measurement as possible.

The next step, one that is set to be taken as this article is going to press, is a series of round-robin testing in which multiple manufacturers’ connectors are tested using a single fixture. Hugo Draye, product manager for certification products with Fluke Networks (www.flukenetworks.com), points out that such testing is critical to arguably the most important characteristics of standard-compliant products: interoperability and backward compatibility.

“Manufacturers of connecting hardware are ready to conduct round-robin testing of each component,” he states. “That happens late in the standards process,” he adds, confirming that the group is close to a final document. “At some point jacks and plugs need to be defined as components. Link and channel performance reports must be based on individual components.”

Draye recalls that similar challenges faced Category 6, when early pre-standard plugs and jacks were not interoperable among vendors, nor necessarily backward-compatible with lower-category hardware. Back then, technology progressed and connecting-hardware manufacturers refined their components to perform within the TIA-established parameters that would ensure both interoperability and backward compatibility. With Category 6A, TIA is on the threshold of finalizing the means for measuring connectors’ ability to perform within those parameters.

Somewhat ironically, it has been another form of Category 6A testing—alien crosstalk and the means of field testing for it—that has generated about 99% of the pre-standard buzz. On that topic, Rybinski offers two facts that may surprise many. 1) Everything related to field-testing procedures for Category 6A have been closed. The specifications are complete. 2) Standards have never made field testing mandatory. Category 6A is no exception.

To that end, Draye observes, “The TIA and IEEE have said, ‘Here’s how you measure, here are limit lines, et cetera.’ The standards clearly define what to measure and how to do it to ensure valid results. But they do not address the sampling method.”

In other words, the standards are silent and users are left to make their own decisions about testing all, some or no Category 6A circuits for alien crosstalk. As Rybinski pointed out, this is nothing new.

Reprinted with full permission of CI & M Magazine – Nov 2007 www.cable-install.com


The verdict is in: Fiber-to-the-desk

The U.S. District Courts South Texas Division chooses an optical cabling infrastructure.

Bob Ballard, RCDD is owner of BDI DataLynk, LLC (www.bdidatalynk.com).

As the demand for bandwidth increases, so should the common-sense approach to installing fiber-to-the-desk. But there are still those who need convincing on a daily, if not hourly, basis. As we all know and have been taught since we were wee wire pullers, fiber is always more expensive than copper. This myth has recently been proven false in many projects throughout the country. Unfortunately, some of our network-design-engineer partners are still using the old cut-and-paste method of network design, and seldom offer the end user the option of installing fiber-to-the-desk. Sadly, these same engineers are still specifying 62.5-micron fiber when they should, in fact, be calling out 50-micron fiber for new multimode installations.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to speak at 11 luncheons given by various design firms in the Houston and Austin, TX areas. Surprisingly, no engineer at any of the firms was aware of the standards governing fiber-to-the-desk. Many had no idea that 50-micron fiber was, in fact, a part of existing wiring standards. Unfortunately, there was and still is a common misconception that fiber-to-the-desk is always more expensive than copper.

In early 2005, while teaching a Certified Fiber Optics Technician course at the University of Texas at Arlington, I was fortunate to have two students from the United States Courts South Texas Division in Houston. During the five-day course, fiber-to-the-desk was described in great detail. Although this was a fiber-optics class and was obviously biased toward fiber, the presentation offered an opportunity to the U.S. Courts, South Texas Division, to completely understand the benefits of fiber-optic networking without all the myths and misconceptions about using fiber instead of copper all the way to the desktop.

The fiber decision

Once the technicians had completed the class and had good, solid, up-to-date information, they were able to convey their fiber-optic networking ideas back to the Houston office. Not surprisingly, before they made it home to Houston the decision to install fiber-to-the-desk in several federal courthouses in the South Texas District was in the works.

It just made good sense for the taxpayers and the U.S. Courts, Texas Division facilities. They had been pulling and repulling category unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) copper cables for years just to keep up with the demand for bandwidth from the courthouses. From Category 3 to Category 5e, they had it all. In fact, they were about to purchase new switches and routers for their entire network across all seven cities in the district. Further, the entire network cabling infrastructure was going to need replacement again.

Once they realized that fiber-to-the-desk was a valid option, they began to research the cost involved for both scenarios—copper versus fiber—not only from a cabling standpoint, but also from a cost-per-port standpoint. Some questions, therefore, had to be answered. What was the total cost for switches if they ran copper? What would be the total cost of switches and media converters if they installed fiber? How did the cost of fiber cabling compare to that of copper? Finally, if they installed copper, how long would it be before they would eventually be installing fiber? Additionally, they knew, based on their available budget, if they were going to put this new network in place, they were going to have to install it themselves.

I have seen network technology standards change dramatically over the past 15 years, from 10-Mbits to 100-Mbits to 1-Gbit and now 10-Gbits/sec. Every time the speed increases, the copper manufacturers come out with a new solution to meet the demands. The U.S. Courts, South Texas Division technicians have been installing and re-installing these solutions for years. As a result, organizations attempting to keep up with these standards are forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every three to five years because the copper infrastructure will not support the new technology being introduced.

So the latest solution, meant for 10-Gbit/sec networks, has copper manufacturers once again attempting to meet the IEEE’s 802.3an 10GBase-T standard. But based on past history, I believe it will not meet the next standard that comes along. It appears that even if copper can meet the 10GBase-T requirements, this could very well be the final “twist” for copper. Based on these facts, fiber would eventually be installed in the U.S. Courts South Texas buildings in three to five years.

Self-installed network

In addition to being tasked with purchasing new switches and routers, the technicians’ responsibility included trying to convince U.S. Courts management that fiber-to-the-desk was in the best interest of the court and the taxpayers, and that they were capable of installing it themselves after the training they had received.

The ultimate decision turned out to be simple, based on the facts. It was just as cost effective to install fiber-to-the-desk as copper, considering that it would be installed in their building within three to five years anyway. With fiber, their network would have maximum bandwidth capabilities with no electromagnetic interference/radio-frequency interference and no alien crosstalk; it would be more reliable and secure than a copper network. More importantly, as new technologies are introduced, they would only need to purchase the electronics, instead of both electronics and cabling infrastructure to meet the demand.

The decision to do the job themselves was an easy one. Whoever said that installing, terminating, and testing fiber was more difficult than installing, terminating, and testing UTP copper should reconsider, because terminating SC anaerobic connectors is a breeze. Also, the cost of two SC singlemode connectors was less than one of the 10GBase-T-capable 8-pin modular connectors they had initially considered. The entire project consists of about 8,000 hand terminations. Personally, I would much rather be installing 8,000 anaerobic SCs than 8,000 RJ-45-style UTP connectors. The anaerobic SCs have no worries about separating eight different color-coded wires during termination, no worries about maintaining this twist or that twist, no worries about punching down too hard or not hard enough, and no worries about extra testing for alien crosstalk—or any other crosstalk for that matter. The technicians used a basic power source and light meter to test their fiber segments to ensure they were within the recommended loss budget of the electronics. Only a few SC fiber connectors had to be reterminated.

The decision to use 50/125-µm, OM3 laser-optimized fiber also was simple. The user needed a product that would offer a final solution to cabling-upgrade issues that have plagued all information-technology managers since the early days of networking. The ever-increasing demand for more bandwidth, the need for security, and the demand for network reliability made fiber-to-the-desk the best solution.

In virtually all cases, the ability to upgrade a fiber network is quite simply a matter of changing a switch or network interface card. In reality, the formula for fiber-to-the-desk is simple: Install it, test it, and forget it. Because the active telecommunications room (TR) as we know it goes away, there is no need for heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment, air ducts, primary power, secondary power, secure access, thermostats, lights, uninterruptible power supplies, grounding, and switches. Plus, consider that many active TRs consume roughly 2% of a building’s annual power budget. One has to consider that building space is at a premium as well. The TR is much smaller when fiber-to-the-desk is deployed.

Considering the real-estate and TR-related issues detailed above, fiber-to-the-desk provides a cost-effective solution that is ready for future applications with almost limitless bandwidth capabilities. Also, if there was any doubt about whether or not one is getting full network speed to the desk continuously, fiber provides a comfort level that copper does not.

Yesterday and tomorrow

While contemplating the need for a fiber-to-the-desk solution, the court division not only considered the ever-changing bandwidth demands of the present, but also those of the future. Over the years they had installed several generations of UTP cabling, and believed the time had come to install a longer-term solution. With an eye to the future, the user decided to specify the latest OM3, 50/125-µm laser-optimized multimode fiber to be used throughout the system at all U.S. federal court house locations in Houston, McAllen, Laredo, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, and Galveston. OM3 fibers have the capability of supporting higher transmission rates using lower-cost 850-nanomter vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), standard 850-nm light-emitting diodes (LEDs), or most any 1300-nm lasers on the market.

For future bandwidth considerations, the OM3 fiber, which costs around 16 cents per foot more than standard 50-micron fiber, has the capability to support even higher data transmission rates using parallel-optics transceiver arrays and/or coarse wavelength-division multiplexing (CWDM) technology. Consider this: If you had 10 OM3, 50-µm fibers, each with a throughput of 10-Gbits/sec, each could be aggregated into a 100-Gbit/sec system. Further, if you had 2 OM3 fibers, each carrying four wavelengths, via CWDM, at 12.5-Gbits/sec apiece, the result would also be a 100-Gbit/sec system. Why not use singlemode fiber? The lasers cost much more to manufacture and would drive the cost of networking electronics too high for local area network (LAN)-based applications. Singlemode fiber is best used for distances in excess of 550 meters.

One potential concern in such a fiber-to-the-desk installation is the high cost of plenum innerduct. In this case, none was used. With the high tensile strength of new distribution and riser-rated fiber cable, the use of plenum innerduct is an unnecessary expense in many cases, including this one. The U.S. Court’s fiber is being hung from J-hooks above the drop ceiling and along the walls as necessary. Most LAN cable problems occur where we humans have access to them on a continuous basis—in the TR. Therefore, the use of plenum innerduct in the project was avoided, resulting in a significant decrease in cost per-drop.

Installation support

Many of the U.S. Courts technical staff who installed the fiber cabling had little if any fiber-optics experience. Senior U.S. Courts, South Texas Division personnel provided all daily support and project supervisory functions at all sites. Registered Communications Distribution Designers from BDI DataLynk are providing periodic visits to inspect installation progress and offer assistance should problems occur during the install.

All installation, termination, splicing, and testing is being done by U.S. Courts technical support staff. Every technician and supervisor involved in the actual installation at all seven locations received training from BDI DataLynk, which provided Fiber Optics Assocation-sanctioned fiber-optics training. Although fusion splicers were used for splicing pigtails to the 144-fiber backbone cable serving every TR, this entire project is otherwise being completed with basic fiber-optic tools and test equipment.

The loss budget for the low-cost, high-performance 1300-nm media converters used at each end of the fiber segments is 11 dB. With a 3-dB aging (excess margin) built in at design and additional specified losses allowed for cable, connectors, and splices, no segment is approaching an attenuation level that would cause concern now or in the future. Specifically, the U.S. Courts technicians are able to achieve an average splice loss of 0.0 dB and a loss of less than 0.3 dB per connector pair using the anaerobic three-step polishing process. Testing of the newly installed fiber segments is being accomplished with an optical-loss test set. Final segment testing and certification at both 850 and 1300 nm is being accomplished using an industry-recognized, bidirectional cable certification tester.

The benefits and expectations of this 2,000-plus-user fiber-to-the-desk installation will far exceed the expectations of the U.S. Courts South Texas Division. The general public, judges, clerks, staff, and network technicians will have fast access to important files, unlimited video teleconferencing capabilities, uninterrupted Voice over IP service, and day-to-day file sharing with tremendous bandwidth capabilities in their new 10-Gbit/sec-capable fiber infrastructure.

Using on-staff personnel; low-cost, high-quality SC singlemode connectors; low-cost tools; basic fiber-optic installation, termination, and testing techniques; the elimination of legacy active TRs; and the elimination of costly plenum innerduct is resulting in a low-cost, virtually maintenance-free, high-quality, high-bandwidth fiber-to-the-desk network that will meet and exceed all current network-bandwidth requirements, and I believe will meet and exceed all future bandwidth requirements as well.

Well-prepared for the future

Even with the use of temporary, low-cost media converters at each end of most fiber segments, the installed cost-per-port fiber-to-the-desk installation was, in fact, a cost-effective solution. The substantial overall savings allowed for the purchase of new switches to add to the vast network of switchgear already installed. Now instead of “mystery” Megs to the desk, the network is only limited by the capabilities of the active components at each end—not crosstalk and other maladies commonly associated with installed UTP copper networks.

The U.S. Courts South Texas Division IT team got all of the facts before they made the decision to properly prepare their infrastructure for the future. They took the time to analyze the big difference between actual cost per port versus installed cost per port.

SIDEBAR

More support for fiber-to-the-desk

According to Andrew Oliviero, chair of the Fiber Optics LAN Section of the Telecommunications Industry Association (FOLS; www.fols.org), deploying fiber to the desk is not a new idea; centralized cabling has been a standard-compliant architecture since 1997. “However,” says Oliviero, “many network designers have assumed that it’s simply too expensive to install when compared to a copper-based network. It’s not until designers take into consideration the benefits that fiber can offer such as increased port utilization, higher bandwidth, and the ability to eliminate or reduce the size of telecommunications rooms, that they begin to see how fiber can be cost effective to install and offer them even greater savings over the life of the network.”

Oliviero points out that while many people believe that fiber-to-the-desk would only work for very large installations, such as the U.S. Court system, using sample scenarios, FOLS can envision a situation in which fiber-to-the-desk can be cost effective even for a small number of users. “When you are able to improve port utilization, you are able to reduce the number of switches,” he explains. “Even if the fiber switches are still more expensive than copper switches, you can use fewer of them.”

He adds that tools are available to help network designers compare the installed first costs of different standards-compliant architectures. “For example, the FOLS developed its free Premises Cost Model to help network designers better understand the tradeoffs of deploying different architectures,” he explains. “The Cost Model allows users to put in the parameters of their own network, use their own costs, and determine relative costs.” The Cost Model can be downloaded, free of charge, by anyone who registers at the Web site www.fols.org/resources/costmodel_reg.cfm.

FOLS is committed to keeping the Cost Model current with market conditions. The most recent version, published in February 2007, includes the following.

  • Updated aggregate pricing that reflects current market conditions. FOLS encourages users to input their own pricing data to obtain a user-specific comparison of network architecture choices.
  • 850-nm laser-optimized 50/125-µm (OM3) fiber, as this is now the most commonly used fiber type for premises applications.
  • Category 5e, 6, and 6A unshielded twisted-pair copper.
  • The ability to customize the port-utilization factor by floor or telecommunications room to more accurately reflect the user’s own design, or use of the model’s default settings.
  • A graphical network architecture comparison that allows users to compare costs using pie charts.

“The installation in the U.S. District Courts in South Texas is a great example of how thinking outside of conventional wisdom can reap benefits,” says Oliviero. “In this installation, fiber provided a cost-effective upgrade strategy that could be installed and tested by technicians that were trained just for the job. I think it underscores the performance benefits of fiber and debunks the myth that fiber is more difficult to install than copper.”

The Fiber Optics LAN Section of the TIA is a consortium of leading fiber-optic cable, component, and electronics manufacturers. The FOLS focuses on educating end users and design consultants about the technical advantages and affordability that optical transmission can bring to local area networks and fiber-to-the-desk applications.

Liz Goldsmith is spokesperson for the FOLS. Member companies of the FOLS include 3M; Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company; CommScope; Corning; Draka Comteq; OFS; Ortronics/Legrand; Panduit; Sumitomo Electric Lightwave; Superior Essex; and Tyco Electronics.

Reprinted with full permission of CI & M Magazine – Nov 2007 www.cable-install.com


Energy Consumption An Overriding Issue

Federal-government involvement is driving improved practices for more-efficient operation.

Patrick McLaughlin is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

If anybody ever joked that it would take an act of Congress to rein in the mushrooming amount of energy consumption in data centers, the joking stopped on December 20, 2006, when the 109th United States Congress enacted Public Law 109-431: An Act to Study and Promote the Use of Energy Efficient Computer Servers in the United States. Brief by lawmaking standards, the act directed the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov), through its Energy Star program, to study and report back to Congress its findings “analyzing the rapid growth and energy consumption of computer data centers by the Federal Government and private enterprise.”

The EPA’s directive included nine points to be studied and gave the agency 180 days in which to report back. The EPA released a draft report in April before returning the full report a 130-page document formally titled “Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency,” dated August 2. In a press release, the EPA stated that its report “shows that data centers in the United States have the potential to save up to $4 billion in annual electricity costs through more energy efficient equipment and operations, and the broad implementation of best management practices.”

Among the notable findings in the report are the following.

  • Data centers in the United States consumed approximately 60 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2006—roughly 1.5% of the nation’s total electricity consumption.
  • Servers’ and data centers’ energy consumption doubled over the most recent five years, and is expected to nearly double in the next five to more than 100 billion kWh, when the total consumption will cost approximately $7.4 annually.
  • Existing technologies and strategies could reduce typical server energy-use by approximately 25%, while advanced technologies could effect further reductions.

The full report, an executive summary of it, the EPA press release, and Public Law 109-431 are all available at the Energy Star Web site, www.energystar.gov.

Three levels of enhancement

After detailing the reasons it believe data center energy consumption will continue to grow rapidly over the next five years as well as the implications of that increased consumption, the EPA report turns it attention to opportunities for energy efficiency. Specifically, the report defines and describes three scenarios—“improved operation,” “best practice,” and “state of the art”—that can incrementally increase efficiency.

Improved operation efforts, which the EPA says require little or not capital investment, include continuing the current trend toward server consolidation; eliminating unused servers; adopting energy-efficient servers to a modest level; enabling power management on all applicable servers; and assuming a modest decline in energy use of enterprise storage equipment. Under this scenario, the EPA says sites will gain a 30% improvement in infrastructure (power and cooling) energy efficiency from improved airflow management.

Best practice efforts include the measures taken in the “improved operation” scenario, but with moderate server consolidation, aggressive adoption of energy-efficient servers, and assuming moderate storage consolidation. Additionally, best-practice efforts call for implementing improved transformers and uninterruptible power supplies; improved efficiency chillers, fans, and pumps; as well as free cooling. Following these procedures will garner up to 70% improvement in infrastructure energy efficiency, the report says.

And state-of-the-art efforts include aggressive server and storage consolidation, as well as enabling power management at the data center level of applications, servers, and equipment for networking and storage. Those steps plus direct liquid cooling and combined heat and power will yield up to 80% improvement in infrastructure energy efficiency, the report states.

The EPA stressed that these descriptions are not comprehensive, but rather representative of a subset of energy-efficiency strategies that could be employed.

Practical implications for cabling

Clearly, there is no silver-bullet single action data center managers can take to improve their systems’ energy efficiency. The interdependence of data center systems on one another rings true in attempts at energy efficiency, in much the same way it does with respect to data transmission.

Dr. Robert Schmidt of IBM is credited with first describing the data center as an ecosystem, and the terminology has attracted many followers.

“A data center is made up of many components, including the room itself, the floor structure—raised or not raised, pressurized or not pressurized—and cable routing, whether it is overhead or underfloor,” says Herb Villa, technical manager with Rittal Corp. (www.rittal.com). “Add to that the overall building systems like lighting, security, enclosures, and the components in those enclosures. All of these components and systems affect the performance of something else.

“No data center component is an island. All must be viewed as an entire system,” he continues. “None can be completely valued independently.” To that end, he says, often data center sites have different personnel in charge of different components. “Sometimes the group responsible for the network cabling and switches is not the same group that is responsible for the servers.” If all these systems are going to work together, it is essential to get the personnel running them together, he comments. Today, that’s often the case. “It used to be that when I would go to a customer, I would talk to the IT personnel. Today, I talked to facilities personnel—plumbing, electricians, and others. Everyone is on the same page much earlier in the process than in the past.”

“Overall we see four critical areas of the data center: the entire infrastructure, network components, storage components, and computing resources,” says Marc Naese, solutions development manager with Panduit (www.panduit.com). “All four areas must interoperate. We have developed our solutions to address specific issues in each of those areas. On a room level, cooling supports the entire ecosystem. As you get down to a rack or cabinet level, the needs change drastically. Side-to-side versus front-to-back airflow is an example.

“Before you can understand your power or cooling requirements, you must know how many servers you are going to deploy. From there, you can calculate what your requirements will be, what the cabinets will look like, and how dense those cabinets will be.”

Keep them separated

“When you follow industry understanding of best practices, everything that is done in the data center is really designed to separate the supply air from the return air as much as possible,” says Ian Seaton, technology marketing manager with Chatsworth Products Inc. (www.chatsworth.com). That’s why, he explains, the hot-aisle/cold-aisle setup was established. “It’s why you seal off access cutouts, install blank tiles, and locate your cooling units in the hot aisles so you prevent your return-air path from migrating into the cold-aisle space.

“If you look at a data center’s entire cooling system as an ecosystem, by virtue of maintaining complete isolation between supply air and return air, you can allow the supply air to be raised in temperature to equal the delivered air temperature. Most want the equipment to see air between 68 and 77 degrees. To get that temperature, your supply air is typically delivered in the 52- to 55-degree range. Follow the line of your cooling system, and you’ll find the chilled-water temperature coming off the condenser is in the low 40s. When you eliminate mixing [of supply air and return air], you can raise your supply air from 52 degrees to 72 degrees, in which case the chilled-water temperature can be 60 degrees.”

Adopting the data-center-as-ecosystem concept may be necessary for managers to achieve the energy efficiencies put forth in the EPA’s report to Congress. And while cabling infrastructure, including racks and cabinets, might play only a small part, the ecosystem mentality dictates that each part affects others.

Reprinted with full permission of CI & M Magazine – Nov 2007 www.cable-install.com


Desktop labeling solution

The RHINO 6500 desktop labeling solution features printer and RHINO CONNECT software bundled together. Built especially for the needs of electrical, datacom, security, and construction markets, the RHINO 6500 features batch printing, which lets you quickly download, print, and automatically cut large labeling jobs, such as for preparing labeling kits for multiple-site cabling installations. Its PC connectivity lets you create label files on your computer using the RHINO CONNECT software or other Windows-compatible software (such as Excel) for direct printing to t he 6500 or for downloading the filed for use at the job site. According to the company, this feature is especially useful for electrical and panel assembly, cable harness shops, or multi-building/site projects that require all labels to be consistent and uniform. Other features of the 6500 include a library of more than 250 categorized industry terms and symbols, as well as built-in memory to store more than 1,000 custom labels, such as terms, symbols, graphics, and logos. It is designed with features such as a large back-lit screen and multiple label display, motorized auto-cutter, industrial casing with an integrated protective bumper, and simplified label access, label cartridge size sensor, automated label cartridge insertion/ejection system, and a QWERTY keyboard.

RHINO/DYMO

www.rhinolabeling.com

Reprinted with full permission of CI & M Magazine – Nov 2007 www.cable-install.com


BICSI Modernizes Credentialing Process, Launches The BICSI NxtGEN Program

Due to changes in the information transport systems (ITS) marketplace, BICSI is modernizing its credentialing processes with the launch of the BICSI NxtGEN Program. BICSI NxtGEN Program, formerly the Inverted Funnel Project (IFP), will elevate the importance and recognition of existing Registered Communications Distribution Designers (RCDDs), make the RCDD and Specialty programs more available to IT, engineering and other professionals; and modernize the BICSI credentialing programs and make them more consistent with how professionals are credentialed today.

In 2006, the BICSI Board of Directors asked a number of BICSI members and volunteers to take a look at the many changes that have occurred in the ITS industry since the inception of the RCDD program; and make recommendations for enhancements. In June 2007, this committee of members recommended that BICSI take a serious look at what the organization can do to maintain its leadership role in ITS, which resulted in an effort called the NxtGEN Program.

“There is no denying that many changes have occurred in the ITS industry since the inception of the RCDD program,” said John Bakowski, RCDD/NTS/OSP/WD Specialist, BICSI President, in his latest BICSI News article (November/December issue). “Shifts in the needs of BICSI members, customers and other stakeholders have left gaps in the publications, training and credentialing that we offer.”

Although currently still in the research and analysis stages, it is apparent that the BICSI NxtGEN Program will enhance the BICSI credentialing and education programs. Currently, BICSI credentialing has a linear path, where a person can enter the organization as an Installer or Technician, and then must become an RCDD prior to being able to obtain one of the three Specialty programs—Network Transport Systems, Wireless Design and Outside Plant. BICSI NxtGEN evaluates the path of becoming an RCDD, and reconfigures the path to match the needs of today’s information transport systems professionals. New credentialing programs that complement BICSI’s publications are also possible enhancements.

“The NxtGEN program will drive the BICSI Strategic Plan in building our credentialing and outreach programs,” said Bakowski. “The ITS industry will benefit from the availability of our venues on a more open basis, both locally and globally.”

The BICSI NxtGEN Program and the Committee’s findings will be presented to the BICSI Board of Directors in December of this year, and if approved, presented to the membership in January 2008. Further research and analysis will take place prior to implementation.

“Today marks the beginning of the Next Generation (NxtGEN) of candidates BICSI welcomes to the information transport systems industry,” said Ed Donelan, RCDD/NTS Specialist, BICSI’s incoming President. “Tomorrow, we measure the success of more effective access to our products and the way we help so many achieve their knowledge-based goals.”

###

BICSI is a professional association supporting the information transport systems industry with information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., BICSI serves more than 23,000 industry professionals in nearly 100 countries around the world. For more information, visit http://www.bicsi.org.


Bill Geary Named New Accu-Tech Vice President Of Sales

Accu-Tech will start 2008 with a bang.  On January 1st, fourteen year cabling distribution veteran Bill Geary will begin serving as Accu-Tech's Vice President of Sales.  Bill will be re-locating back to Atlanta after 11 years in Maryland, having served as Baltimore Sales Manager, Baltimore Branch Manager, and Middle Atlantic & Northeastern U.S. Regional Vice President.  His duties included the opening of 7 branches in major U.S. cities including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago.  Accu-Tech is thrilled to have a motivator and an innovator like Bill Geary to guide our sales effort into the next decade.

ACCU-TECH had a strong 2007 and added many new companies to their “happy customer list”. Check them out. ACCU-TECH has great service and competitive pricing. www.accu-tech.com


BuildingGreen Announces 2007 Top-10 Green Building Products

Downloadable Images of Top-10 Products

View Company Information for Top-10 Products

Chicago, IL, November 8, 2007—BuildingGreen, Inc., publisher of the GreenSpec® Directory and Environmental Building News™, today announced the 2007 Top-10 Green Building Products. This sixth annual award, announced at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild Conference in Chicago, recognizes the most exciting products drawn from additions to the GreenSpec Directory and coverage in Environmental Building News.

“Our selections of the Top-10 Green Building Products represent a wide range of product types in many different application areas,” noted GreenSpec coeditor and BuildingGreen president Alex Wilson. Four of BuildingGreen’s winning products this year save energy. Two products save water. Three products are green in part because they are made from recycled or recovered material; two because they avoid hazardous manufacturing or disposal of materials, and one aids in the siting of solar energy systems. “Most of the Top-10 products this year have multiple environmental attributes,” said Wilson.

BuildingGreen’s Top-10 product selections, as in previous years, are drawn from new additions to the company’s GreenSpec product directory. More than 200 product listings have been added to the GreenSpec database during the past year. “New products seem to be appearing all the time, making it a challenge for our staff to keep up,” said Wilson. The GreenSpec database the company maintains now includes more than 2,000 product listings.

A big driver in the development of green products continues to be the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Rating System (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which awards points for the use of certain product types or for the energy or water savings that green products can achieve. “Designers of LEED buildings are looking for green products, and manufacturers are responding,” said Wilson. In the online version of GreenSpec, users can find products organized by LEED credits.

The 2007 Top-10 Green Building Products are listed below. More complete descriptions and contact information is provided on the attached pages:

About GreenSpec Directory
GreenSpec is the leading national directory of green building products. Products are selected by editors of Environmental Building News (EBN) based on criteria developed over the past 15 years. Manufacturers do not pay to be listed in GreenSpec, and neither GreenSpec nor any other BuildingGreen publication carries advertising; both are supported exclusively by users of the information. “Our policy of not accepting money from manufacturers allows us to be objective in our review of products,” said Wilson. A new 7th edition of the printed GreenSpec Directory was published in 2007. The GreenSpec product database is also available online as part of BuildingGreen Suite. Environmental Building News, founded in 1992, is the oldest and most widely respected newsletter in the green building field. BuildingGreen, Inc., celebrates its 22nd year in business this year. www.BuildingGreen.com


Award Recognizes CABA's Strong Commitment To Connected Home Research

The Continental Automated Buildings Association earned a top international industry accolade at the Net-atHome conference in Europe this month. The trade association received a "Net-atHome2007 Award", in recognition for its contribution and commitment towards strengthening the connected home industry.

CABA has been proactive over the last year in providing opportunities for industry to collaboratively develop research projects that advance the connected home space. Through its Internet Home Alliance Research Council, CABA has led a cross-industry network of companies to develop high-quality market research that can be used for future product marketing and development related to the intelligent home sector.

"The recognition we received at the Net-atHome conference validates the strength of our new intensive industry research undertakings," states Ronald J. Zimmer, CABA President & CEO. "It is our intention to continue to develop and provide critical market data that helps our association members in particular, and the industry at large, refine their product portfolios."

Recently, the organization's Research Council completed research studies that examined: interactive TV; custom mobile advertising; intelligent laundry solutions; the use of consumer electronics and appliances in North American kitchens; and technology solutions that consumers over the age of 50 want most to keep them safe, comfortable and living independently in their own homes as they grow older.

CABA also completed a segmentation study for the industry, entitled the Connected Home Roadmap, which determined the consumer profiles of those who buy digital lifestyle products and services. This report assisted manufacturers and other vendors that cater directly to end-users to identify resource requirements and potential investment opportunities.

All of these studies are available for sale through CABA's eStore.

The organization also maintains a Connected Home Council which initiates and reviews projects that relate to connected home and multiple dwelling unit technologies and applications. The mandate of the Council, made up of active CABA members, is to examine industry opportunities that can accelerate the adoption of new technologies, consumer electronics and broadband services within the fast-growing connected home market.

"On the tenth anniversary of our Net-atHome event, we felt it fitting to recognize the strong efforts CABA has made to grow the connected home industry in North America and beyond," states Karine Valin, Managing Director of Homega Research, the marketing and technology firm that organizes the annual industry event. "The work of both CABA's Research and Connected Home Councils are recognized through the industry alliance award we have bestowed on the organization."  www.caba.org

Homega Research

Homega Research is a division of Sigma Consultants specializing in technologies and services for the home such as home networks and gateways, connected appliances, and integrated services. Please visit www.homega-research.com for further information.

Net-atHome

Net-atHome is an annual industry forum organized by Homega Research, a marketing and technology firm based in Sophia Antipolis, France specializing in residential technologies. The event focuses on products and services taking advantage of: home networking solutions, such as "home gateways"

connecting the home communication infrastructure to external access networks; thus providing consumers with more attractive functionalities and services for the widest range of applications, including comfort, entertainment, remote control, security, energy management, automation, and working from home. More information about the event can be found at www.net-athome.com.


CABA Annual General Meeting (AGM) – Dec. 6, 2007

As identified in the attached Official Notice, CABA's Annual General Meeting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2007, at Panasonic Corporation of North America, Secaucus, NJ.  You may also be aware that this meeting will be held at the same facility as the CABA Board of Directors’ meeting on Dec. 5-6, 2007.

Join CABA's Chairman of the Board Martin Cullum, of Bell Canada, and Ron Zimmer, CABA President & CEO, as they highlight past and new initiatives with the Internet Home Alliance Research Council, the CABA Connected Home Council and the CABA Intelligent & Integrated Buildings Council.

As there will be an election of the CABA Board of Directors, please contact the CABA office if you are interested in serving on the CABA Board of Directors or if you wish to nominate someone for this important position. The current list of CABA Board members can be found at: http://www.caba.org/aboutus/board.html.

Please contact the CABA office if there are any questions and also if you wish to attend this important meeting.

Yours sincerely,

Ronald J. Zimmer, President & CEO
Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA)
Your Information Source for Home & Building Automation
www.caba.org


CableLAN Products Moving To New Rhode Island Location

CableLAN Products, Inc. is pleased to announce that its Rhode Island branch is moving to 10 Worthington Court, Cranston, RI. The locations new phone number is 401-780-6700. New office warehouse to service customers in Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts.

The move will be completed on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. Until the close of business on Friday, November 9, CableLAN will continue to operate at its existing location at 215 Hallene Rd, Unit 215 in Warwick, RI. On Monday, November 12, the Rhode Island branch will be closed, and phone calls will be answered at CableLAN's Massachusetts office. Jan Pirrong, CableLAN's president, commented

"After more than 10 years at our Warwick location, CableLAN is moving to a brand new building in Cranston. The new space is ideally suited to our needs, and was made necessary by our increased sales in Rhode Island. As Rhode Island's only wholesale distributor devoted to structured wiring products, the new location is centrally located near I-95, I-295 and Rt. 37, and will serve customers throughout the state and neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Carrying a complete inventory of network wiring products from premier brands, including Hubbell Premise Wiring, Molex, Panduit and many more, we are uniquely equipped to supply these products to our growing customer list. As a locally owned business, we recognize the need to provide customized service to the area's data communication installers."

CableLAN Products is a leading distributor of structured wiring solutions, providing high value products, combining outstanding quality from major manufacturers, technical support, fast delivery and competitive prices.

Founded in 1994, CableLAN Products has stocking branches in Norfolk, MA, Cranston, RI and Albany, NY.

CNS Magazine

Intelligent Cabling & The ITIL

The migration toward the goal of high availability, converged corporate networks is set to provide a considerable challenge to those wishing to reap the undoubted business benefits.

By Tony Beam

Corporate information networks of the 21st century have become the core upon which successful organizations are based and their competitive advantage derived.

The critical nature of the corporate network is beyond doubt and its importance as the primary source of commercial activity and communication is growing exponentially. Consequently, there is a rapidly growing demand for network infrastructures that offer levels of IT service availability akin to those provided under a utility business model.

This demand has also been fuelled by the trend toward the convergence of voice, data and video services, to include non-traditional IT service systems (HVAC controls, Lighting controls, IP security surveillance and access control systems), a move which will only be possible if the near 100%, 24/7 service availability currently enjoyed by voice networks is not compromised.

The migration toward the goal of high availability, converged corporate networks is set to provide a considerable challenge to those wishing to reap the undoubted business benefits.

It will require system downtime reductions in excess of 80% to achieve this goal, however, it is extremely unlikely that improvements of this magnitude can be delivered by the manual infrastructure management systems and processes in use today.

If high availability, converged networks are to become a reality, a fundamental change in network infrastructure change control, configuration and problem management processes is required.

The realization that the 100% availability of IT services will assume ever-greater significance has led to the introduction of IT Service Management. Setting the benchmark for ‘best practice’ in service management is ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), which has been adopted as the de-facto global standard.

While past attempts at service improvements were primarily focused on investments in technology, the ITIL approach differs in that it defines the processes within the particular services to be performed, thereby providing a ‘best practice’ framework for continuous IT service delivery and management.

Change management

At the core of the ITIL framework is the network configuration and change management processes. The accuracy and quality of the information contained within the main configuration management database (CMDB) is fundamental in ensuring the effectiveness, efficiency and quality of all associated IT Service Management processes, particularly in complex environments.

Similarly, the management of changes to this information is also critical as the network manager must know the exact implications of carrying out any changes before they take place. Avoiding the potential for a ‘butterfly effect’ to develop as a result of a poorly executed change or problem resolution is essential if 100% service availability is to be maintained.

Creating such systems and processes based upon a traditionally managed cabling infrastructure is an impossible task, as the connectivity and asset information contained within traditional tools and documentation processes, being manually maintained, is inevitably inaccurate, outdated and therefore cannot be integrated into the core CMDB. This creates a large degree of uncertainty concerning the physical location and associated connectivity and accountability of network devices. It also severely limits the quality of IT service delivery and management.

By adopting the correct “intelligent cabling management system,” which involves both hardware and software tools as a key part of their cabling strategy, organizations can create a platform capable of addressing these problems, providing a 100% accurate, real-time, trusted source of connectivity and asset information that can be integrated within the core CMDB and consequently, the associated IT Service Management tools and processes.

Any physical changes to the network configuration are automatically updated and reflected across all management processes, aiding communication between organizational work-streams and co-ordinating events.

Market acceptance growing

Intelligent cabling infrastructure management systems have been on the market in excess of five years from a number of different manufacturers.

Most importantly, they have experienced continuance improvements both in hardware and software plus overall reduction in price and ease of installation.

Now it is possible to say that reliable, cost-effective systems are on the market, which meet the needs and requirements of an effective cabling infrastructure management system to support IT services.

Market acceptance over the past five years has been mixed depending upon the industry and the customer location. No doubt the industry that has accepted the intelligent cabling infrastructure systems has been the financial industry closely followed by any customer data or call centre locations.

Other industries where adoption is strong are communications and media providers, health care and government institutions.

Oddly enough the deployment of intelligent cabling systems have seen the greatest adoption in what would be considered the “developing countries” such as India, Middle East, Eastern Europe, Mexico and Russia. The country of exception would be the United Kingdom where this technology was first introduced and has seen widespread adoption based on the recognized benefits.

In Canada and the U.S., adoption has been slow, but growing with indications that numerous enterprise customers are giving strong considerations.

The primary reason that adoption has been slow here and in the U.S., is likely because intelligent cabling management systems are most cost-effectively implemented with new builds and major renovations versus trying to retrofit existing cabling systems.  Additionally, it is often difficult to the reach the decision maker who oversees this area, and to get them to understand that there are now new and better methods

First and foremost the customer needs to insure that the system supports their IT service practices and provides them the information that they need 24 hours, 7 days a week and that the process ensures 100% accuracy of the information.

The software along with the hardware must provide an automated, accurate, real-time physical layer management system.

This combined system should proactively respond to changes in connectivity and intelligently record your cabling system and its devices with accurate documentation. It should offer an integrated work order system, which can use the compiled information to provide automated design and change recommendations as well as monitoring the work order progress, therefore eliminating time-consuming, often paper laden manual work order processes.

From the hardware prospective, the customer needs to be assured that the system fully supports all the various cabling solutions available to include unshielded and shielded twisted-pair, and fiber optics to include 62.5, laser-optimized 50 and single-mode in the various connector types (Duplex SC, MT-RJ, and Duplex LC).

Especially for data and call centre applications the system should support the plug-and-play solutions involving MPO for fiber optics and MRJ21 for copper.

The hardware should be easy to install and most significantly not only support cross-connect applications (between patch panels), but also interconnect applications (between patch panel and switch). 

Of significant importance is that the hardware system needs to be self-discovering of connectivity in the case of power, system or network outages so that information remains accurate and up-to-date.

Additionally, it should support massive connective changes but not requiring patch cords to be removed sequentially or having to follow blinking LED lights, which would require mandatory use of a work order system.  It needs to allow multiple technicians to work at the same time and to remove, add and change patch cords in whatever way is most efficient for business continuity.

Information alerts

The hardware system should be fully-integrated with the software system to provide the technician in the telecommunications closet with the information and alerts necessary for them to perform their assigned work actions. It should also provide them access to their assigned work actions, both connectivity and general.

It should provide the technician with immediate positive or negative feedback on performing connectivity changes, such as good or bad audible tones. Finally, it should immediately feed into the software database connectivity changes, specifically the completion of work actions, as well as provide the technician the ability to input the completion or issues associated with general work actions.

The software in conjunction with the hardware needs to provide the following:

Real-Time Monitoring -- this automates the process of discovering, documenting, monitoring, and managing the physical network’s connections and its devices.

Location Based IP-Device Discover -- the system needs to not only discover IP-devices attached to the network and their status but also correlate that to the connectivity database to provide its physical location.

Flexible Alert System -- the ability to send out alerts to designated individuals based on a flexible filter system based on such items as location, time, authorized or unauthorized changes.

Comprehensive and Flexible Work Order System – the ability to assign access rights and privileges as determined by the administrator allowing authorized users to select proposed moves of workstations, phones, printers or other equipment. Moves can be performed singly or in bulk, as in departmental relocation. The system should automatically generate auto-routing, and a step-by-step work order and schedule, which can be accepted or revised by the user. Tasks should be able to be divided and distributed between various supervisors and technicians. Work orders should include connectivity traces, wiring closet diagrams and floor plans.

Detailed Reports -- the software needs to provide a library of detailed reports of cable, port and asset utilization and physical configurations. These reports are invaluable to network administrators and asset managers.

The adoption and implementation of an intelligent cabling and infrastructure management system can insure the optimization of ITIL processes and the resulting improvements in work-stream productivity and efficiency, ensuring organizations that automate and integrate the management of the physical layer as an integral part of the IT Service Management platform, will attain the goal of continuous service delivery and maximize the return (ROI) on their IT investments.

Tony Beam is the product management director for AMPTRAC Connectivity Management System from AMP NETCONNECT, a division of Tyco Electronics.


Security For All

There has been a three-fold increase in the number of threats to systems since 2005, which is directly attributable to the proliferation of devices such as smart phones, personal digital assistants and handheld computers.

By Martin Slofstra

Whether it is cabling professionals, IT departments or senior executives, network security has become everybody's business for it has never been more complicated. There are networks that are or need to be secure, protecting your network from hackers, viruses and worms, and other threats to your data.

There are also networks used for security, which may include video surveillance and are used to protect a premise or for detecting intruders.

And there are the people involved in the security in the organization, from cabling professionals, to IT departments, to telecom specialists, to those in business units. Everybody seems to have a stake in network security and everybody has a role to play.

And it is not hard to see why. In the days of converged networks, companies must rethink everything from their cabling infrastructure to their software systems.

"The fact is that all networks are converging on an IP platform," says Francis Richard, a structured cabling specialist at Cerco Cable Inc., a value-added distributor of cable products based in Montreal. Whether it is the Internet, Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning (HVAC), fire alarm or video surveillance systems, the convergence of all these previously separate applications is causing organizations to change how it perceives security from an IT-only issue to a company-wide concern.

Sometimes this can create problems. An IT department, for example, may focus on different requirements than a facilities manager, and it behooves all organizations to view security requirements in the context of the overall business strategy, balancing present and future network needs with overall goals.

Richard notes that inter-departmental conflicts and IT may look at short-term solutions because the typical application lasts only a few years, and that tends to be their frame of reference. In other words, the application dictates the type of cabling that is used, and in some cases, a temporary solution is put in place.

Differing opinions

A cabling expert, however, may look at the infrastructure from a 10-to-20-year horizon, and that can create a difference in opinion.

In defense of the IT department, however, the application is only one part of the security equation. "There isn't necessarily one right or wrong answer," says Stephen Ibaraki, a Vancouver-based IT consultant and president of the Canadian Information Processing Society. Important questions need to be asked involving business domain, model and environment; applications and infrastructure; value of the information; risk analysis for a security breach; security processes and technology that are in place including sufficient training, the triad of people, process, and technology; doing a more formal security assessment using one of the available tools such as MSAT; and much more, he says.

"At minimum, it's good to seek out a variety of opinions from the IT professional community which are a key source of security information," says Ibaraki.

Without question though, the cabling experts and the IT departments need to combine their efforts. The concept of security has migrated from upper layer security to include a real focus on physical layer security. Users are securing their data by first securing their cabling, and that is a good foundational place to start. Then they need to work their way up.

Enterprise security software is solving a lot of the problems, says Sam Curry, vice-president, product management, security management business unit at CA in Islandia, N.Y. (formerly Computer Associates). Whether it is managing all the threats to computer systems, or it is card access for managing who is coming and going, to identity management, auditing a network and generating statistics, all the tools an IT department needs to manage security are available.

Curry says organizations need to see network security in a wider context. “I have a network security problem is seldom the starting point, it's I need to improve my uptime or regulatory compliance,” he says. Explaining it in those terms or as part of a business case -- whether it is increasing your uptime or regulatory compliance --  will have a better chance of getting everybody in the organization on board.

Security was once a separate function with IT working on it isolation, but regulatory compliance is the catalyst to getting on the business agenda.

Yet roadblocks also exist. Curry cautions a lack of interoperability between different vendors equipment could inhibit the user's ability to manage the security function although the advent of standards will make this work.

There is some question whether traditional enterprise-class security products can meet the demands of the largest IP networks in the world, and whether IP actually makes them more vulnerable than ever before.

"Is IP more secure than non-IP? "The jury is still out on that," says CA's Curry. "IP is a simple redundant protocol with a tremendous upside. It's attractive because it's cheaper, it's everywhere and it's very simplicity. But that same ubiquity makes it subject to attacks everywhere. It's a trade-off."

According to results of a global survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by AT&T of 395 executives across the world and including Canada, 60% of Canadian executives and 52% of global executives believe having a converged network gives their companies better protection against IT security breaches. The technology also brings network defenses to new levels of sophistication and reliability, "equipping organizations with incomparably better tools to protect the network than they were even in the late 1990s, the report states.

The report also alludes to another trend. More and more executives are paying attention to network security issues. "Without question, 9-11 catapulted the security issue to front and center for executives," says Steven Taylor, vice-president of sales for AT&T Global Services Canada, and the effects will be lasting. Although Canadian organizations tend towards a business-as-usual stance, there is a global dimension to network security that cannot be overlooked: Most threats to the network, whether it's hacker activity or virus-writers, or freak weather conditions or a terrorist attack, can occur anywhere, and Canada is as vulnerable to these threats as any country.

Part of the problem may be a lack of clear definition of network security. The trend overwhelmingly has been to define computer security broadly, and service-providers often include business continuity and disaster recovery, and the capability to move to off-site back-up network as part of their offerings.

Executives seeking to get a good sense of how their networks stack up from a security perspective may want to consider getting "a full-blown security audit" which evaluates all the facilities, processes and the security tools it has its disposal.

Then there is also the issue of cost. While most organizations realize they must go to converged networks, it may require a large up front investment and there is always the issue of legacy systems which can pulling security professionals into two different directions. "For corporations trying to manage these concerns, security raises significant issues of resource allocation," says David Denault, general manager of AT&T Global Services Canada.

Ongoing training critical

"The increasing number of applications running across the network drives cost, and security personnel require a high level of expertise and ongoing training."

Michael Murphy, vice-president and general manager of Symantec (Canada) Corp., a supplier of enterprise security software products, points out that companies have become much better at managing their security infrastructure.

He acknowledges the high level of executive awareness, and lots of available product, but where organizations struggle is in the areas of implementation and lack of resources. "Corporations understand the risks, but they are also trying to do more with less. We have spent a lot on hardware and software and now we need to implement," he says, "which includes how to integrate it all and make it work together."

Meanwhile, networks continue to grow wildly. There is the core, there is the perimeter and remote locations, and nowadays there is also wireless.

There has been a three-fold increase in the number of threats to systems since 2005, which is directly attributable to the proliferation of devices such as smart phones, personal digital assistants and handheld computers. And whereas the previous target was the operating system, the target is now the data that resides on these systems, much of which is private and confidential, says Murphy.

Corporations, however, that have bitten the bullet and made the necessary investments in properly secured converged networks may not see the benefits until later. Although the initial costs in equipment may be greater, as more and more standards come on board, the newer IP-based are more interoperable, and that alone can lead to enormous savings in manageability, says Richard from Cerco Cable.

Down the road, the savings become even more apparent. The benefits of digital and networked video mean that real-time or stored video surveillance images can be accessed wherever and whenever they are needed.

It is not just about security of the network anymore, it is also about using the network for security. Security systems now have the same flexibility and manageability of today's telephone and computer systems (LANs, WANs, Ethernet and Internet Protocol), and that has organizations rethinking how security systems can be deployed.

The future is now

Video surveillance, access control, alarm and paging systems, network authentication and physical security, once separate, can now all integrate with each other. (IP video surveillance is growing in excess of 40% annually). Video is having a special role in these networks. With bandwidth now abundant and new advances in file compression techniques, more and more companies see an opportunity to add a capability for video to their networks.

Curiously, it is operators of ski resorts in Canada that are leading the way. Richards knows of one CEO at a Mont Tremblant-based ski resort who has the entire facility cabled for video, and he is able to use his laptop to "look into" the network from anywhere he has an Internet connection. Other ski resorts, meanwhile, are beginning to deliver complex multimedia applications. Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort in Banff National Park, Alta., for example, has deployed a comprehensive, IP network that facilitates voice, data and video communications. Applications include voice, point-of-sale, reservations and video surveillance, all on the same network.

"We've overbuilt our fiber to allow for the increase in traffic," says Tim Hodgkinson, Sunshine Village's supervisor of information systems. Hodgkinson, who can usually be seen dressed in work boots and work pants, actually helped lay the cable himself.

He says he had a huge advantage for with no legacy system in place, he could go straight to state-of-the-art, building or what he calls a "Ferrari network."

Hodskinson stresses the importance of video communications (the network supports 35 cameras for monitoring and broadcasting various locations). While skiers can see how long the line-ups are or what the current ski conditions are by accessing the ski resort's Web site, the system can also be used for video surveillance and a variety of other security uses.

With the converged networks of the future, security will not only be built in, it will become one of the applications on the network. It behooves companies to pay closer and closer attention to cabling infrastructure issues. And cable quality has become more important than ever, and cable professionals need to take note.

Structured cabling is at the heart of every security network. If the wrong cabling installation is chosen, the consequences can affect an organization's bottom line. With installations lasting from 10 to 20 years, planning for the future applications is essential.

And it is buyer beware. Signal strength (video needs a minimum of 200-250 MHz but some manufacturers try to pass off cable that runs at only 100 MHz) Most good cables run at 500 MHz. "Always go to the high-performance cable and get a certified product. Even better get a certified installer if you want it done right," says Richard.

And at the end of the day, everybody has a stake in a good cabling infrastructure. Cabling people know how important it is to have a good solid cabling infrastructure; IT professionals know that it is much more time-consuming and inconvenient to change the cable infrastructure than to change the network equipment; business users are concerned about the medium used to transport the information and want the information gets to them faster; and, executives know they will soon be out of business if the network goes down.

Martin Slofstra is a Brampton, Ont. freelance writer, who specializes in IT. He can be reached via e-mail at mslofstra@myway.com.


Coleman Cable, Inc. Continues To Expand Its North American Business Through Definitive Agreement to Acquire The Electrical Products Business Of Katy Industries, Inc.

Coleman Cable, Inc. (Nasdaq:CCIX), a leading manufacturer and innovator of electrical and electronic wire and cable products, announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the electrical products business of Katy Industries, Inc. (Katy) (OTCBB:KATY), which operates in the United States as Woods Industries, Inc. (Woods U.S.) and in Canada as Woods Industries (Canada) Inc. (Woods Canada). The principal business of Woods U.S. and Woods Canada is the design and distribution of consumer electrical corded products, which are sold principally to national home improvement, mass merchant, hardware and other retailers.

Coleman Cable will purchase certain assets of the U.S. subsidiary and all the stock of the Canadian subsidiary for a total cash purchase price of $45 million (which does not include the effect of post-closing working capital adjustments). Included in the acquisition is net working capital in excess of $41 million. The Company plans a permanent reduction of working capital of $12 to $15 million within three months of the closing, thereby enabling a reduction in the acquisition debt by a like amount. Coleman Cable will utilize its current revolving credit facility to fund the purchase price. The closing of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to occur effective November 30, 2007.

For the full year of 2008, Coleman Cable estimates that the acquisition will contribute to its financial results approximately $125 million of additional revenues, approximately $10 million of additional operating income and approximately $0.20 of additional earnings per share.

Coleman Cable expects to derive additional benefits from the acquisition over time through cross-selling opportunities, logistics and purchasing synergies, and the implementation of best practices throughout the entire organization.

Strategic Rationale

* Improved customer and product diversification
* Enhanced market presence and penetration in Canada
* Expanded U.S. footprint with very little customer overlap
* Significantly expanded engineering and sourcing platform in Asia
* Manufacturing synergies are expected to have a positive impact on profitability and working capital
* The combination of Coleman Cable's consumer segment with Woods U.S. is expected to create product, merchandising and significant cost-saving synergies beginning in the latter half of 2008, which should be fully realized in 2009

Gary Yetman, president and CEO of Coleman Cable, said, "The acquisition of Katy's electrical product business is truly a unique opportunity to broaden our U.S. and Canadian presence and increase market leadership. We believe this transaction enhances Coleman Cable's position as a preeminent supplier of assembled wire and cable products in the U.S. and Canada. Coleman Cable has a solid track record of integrating acquisitions, maximizing synergies and increasing economic value for the Company and its shareholders. In the first half of 2008, we will work to rationalize these two businesses, substantially reduce working capital, and create significant synergistic opportunities in both manufacturing and distribution."

The Woods U.S. business is headquartered in Indianapolis and distributes consumer electrical corded products and electrical accessories. Examples of Woods U.S. products include outdoor and indoor extension cords, work lights, surge protectors and power strips. The products are sold primarily through national home improvement, mass merchant, hardware, and other retail outlets in the United States.

Woods Canada is headquartered in Toronto and distributes consumer electrical corded products and electrical accessories. In addition to the products listed above for Woods U.S., Woods Canada's primary product offerings include garden lighting and timers. These products are sold primarily through major home improvement, mass merchant, hardware, and other retail outlets in Canada. www.colemancable.com


Save Time & Money On The Job With Coleman Cable’s Unjacketed Bundled Cables

Coleman Cable, Inc. (Nasdaq: CCIX) announces a new unjacketed bundled cable that features two Cat 5e and two RG6 Quad (Part# 999260). This unjacketed combination cable provides a cost effective solution for quick installations in confined spaces in residential applications including voice, data, video, CATV, HDMI and more.

“Coleman Cable is always looking for new ways to help the installer save time and money on the job”, remarked Deane Myers, product-market manager of the Security/Home Technology division at Coleman Cable, Inc. “Our unjacketed bundled cable is a perfect fit for quick installations in confined spaces.”

Coleman Cable’s new unjacketed bundled cables eliminate the need to strip back the jacket, and the conductors more easily separate into individual cables. This faster termination provides cost savings verses traditional jacketed constructions. www.colemancable.com


CommScope Introduces SYSTIMAX(r) Heavy-Duty Fiber Optic Cable For Airport Applications

CommScope, Inc. (NYSE:CTV), a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks, today announced the introduction of the new SYSTIMAX Heavy Duty Indoor/Outdoor Fiber Optic Cable for Airport Applications in an effort to safeguard the vital airport network.

Security continues to be an issue for airports around the world. CommScope's new fiber optic cable should provide customers with a greater confidence in their communications networks. This heavy-duty cable is optimized for high-stress airport applications and other sites where cable vulnerability is a concern. It incorporates a design with a polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) outer jacket and a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) inner jacket for greater resistance to hazardous liquids

This product meets the standard environmental requirements of an outside plant cable but also is compatible with FAA-E-2761 requirements for OSP cables installed at airports. http://www.commscope.com

Communications News

Are you listening?

By Ken Anderberg, Editor, Communications News

Do you feel that most enterprise IT vendors effectively communicate an understanding of your needs? That is one of the questions we asked recently in a “perceptions” survey to find out how customers viewed vendors, and to determine how those vendors viewed their customers.

We asked for comments from customers on this question. In general, the overwhelming response was that customers wanted vendors to listen to their needs before trying to sell something. Here is a sampling of the comments:

“They need to come down from their ivory towers and discover what life is in the trenches. Most of the sales and support people I’ve dealt with haven’t a clue.”

“They need to do some research on the company and what services they provide. Ask questions on how they best can help the customer. Not direct what they think you need.”

“They need to listen to the customer (me!).”

“Vendors need to address how their systems integrate with others in the enterprise and offer solutions that are fluid, flexible and offer added value.”

“Walk a day in my shoes.”

“If everything is done from the customer’s optimal point of view, ideal vendor communication will naturally follow.”

“Listen to the needs and application before trying to sell the product.”

“Were I advertising or marketing their products, I would show the real world accomplishments. People relate to what has been done better than what has been promised.”

“Too many one-size-fits-all solutions that do not address my specific needs.”

“Listen to the customer’s real needs.”

“Try to sell something that will work and is supportable rather than just trying to sell.”

“Too often the vendor wants the enterprise to change to meet the needs of the product, rather than    meeting the needs of the enterprise.”

“They need to understand our business first before trying to sell to us.”

“Most are focused entirely too much on making a sale and have never lived in the real world where things must meet certain standards and be compatible with an enterprise infrastructure.”

“Listen to the customer’s needs.”

“Learn more about my business before trying to sell me a product.”

“Talk to us and understand our needs. Don’t tell us what our needs are.”

Listening seems like such a fundamental part of effective sales technique, but apparently a large number of salespeople in the tech market don’t know this basic sales tenant. Actually, this trait is probably not limited to the tech market. I can remember many magazine advertising sales people I have known through the years who went into client meetings with their sales guns blasting away.

Invariably, their mouths were too fast for their ears, and the potential sales usually evaporated.

Maybe the cause is today’s always-on communications environment. Everyone’s talking on their cell phones, texting into their PDAs–but is anyone listening?

Judging by our perceptions survey, the art of listening could do a world of good for a lot of tech sales people. But are they listening?


802.11n: The End of Ethernet?

The need for pervasive mobility in enterprise networks will eventually lead to 802.11 wireless technologies replacing current enterprise Ethernet deployments. That is the word from the Burton Group, which predicts that improvements in 802.11n and its successor products will begin to erode the switched Ethernet market.

According to analyst Paul DeBeasi of Burton Group, “The 802.11n draft standard, although unfinished, is the beginning of the end for wired Ethernet as the dominant LAN access technology in the enterprise. Gigabit Ethernet provides better throughput, latency and jitter performance than 802.11n. But who cares? For many enterprises, 802.11n performance is good enough.”

DeBeasi suggests enterprises should consider 802.11n as a LAN access substitute for wired Ethernet:

when the number of laptop users is growing;

when the enterprise uses mobile applications;

when Fast Ethernet throughput is sufficient;

when the enterprise deploys voice over Internet protocol (VoIP);

when moves/adds/changes are made frequently;

when the risk of deliberate DoS attacks is low to moderate; or

when Ethernet cable installation is difficult.

“Pervasive mobility is the ability of workers to remain connected to the LAN regardless of where they are located within the enterprise,” he explains. “One can analyze the differences between 802.11 and Ethernet with respect to performance, security, manageability, cost and impact on staff. However, the definitive and unalterable competitive advantage that 802.11 has over Ethernet is the ability to provide pervasive mobility. Employees want the convenience that being untethered provides.”

According to Burton Group, growing consumer use of 802.11 will drive the demand for pervasive mobility. “As the number of mobile phone users quickly approaches one half of the world’s population,” says DeBeasi, “the demand for mobile communications will increase. Teen mobile communication usage is soaring, driving the next generation of employees to expect pervasive mobility in the workplace.”

He sees a number of additional drivers of the trend. Laptop and notebook computers now outsell PCs and virtually all laptops now come equipped with 802.11 embedded on the motherboard (and will be 802.11n-capable by the end of 2008).

The growing demand for voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) will also push the transition to 802.11n as the preferred LAN access technology, he says. “It is clear that the market for VoWLAN phones is growing and evolving. As the demand for VoWLAN grows, so does the need for 802.11n. VoWLAN systems have already found wide acceptance in manufacturing, medical and retail environments.”


A Case For Separate Networks

Converged networks for IT and facilities management may not be the best choice.

Bio: Paul Koebbe is national market manager, security, Graybar, St. Louis, Mo.

by Paul H. Koebbe

Today, many diverse systems use one physical network to share information within a single application and between multiple applications requiring the same information. Systems for enterprise resource planning (ERP), accounting, human resources and customer records share network bandwidth with HVAC controls, lighting controls, security cameras, building power management and access control systems. While these systems can coexist on the same network, their bandwidth needs, service-level agreement (SLA) requirements, system responsibilities, regulatory requirements and data security concerns can be quite different.

These systems are supported by different departments. The facilities department typically supports the HVAC controls, lighting controls, security cameras, building power management and access-control systems. The IT department supports ERP, accounting, human resources and customer records. The technologies and knowledge required to support both facilities and IT applications are the same at the lower levels of the open system interconnection model. IT and communications professionals, however, should consider the differences in these applications based on the purposes they serve.

IT applications are business centric because they allow the business to operate as efficiently as possible and to exchange data between employees, customers and suppliers. These systems should be robust and comply with regulatory standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA and payment card industry data standards if the network carries credit card information. IT applications operate 24/7 with periods of minimal data traffic.

Facilities applications are operationally centric, because they control the physical systems that operate and monitor the building. If the air conditioning system shuts down, it impairs the ability to conduct business. Similarly, if the access control system locks all of the doors and restricts access to a facility, a business could have trouble serving its customers. Should the power-management application fail, a business could lose control over energy costs. Facilities systems operate 24/7 just like most IT systems, except data traffic is more consistent.

Applications have varying bandwidth needs. They create two general types of network traffic–burst and streaming. IT applications tend to create burst traffic, because they request data from a data source and process it locally.

Prepare for video overload

Many facilities systems also create burst traffic, but rather than requesting data and processing it, they tend to create the data and send it to a database. Security cameras are the exception. They typically stream data to a recording application served from a network computer. The data stream is compressed with a variety of compression algorithms, such as MPEG-4. Camera bandwidth requirements can vary by compression type, frame rate, the amount of motion in the scene and resolution.

A single camera with bandwidth requirements in the range of 90 Kbps for a low-resolution image to 1.5 Mbps for a high-resolution image created by a high-end analog system generally does not present a challenge for the 100-Mbps+ networks in operation today. Users, however, should consider the bandwidth requirements of 25 cameras operating at 1 Mbps. As they stream information for recording, they use 25 percent of the network’s bandwidth. At this level of network use, the facilities and IT departments should evaluate the backbone to make sure it can support this kind of streaming traffic along with the normal burst traffic.

SLAs, in place for many networks, typically provide for maintenance windows, available bandwidth levels and mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) standards. IT and facilities applications, however, have significantly different needs. For example, perhaps network maintenance occurs between 2- 4 a.m. on Sunday. This time works well for IT applications, since traffic is typically light, but if facilities applications cannot use the network to relay important data from a video or access-control system, building security is potentially compromised.

MTTR issues can arise during the night, as well. Once again, IT application activity is low, and, as a result, the IT staff might not be available or may not find addressing system outages in a timely manner necessary. So if the network is carrying facilities traffic and it goes down, the facility becomes vulnerable to intrusion, and the HVAC system does not kick on in time to provide a comfortable working environment at the start of the regular business day.

Typically, the IT staff is familiar with the applications running on the network. This familiarity comes from understanding the business drivers and the architecture of the applications. This is probably not the case with facilities applications, which often work with proprietary software that controls or operates electro-mechanical systems. The IT and facilities departments need to define which department owns which applications and what is required to operate and maintain each application should responsibilities transfer from one group to another.

Security in question

Depending on the type of business the network supports, the data it carries should be secured according to a variety of laws and regulations. Conversely, while encrypting video images and access-control traffic protects it from prying eyes, the data transmitted by facilities applications usually is not subject to regulatory oversight. Combining all of the data onto a single network puts the facilities data under unnecessary scrutiny.

The IT department often carefully secures the physical location of network equipment to protect it from unauthorized access. Ideally, the staff turns off unused network ports with network switch control software to prevent unauthorized connection to the network. The control of open ports, however, tends to erode over time as the staff unintentionally leaves ports enabled during network reconfiguration.

Open ports are also vulnerable because facilities applications frequently run on hardware that is located in fan rooms, boiler rooms and broom closets–environments that are not typically controlled by the IT staff. Additionally, outside service workers performing maintenance may need to connect PC-based test equipment to the network. If the staff does not evaluate the integrity of these outside devices, they could create a network data security breach.

When looking at the many differences between IT and facilities applications, IT and communications professionals may want to consider creating a separated backbone network for the two families of applications. Moving from a consolidated network does not require changes in the horizontal infrastructure. Rather, a simple deployment of additional switches in current wiring closets and the utilization of spare fiber infrastructure creates a new facilities backbone.

The placement of a router and perhaps a firewall between the IT backbone and the facilities backbone allows facilities department personnel to access facilities applications from their desktop PCs and to share data with IT applications, if needed. The staff then services the facilities network independently from the IT business network and, according to its own SLA, security and performance needs.


Video Surveillance Hits A Home Run

San Diego stadium upgrades its physical security network to a hybrid IP/analog system.

During the final home game of the 2004 San Diego Padres’ baseball season, a physical fight among fans erupted in the left-field grandstand. Police officers broke up the brawl, but the ballpark’s security team was not able to provide them with video of the incident due to an outdated closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

According to Ken Kawachi, director of security and transportation for the Padres, the system was not equipped with real-time recording, and the staff monitoring the game had limited ability to hone in on areas of the ballpark not covered by CCTV cameras.

“The equipment was purchased when groundbreaking for the new 42,000 seat ballpark began–four years before the stadium opened,” explains Kawachi. “The components sat unused throughout various construction delays. Meanwhile, major advances in the security industry rendered some of the technology obsolete.”

Newer surveillance systems were increasingly incorporating digital technology and the user’s network to allow for greater flexibility in how people could view and record video. By 2004, PETCO Park’s analog-only system was inadequate for the requirements of a modern ballpark.

While the Padres’ players headed into their off-season that fall, Kawachi’s team began looking at options to improve the surveillance system at the ballpark.

“We asked for recommendations from the team at Qualcomm Stadium, where the Padres played prior to the opening of the new ballpark. They recommended Electro Specialty Systems (ESS), the security system integrator that had installed a CCTV solution for San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium and for the NFL’s 2003 Super Bowl. We were already familiar with their work and decided to bring them on board in the beginning of 2005,” says Kawachi.

Analog and ip system

ESS planned for the new video surveillance system to combine analog and IP technology using equipment from Bosch Security Systems. This hybrid system would incorporate some of the existing surveillance cameras, add color pan-tilt-zoom cameras in strategic locations and take advantage of the ballpark’s network for recording and viewing video.

The first step in the plan was adding and upgrading cameras. Now, more than 75 analog cameras capture video of the ballpark exterior and restaurant, as well as the stadium seating and standing areas, clubhouse, suites and the Padres’ Team Store.

Next, ESS began to remove the existing analog VCR equipment, clean up the video cable and connect it to the new digital recording devices. This stage of the project began prior to the start of the 2006 baseball season.

Mixing analog cameras with digital recording did not present a problem, since there were adequate IT closets throughout the stadium. ESS ran coaxial cable and pan-tilt-zoom control wires from the cameras to the IT closets, where the equipment needed to send video from the cameras to the security office was located.

“The IT closets contain the devices needed for the cash registers and other technology at each concession and apparel area. They are generally within 300 feet of those places, so they’re at regular intervals throughout the stadium,” Kawachi says.

A fiber-optic transmitter in each IT closet converts the cameras’ electric signals to light. Each IT closet is connected to the main phone room, which houses a fiber hub. Fiber-optic receivers in the security office convert the light stream back to electric signal and send the analog video to a matrix switch. From there, the signals go to multiplexers and then to encoders.

Five VIP X1600 multichannel encoders convert the analog camera signals into digital format and stream directly to one iSCSI RAID 5 storage system, which can record up to six terabytes of audio and video. With the direct-to-iSCSI video recording, multiple cameras are sharing the RAID on a local recording network. Therefore, video needs to traverse the ballpark’s main network for live viewing and for playback of recorded footage only, not for recording.

This design ensures that no video is lost, even if there is a network outage. It also prevents video from interrupting the regular flow of data on the ballpark’s network.

Design avoids server need

With this design, ESS was able to eliminate the need for more traditional PC-based network video recorders with attached storage, which would have required adding two servers to the ballpark’s network. This meant savings in acquisition costs for the ballpark as well as savings in the time the staff would have spent administering the technology with operating system patches and antivirus updates.

The local recording network was set up using the two network ports on each encoder. An Ethernet cable connects the iSCSI to the first encoder. The first encoder is connected to the second encoder, the second to the third, and so on, with the fifth encoder connected to a network switch. Connecting the fifth encoder to the network switch gives security personnel at the ballpark the ability to use a Web browser to view live and recorded video.

“Ballpark employees review video 24 hours a day using a bank of 13 monitors in the stadium’s security command center. With the new surveillance system in place, the ballpark’s security team can identify, zoom in on and record events, such as fans trespassing on the playing field,” says Kawachi.

“On game days, personnel in the ballpark’s event-management center above center field use a secondary command center with its own monitors and camera-controlling joysticks for surveillance of the stadium’s interior,” he adds. “Stadium personnel, contract operations workers, a San Diego Police Department sergeant and a fire marshal, all based in the event-management center, take over responsibility for monitoring the interior of the park a half-hour before the gates are opened to the public. Anything viewed on the monitors in the event-management center is also recorded centrally in the primary security command center.

“With the digital recording system, we can provide all of the stadium’s decision makers with a clear view of the activity in the ballpark through the event command center monitors,” Kawachi concludes. “Key personnel can quickly review any security or life safety concerns on the monitors and communicate appropriate directions to their personnel patrolling the stadium. We’re a much more streamlined operation.”


VoWLAN Is On Its Way

The advent of dual-mode phones is expected to make VoWLAN the norm in enterprise environments.

David Confalonieri is vice president, marketing, for Extricom, New York.

by David Confalonieri

The list of potential uses for voice-over-wireless LAN (VoWLAN) is long, but ultimately VoWLAN deployments are driven by two considerations: increased mobility and reduced costs. Enterprises are implementing VoWLANs to provide communications for their employees anywhere on campus and, at the same time, reducing telecom costs through the use of VoIP-enabled phones. VoWLAN has another advantage: if done right, communications can be carried by the same Wi-Fi infrastructure as data applications, thereby yielding economies of scale.

The advent of dual-mode phones that can switch from the cellular network to the WLAN (also called fixed-mobile convergence) is expected to make VoWLAN the norm in enterprise environments, with today’s deskbound employees being replaced by mobile employees communicating and accessing data from a single device. The success of VoWLAN, however, will depend on overcoming challenges that did not exist in the pre-voice Wi-Fi era.

Many of these challenges are related to the traditional cell-planned architecture of wireless systems, in which each access point transmits on one of the three non-overlapping channels available in the 802.11b/g standard, and in which access points are carefully positioned and “tuned” during the deployment process to mitigate the co-channel interference that can kill transmissions.

Major wireless vendors have invested time, effort and budget to resolving these problems, but ultimately the cell-planned architecture is constrained by its very nature. The result has been enterprise-class systems that are either optimized for coverage (wireless signal is available everywhere in the enterprise, but not with optimal bandwidth) or capacity (a maximum number of users can have optimal bandwidth, but not everywhere in the enterprise), but rarely for both at the same time. In the end, the systems do not address the real challenges of VoWLAN–that voice demands mobility and a reliable wireless connection, and voice drives convergence.

No matter what the topology, the interplay between a standard originally developed for asynchronous data transmission and voice technology that depends on regular, synchronous communication will always have some degree of complexity. With this as a given, users should bear in mind a few facts about Wi-Fi that can be primary determinants of success or failure in a VoWLAN deployment.

Wireless does not always mean mobile. Voice communications require mobility, meaning continuous communications while traveling between point A and point B. This may seem like a trivial detail until realizing that the 802.11 Wi-Fi is, by definition, designed for portability, meaning communications between points A and B are not continuous. This, combined with traditional WLAN systems that organize access points in a cellular pattern, yields networks that are not optimized for mobility. The basic problem revolves around the “handoff,” which is what happens as users move through cell-planned WLANs, de-associating from one AP and associating to another as they move. The delay introduced by handoff is usually not a problem for data transmissions but is often a deal-breaker for voice calls.

Mileage will vary. Another voice reality is its need for a constant, stable connection rate. In traditional WLANs, the negative impact of such things as rate adaptation, edge users, coverage holes and interference are not as strongly felt, since data communication, bursty by nature, can tolerate the widely varying data transmission rates that result from these effects. Voice performance, however, will suffer in such an environment, but the cell-based WLAN has no solution to this challenge.

Voice and data do not mix well. Convergence, by definition, means adding voice to data–but these two traffic types clash. WLANs have been data-centric and, even with the advent of new standards, still have inefficient quality-of-service (QoS) mechanisms for prioritizing voice over data traffic. Effective QoS needs to be based on deterministic methods, otherwise the co-existence between converged voice and data will be uneasy at best and unworkable at worst.

In a cell-based architecture, implementing VoWLAN will inevitably require some form of tradeoff. Successful adoption of new technology cannot be built on tradeoffs, however. A new approach is needed to realize the full potential of VoWLAN, and companies are starting to think outside the cell to help mobilize their workforce. The alternative approach to cell-based systems has been to allow all access points (APs) in the network to transmit and receive on the same channel, creating a “channel blanket” from the aggregate coverage of the APs.

The channel blanket eliminates the problems associated with supporting the mobile user, particularly the issues of handoff, reliable and stable connections, and QoS. The ease of deployment and maintenance of such systems, compared to more complex cell-based topologies, is an additional benefit of this architecture, since the RF cell planning of traditional systems is eliminated.


Connectivity an American Issue, Not Democratic or Republican

Carlini’s Comments, MidwestBusiness.com’s oldest column, runs every Wednesday. Its mission is to offer the common mans view on business and technology issues while questioning the leadership and visions of “pseudo” experts.

CHICAGO – Where are the hot discussions about broadband deployment and regional economic sustainability in the presidential debates?

Where do the frontrunners stand on making the network infrastructure of the United States a top issue in their debates? How come the great journalists asking the questions don’t ask where Barack Obama stands on a national broadband initiative or where Rudy Giuliani thinks we should head with gigabit infrastructures to support regional economic development and sustainability?

The answer is simple: They are all being coached by people who don’t know it’s a national issue and a global competitive requirement. First, there needs to be a real definition of broadband connectivity. Unfortunately, the FCC is so far behind. Its definition of broadband is 200 Kbps. Get real.

California’s “One Gigabit or Bust” motto for broadband deployment by 2010 is pretty good to adopt nationally. As for the FCC, we should fire many of them and let them try to find a job with their limited skill sets. If connectivity was a war, they would be suggesting crossbows when the enemy has laser-guided Gatling guns.

What about the journalists? They are keeping it simple. They are more interested in asking scandalous questions that pander to the most common denominator in their demographics while the candidates think people only want to hear about their views on global warming or the price of the opponent’s haircut.

I – along with millions of other Americans – don’t believe the people in Iowa or New Hampshire represent my interests or concerns. Pandering to those voters and taking on issues that will excite these small areas make us miss some big national issues. One of those issues is broadband deployment.

If you are a presidential candidate and you can’t answer questions about broadband deployment with a real vision, you should get out of the race. You will be doing America a great favor.

Hot Issue in Rural America

Voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire should still be concerned about incumbent phone companies abandoning rural areas. The competitive business model for implementing and offering new broadband services doesn’t include the concept of universal service in its marketing approach.

If you’re in a rural area, you better pray you have innovative local or municipal power companies that might consider picking up the slack and doing some broadband applications. Incumbent phone companies have already decided they’re not going to spend a lot of money to upgrade rural network infrastructure. There’s no profit in it.

The incumbent phone companies don’t want to upset their cash cow of copper even though we live in a world of fiber and wireless. The money they give to candidates and lobbyists to protect their stagecoach-era network infrastructure could be invested to upgrade it instead. There is no rush to upgrade if they have no real competition pushing the envelope and no candidates questioning connectivity.

If one or two candidates would focus on this issue as a national and rural crisis, those candidates would distinguish themselves as tackling a real issue. They’d cut across all types of demographics including rural, urban, rich and poor.

There needs to be some serious investigation on why we have slipped so far into the digital desert where all levels of economic strata have been affected and not just those in the digital divide. That would be an excellent debate. It would have real substance, which is what the majority of voters really want.

Let’s Get Real

Everyday Internet users know their connections are slow and are finding out they are losing to their competitors. Losing across the board to the competition? That’s not American. This isn’t a geek or an engineering issue. This is a critical American issue that affects people in every industry at every level at both business and play.

Have we lost the competitive spirit to be first, to be the best or to have the fastest in the world? There should be national shame for slipping so much. At the time of the telecom divestiture in 1984, we had the most advanced telecommunications network in the world. We can’t claim that title any more.

Will American society regress instead of advance? Was the pejorative movie “Idiocracy” more of a true social commentary on the future than what the intelligentsia of this country would ever admit?

If the space program began today, would mission control be made up of H-1B visa workers and everything at the launch pad written in English and Spanish? Would rocket parts come from China with the leaded paint on the multi-stage rocket looking great but actually toxic and peeling off? Should the shuttle have to accommodate illegal aliens?

Would the program also have a watered-down, best-effort achievement scale where just getting off the launch pad would be considered a huge success and the goals would be constantly argued by the Democrats and Republicans so no clear objectives would ever be set or met?

Would funding be pulled back and forth because Washington would not be able to make up its mind about which direction to take? Once a mission was in space, would a whiny Congressmen debate whether or not to approve the funding to be able to bring the astronauts back home?

We landed on the moon almost 40 years ago. What have we done lately? Didn’t George Bush talk about setting a mission to Mars as an objective? That was a great initiative. Why didn’t we execute his plan? Who dropped the ball on that?

Perhaps the network infrastructure should take the prominence for this generation like the space program did for a different generation.

Build the Infrastructure, Build the Country

What does it take to really implement a national network infrastructure? It’s a long-term process. You build for tomorrow and not for today. You don’t put enough in the ground for growth for only two years. You put into the ground enough so you do not have to retrench for 20 years.

Gamers in a multibillion-dollar industry that eclipses Hollywood’s motion-picture industry would tell you in a heartbeat that they need more speed and that would help the outcome in their game with others. Hollywood could revolutionize its whole distribution process if it could download first-run movies in less than 10 seconds on a gigabit line to subscribers directly.

People trading stocks always want an edge. If they can get a 100 Mbps connection, it might play a big role in getting an edge against those who only have DSL at 1.5 Mbps.

What about faster gigabit speeds to transmit CAT scans or CAD drawings? What about fingerprints, criminal pictures and real-time surveillance cameras? While there are so many applications that could benefit from what some people think is overkill, those of us in the know think gigabit is what the goal should be.

If you are going to go through what might wind up as a multibillion-dollar endeavor in every state, why not build the best and fastest? Having only 3 Mbps is too slow especially when you look globally and see that the standard somewhere else is already 100 Mbps. By the time something is built and ready to go, 1 Gbps will be a good speed.

To all the campaign strategists who think they have a pulse on the issues, wake up. This is a real national issue, and so far, none of you have a clue. I am tired of hearing about issues that were either settled 20 years ago or are questionable as to being real or junk science.

Having a second-rate national network infrastructure and losing economic sustainability in both rural and urban regions is real today. Ask anyone who has had to take a job at 50 percent of their salary in the last five years.

Forget the unemployment figures. Underemployment of highly skilled workers is rampant and is a real problem. Can’t figure it out? Try looking at skyrocketing foreclosures, slumping new car sales and other economic indicators that the “experts” can’t seem to piece together.

This isn’t rocket science. Economic development equals broadband connectivity, broadband connectivity equals jobs and jobs equal votes. Get your candidates up to speed or get them out of the race.

Carlinism: Connectivity isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.

Jim Carlini will lead a half-day seminar on the same topic at the Building Industry
Consulting Services International’s winter conference from Jan. 14 to 17, 2008 in Orlando.

Carlini’s interview at the Illinois Municipal League conference on broadband
connectivity, economic development and public school education can be found here.

Check out Carlini’s blog at CarlinisComments.com.

James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University. He is also president of Carlini & Associates. Carlini can be reached at james.carlini@sbcglobal.net or 773-370-1888.
Click here for Carlini’s full biography.

Copyright 2007 Jim Carlini


Corning Cable Systems Announces First Sale Of ClearCurve Product Solution

Corning Cable Systems LLC, part of Corning Incorporated’s (NYSE:GLW) Telecommunications segment, announces that Connexion Technologies has made the first purchase of its ClearCurve product offering.  Connexion Technologies, which is deploying fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks on a wide scale across the United States, is using ClearCurve Rugged Drop Cable in its multiple dwelling unit (MDU) deployments.   Connexion Technologies previously deployed ClearCurve products in a West Palm Beach MDU field trial.  Because of the deployment cost savings, Connexion Technologies chose to purchase the products for future installs.

“During our field trials, we saw firsthand the ease and speed of installation of the ClearCurve Drop Cable,” said Glen Lang, founder of Connexion Technologies.  “With this technology, we were able to realize at least a 30-percent time savings, in addition to material savings such as ducts.”

“Connexion Technologies is a proven leader in FTTH, with significant expertise in MDU cabling applications,” said Bernhard Deutsch, director of marketing and market development for Corning Cable Systems.  “We are excited about this first sale of our ClearCurve product offering and the impact the technology will have on the FTTH industry.”

ClearCurve Rugged Drop Cable is 4.8 mm in diameter and is designed for applications where other physical cable protection, such as microduct, is neither available nor desired.  Offering significant protection of the optical fiber, the cable has a self-bend-limiting feature that prevents the fiber from exceeding the 5 mm minimum bend radius. Therefore, the cable can be handled in any way that copper communication cables are handled, such as pulling through wall studs and stapling to wood. www.corning.com/cablesystems.


Draka Comteq Continues Its Leadership In Bend Insensitive Cables For FTTx Applications

Draka Comteq announces the availability of Bendbright®XS with industry exclusive Colorlock®XS technology in all of its cable constructions.  Bendbright® was introduced in 2005 as the standard fiber in all Draka Comteq drop cables and Colorlock®XS is the latest enhancement to a bend insensitive product line that has led the industry for over two years.  The success of Draka Comteq’s cables in solving the technical challenges for carriers installing FTTx networks was highlighted by AT&T’s “2005 Supplier Innovator of the Year Award”, given to Draka Comteq on the strength of it’s ezDrop cable product design, which features the Bendbright® fiber.

Draka Comteq followed up the success of the original Bendbright® introduction a year later with the release of Bendbright®XS in 2006.  “Judging from the marketing efforts and expense incurred by competing fiber cable manufacturers to introduce bend-insensitive products at the recent FTTH Show in Orlando, a year after Draka’s BendBright®XS introduction, it appears that we are not only on the right track with our product innovation but that our newest version featuring Colorlock®XS will sustain our leadership in this area,” said Tony Valentino, Vice President of Sales for Draka Comteq Americas.

Unlike other fibers recently introduced to the market, BendBright®XS is the first and only all-glass fiber on the market that meets and exceeds the stringent ITU-T G.657.B bending requirements while maintaining backwards compatibility with existing single mode fibers, meeting ITU-T G.652.D.  It does this by using industry accepted materials and technology resulting in no issues or special procedures being needed for splicing or connectorization. 

ColorLock®XS increases the lead over the competition by improving the micro-bending performance of BendBright®XS fiber.  Colorlock® was first introduced over a decade ago and uses a patented technology to color the fibers during the draw process.  With the colors actually integrated in the fiber coating they are guaranteed not to wear, maintaining clarity and vibrancy throughout the lifetime of the fiber.  More importantly, Draka fiber is the only optical fiber in the world proof tested after coloring.  Fibers which are proof tested prior to the fiber coloring process raises questions about true fiber lifetime after coloration.  “With more and more discussions of reduced bend radius fiber storage we think that Draka Comteq clearly has the best lifetime performance, bar none, in the optical fiber industry,” states Phil Edwards, President and CEO of Draka’s global fiber operations.

The Bendbright®XS with Colorlock®XS solution is available in the entire suite of Draka cables and is ideal in access cables for FTTx deployments where loss of signal is common because cables are subjected to tight bends and the rigors of harsh installation techniques, such as the use of cable ties and stapling. www.draka.com            


Draka Comteq Optical Fiber Introduces BendBright®XS With ColorLock®XS Fiber Coating

Draka Comteq, a pioneer in optical fiber technology, today announces that its latest innovation in fiber coating technology, ColorLock®XS, will be available on Draka Comteq’s flagship bend-insensitive fiber, BendBright®XS in January 2008. BendBrightXS, the first true bend-insensitive fiber introduced to the market in 2006, has gained significant momentum in the marketplace because it meets the most stringent fiber bending standards while still maintaining backwards compatibility with existing fiber infrastructure.

The newest enhancement, ColorLockXS, improves fiber microbending performance as well as strip-ability, while adding new vibrant colors integrated into the fiber coating. Unlike other fibers recently introduced to the market, BendBrightXS is an all-glass fiber using proven and industry accepted materials and technology, eliminating splicing concerns or special procedures needed to connectorize the fiber.

The microbending improvement of ColorLockXS coating on BendBrightXS is exemplified by the fiber’s resistance to kink-losses, a key metric to determine fiber performance in tight bends in FTTx applications, such as stapling cables. Kink-loss can be described as partial bends up to 45 degrees of the optical fiber at radii as small as 2 mm. >Typical losses for BendBrightXS in such a scenario are less than 0.1 dB, even at a 2 mm radius, which represents up to a 100x improvement over standard single mode.

“This combination of BendBrightXS with the new ColorLockXS coating is yet another example of Draka Comteq’s clear leadership in fiber technology. It shows our commitment to raise the bar, continuously innovating our products, which ultimately add significant value to the end-customer,” says Phil Edwards, President of Draka Comteq Optical Fiber. www.draka.com            

About BendBrightXS
BendBrightXS, Draka Comteq’s flagship bend-insensitive fiber, first introduced in 2006 and commercially available for over one year, uses a “trench-assisted” index profile to achieve the highest level of bend performance on the market, meeting the most stringent industry standard for bend-insensitive fiber, ITU-T G.657.B. With approximately 100X macro bending performance improvement over standard single mode fiber, BendBrightXS with the new ColorLockXS fiber coating is ideal for access networks where cables and fibers are subjected to tight bends and the rigors of harsh installation techniques such as the stapling of cables. BendBrightXS is also unique because it is the first and only all-glass fiber on the market that meets and exceeds the stringent ITU-T G.657.B bending requirements, yet maintains backwards compatibility with existing single mode fibers, meeting ITU-T G.652.D.

About ColorLockXS Fiber Coating
Unlike other fibers on the market that require an additional process to color the fiber, ColorLockXS uses a patented technology in which the fibers are colored during the draw process. With integrated colors in the fiber coating, the fiber color is guaranteed not to wear, maintaining vibrant colors throughout the lifetime of the fiber. More importantly, BendBrightXS with ColorLockXS is the only optical fiber in the world proof tested after coloring. Fibers which are proof tested prior to the fiber coloring process raises questions about true fiber lifetime after coloration.

“With more and more discussions of reduced bend radius fiber storage we think that Draka Comteq clearly has the best lifetime performance, bar none, in the optical fiber industry,” states Phil Edwards.

Draka Comteq introduced the first generation bend-insensitive fiber, BendBright, in 2002. Updated in 2005 to conform to low water peak standards, G.652.D, BendBright is a G.657.A fiber, with approximately 10x bending improvement over standard single mode fiber. The success of BendBright fiber is highlighted by the AT&T award “2005 Supplier Innovator of the Year”, given to Draka Comteq for FTTH drop cable based on BendBright fiber. The second generation bend-insensitive fiber. BendBrightXS, a G.657.B fiber with approximately 100x bending improvement over standard single mode fiber, was introduced in 2006.

Electrical Contractor Magazine

NECA Delegation Takes Europe By Surprise

From the President's Desk - Milner Irvin, President - NECA

I Took a quick trip to Rome shortly before heading to our NECA convention and the trade show. NECA CEO John Grau and ELECTRI International President Russ Alessi accompanied me. While none of us had much time to explore one of the most beautiful and historically significant cities in the world, we were not disappointed. We saw and heard things there that left a lasting impression.

Among these: Contractors the world over share many of the same concerns. That’s not really a startling insight, given that what brought us to the Eternal City was a conference of the European electrical and mechanical contractors associations. Our counterparts from Australia and South Africa also were in attendance. NECA is affiliated with all these organizations, as well as with Asian and Pacific electrical contractor associations, through our membership in the International Forum of Electrical Contractors (IFEC), which NECA helped launch in 1996.

It’s really no surprise that European contractors worry about skilled work force shortages as much, or even more, than we do. The demographics are similar, though many Western European countries are experiencing even greater imbalances between the dwindling number of young people available to join the labor pool and a baby boom generation aging beyond availability.

Another top concern voiced by our European counterparts at the conference is getting paid by general contractors. Of course, it’s hardly startling that this concern becomes a topic of discussion, no matter the language, whenever two or more subcontractors get together. No doubt, the builders of the great pyramids had similar conversations.

And I guess no one should be surprised that sustainable construction—or “high performance design” or “green building,” if you prefer—is a growing, opportunity-rich market for electrical and mechanical contractors throughout the developed world. No matter where we live, environmental issues are major concerns, and qualified technical contractors are the people who have the skills to provide solutions.

As I noted in my address to the European conference, we all have abundant opportunities to profit in our own businesses and to serve as real-world heroes. No surprise there, either; it’s just something to think about—and a powerful inducement to step up our efforts in increasing public awareness, management education and work force training in regard to building green.

However, the Europeans were surprised to learn from NECA’s delegation just how big sustainable construction is becoming in the United States and the ever-growing extent to which U.S. electrical contractors are becoming involved in green building markets. It seems our counterparts have been somewhat misled by reports on the U.S. not signing the Kyoto treaty on climate change and the like, and they assumed that environmentally-friendly building is no big deal here.

Also, since European Union governmental officials are deeply involved in directing the movement toward sustainable design there, some conference attendees were surprised to learn that much of the movement here is being driven by private enterprise with less intrusive support from our government. We were pleased to set them straight.

What pleases me even more is we helped advance the objectives behind NECA’s work on the international stage—to promote the general interests of electrical contracting and related industries worldwide, facilitate information exchange and teamwork among member associations, and encourage improved personal contacts among member associations and between individual companies.

As I’ve mentioned before, that’s not just an intellectual pursuit. It reflects the pursuit of new opportunities for our industry in a brave, new—and increasingly green—world.  From the President's Desk - Milner Irvin, President - NECA


A Smoke Alarm’s Life Expectancy

October was National Fire Safety Month, and according to Invensys Controls, smoke alarms should be replaced every 87,000 hours, or about 10 years. In addition, carbon monoxide alarms should be replaced every five years.

Since many homeowners change the battery in their home safety products the weekend we return to standard time, Invensys Controls is now reminding consumers that with one glance at the back of the alarm, homeowners can know the real age of the unit by checking the date of manufacture.

The U.S. Fire Administration for Homeland Security, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and the Red Cross agree after working for 87,000 hours, normal environmental conditions in the home can have an impact on the performance of your smoke alarm.

“We believe that over 100 million smoke alarms in the U.S. are over 10 years old, and after working for 87,000 hours, they need to be replaced,” said D.J. Crane, vice president and general manager of the Safety and Thermostat Segment, Invensys Controls.

If a homeowner is unsure of how old a fire alarm is, every alarm has a manufacture date on the back. Invensys Controls recommends replacing the smoke alarm if it was manufactured before 1997. Invensys Controls also recommends upgrading to combination smoke/carbon monoxide (CO).

Keep this in mind, as your customers may ask for help with replacements. EC


Rise Of The Copper Caper

T he demand for salvaged copper is increasing nationwide, and in New Orleans, it has spurred an unprecedented level of property crimes at schools, businesses, homes and elsewhere, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

In April, the city council implemented a law that requires scrap buyers to record the names and phone numbers of sellers and photocopy sellers’ driver’s licenses.

“We’re not trying to stop legitimate economic development; we’re trying to stop crime,” said Cynthia Willard-Lewis, New Orleans councilwoman. Scrap buyers are not allowed to resell aluminum or copper for at least 15 days, and records need to be kept for at least two years. Violations can result in fines and jail terms.

Starting in October 2007, another ordinance would place a 12-month moratorium across the city on permits or licenses for new scrap metal dealers. ISRI’s Bryan McGannon has suggested establishing a theft-alert system under which large thefts would be reported to scrap yards so that scrap brokers would have an idea of what to look for.

Copper is being stolen from air conditioners, electrical wiring and water pipes. Pilferers often target homes that are under construction, demolished or exposed, and middlemen have emerged who offer to pick up scrap from homes and provide a small amount of money, transporting the metal to recycling centers, police say. According to New Orleans Police Department Capt. Gregory Elder, some thieves even dress like contractors at work sites. EC


Different Strokes For Different Folks

By Jim Hayes

Why isn’t there just one standard fiber optic connector?

A question often asked of people in the fiber optic business is why we have so many different connectors. The specific reference is usually to the 8-pin modular connector design used on 4-pair UTP cable for premises cabling, as there are thousands of different electrical connector designs available. So whenever I hear this question, I respond with a hearty laugh and a question in return. Do you really think all 8-pin modular connectors are the same? In actuality, there are dozens of 8-pin modular connector types, mostly incompatible.

We have RJ-45 connectors with different pinouts, for example, the 8-pin modular connector with USOC pinout for plain old telephone service, TIA-568A and TIA-568B for data. We also have a number of obsolete versions used before TIA began standardizing them around 1990. You can get 8-pin modular connectors, which are shielded or unshielded. There are different performance grades of 8-pin modular connectors, generally called Category 3, 5, 5e, 6 and 6A, which are compatible only with their corresponding grade of UTP cable. And, of course, since the standard UTP cabling system is undergoing constant upgrades, you have prestandard versions from different manufacturers of questionable compatibility.

So what’s wrong with fiber optics having three basic connector designs that are used for virtually all networks in the United States? The ST and SC hit the market about the same time in the mid-1980s. AT&T backs the ST and it costs less, so it became the market leader. When TIA standards first looked at fiber optics, licensing and patent issues led to standardizing the SC connector from Japan, but its higher cost and low market penetration at the time kept its popularity low for years. Today, the SC probably has more market share, as it is a better performing connector, but it still costs 10 percent more than an ST. ST and SC connectors use the same ferrule design, a 2.5-mm cylindrical ferrule usually made from a ceramic material, so they are intermateable with hybrid mating adapters, simplifying testing and network connections.

The third design, the LC, came along at the end of the 1990s as part of an industry trend toward smaller connectors to allow higher density for patch panels and transmission equipment. The LC uses a smaller cylindrical ferrule, only 1.25 mm diameter, which makes it easier to terminate. The LC has been adopted almost exclusively by the high-speed transceiver manufacturers, so it’s on practically every piece of communications equipment for gigabit speeds and above.

Fiber is much more standardized than copper cabling. Every glass optical fiber, multimode graded-index or single-mode, is the same size with a 125-micron outside diameter. Therefore, every connector has only one fiber size to accommodate. The larger core of multimode fiber allows connectors to have greater tolerances and, therefore, lower costs than single-mode connectors. However, the differences are more in selecting connectors with closer tolerances for single-mode.

Each of these connectors is described in complete mechanical detail in a Fiber Optic Connector Intermateability Standard (FOCIS) document from the TIA. FOCIS 2 covers the ST, FOCIS 3 covers the SC, and FOCIS 10 covers the LC.

What about all the other fiber optic connectors that have been on the market? When I was in the test equipment business, we had adapters for 84 different connectors. Most of those designs came from the first few years of the business when it seemed every company had a better idea of how to make fiber optic terminations. Many others were unique designs for specialized purposes, such as rugged military designs or cheap plastic fiber connectors. Once the ST and SC hit the market, new connector introductions declined until the small form factor connectors were introduced in the late 1990s, giving us the LC.

Most cabling systems today use ST or SC connectors. We now recommend using LCs on laser-optimized 50/125 fiber networks to prevent mixing 62.5/125 and 50/125 fibers with the resulting high fiber mismatch losses at connections. If users continue using the ST or SC on 50/125 fiber, then marking and color coding became very important. There is one more fiber optic connector you may see, the MTP/MTO, a 12-fiber connector used exclusively in preterminated cabling systems. It, too, has become a standard (FOCIS-5) for backbone cables, but the patch panels generally remain ST or SC.

Even with just these four connectors, you still can run into compatibility issues while testing. If your test equipment has a different connector from the cable plant (excepting the ST and SC, which are adaptable), you may have trouble setting the reference properly. International standards bodies have already recognized this and changed their test methods to use only the three-cable reference method (launch cable—“0” loss reference cable—receive cable), which accommodates any connector style. In the next revision of the TIA-568 standard (C revision), it will be an option to the one cable reference in previous standards, as long as the method is documented with test data.

HAYES is a VDV writer and educator and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.jimhayes.com.


Giving Technicians What They Need When They Need It

When it comes to project work, electrical contractors (ECs) have essentials at their side—the tools they require. Be they basic gear or other equipment, these essentials help contractors get the job done. The trick is having what you need when you need it. That necessitates access, organization and product upgrades that make sense. It can make a difference between a well-run job and one fraught with frustration.

It all begins in the tool shop—a world of ladders, cable reels, copper wire, measurement devices, fittings and more. A shop is in many ways the key essential tool that keeps a contractor’s business on track. The better run, organized and stocked, the quicker and cheaper a job can be done. If essential tools are not available due to misplacement, damage or limited stock, the client faces unnecessary delays.

“Time is money when the general contractor looks to you for a job well done in the least amount of time,” said Tim Koehler, president of J W Koehler Electric Inc. in Davenport, Iowa. “Want to keep worker morale up? Reduce needless aggravation and downtime on a job site caused by a broken, undercharged or mistakenly assigned tool.”

In business since 1969, J W Koehler Electric provides electrical contracting services in Iowa and Illinois for commercial, industrial and residential customers. It also provides voice and data cabling services.

Brian Westerlund, president of VECA Electric Co. Inc., also recognizes the value of having essential tools available at all times and sees it as a sense of pride for the shop and the technicians. VECA serves the greater Seattle area; the company celebrated its 60th anniversary last year.

“Our goal at VECA is to empower our people, so they can be the best they can be,” Westerlund said. “Giving them quality tools is our investment in them. The dividends lie in the quality of work and professionalism our crew provides to our clients.”

Arms around inventory

Approximately 25 years ago, management at J W Koehler Electric was looking for a way to effectively track its tools.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure the same tool was back in the shop or accounted for off-site,” Koehler said. “Tools are a major investment for a contracting company. It was time to get a handle on that investment, while creating accountability for our employees.”

They invested in a software tracking and management system called ToolWatch, a program that continues to evolve today. In fact, it was featured in Jeff Griffin’s Cool Tools column in the May 2006 issue of Electrical Contractor. ToolWatch is one of a handful of management software programs tailored to the construction industry.

“We also wanted a program that helped our contractors request the tools they needed,” Koehler said, which is a feature of the program.

Rick Soucy is the warehouse representative for the company. He makes sure everyone gets the right tools and equipment.

“When you can track who has what, who borrowed what and who left what at a job site, you’re ahead of the game,” Soucy said. “Our tools are identified and numbered in our system. We also have tool details specific to each tool—everything from available bit sizes for a hammer drill to the contents in our first aid kits.”

Soucy added that tracking a tool’s history from “cradle to grave” isn’t the only advantage of this software. “I can access warranty information, date of purchase, model and serial number, and how many were purchased. The system gives me safety inspection reminders for tools, such as high voltage gloves or sticks.”

Soucy noted that the Windows-based program helps other departments, as well.

“Showing how, what and how often our tools are used helps in purchasing decisions,” Soucy said. “We can note how often a tool has been rented to determine whether we should rent or buy. We can also spot boom items or tools typically needed in multiples. All of this helps identify our essential tools.”

Another approach to accountability

VECA’s Westerlund is all for building accountability with his technicians.

“Tools are a major cost for your company. They represent bottom line dollars. You have to keep tabs on them,” Westerlund said. To that end, he’s embarking on a new tact when it comes to major essential gear.

“I’m looking at a program where all my electricians receive their own personal hole saw and battery-operated drill,” Westerlund said. “We buy them. The tools are theirs to keep and their liability if they lose them. I feel ownership breeds responsibility. We’re giving it a try.”

Though an expensive initial cost, Westerlund thinks this program will actually save money in the end. He’s looking at implementing the program sometime this fall.

Maintaining an organized shop

Graybar Electric Co. Inc. in St. Louis, Mo., is an electrical products distribution firm. Dennis Rees serves the company as a product specialist. He found professional organizational products can go a long way toward helping ECs improve their efficiency and productivity.

“Certainly, ECs who stay as organized as possible can reduce the number of hours spent on a job and, ultimately, increase their profitability and win more business,” Rees said. He cited mobile wire carts, caddies, other work carts and conduit/pipe storage racks as items that can make it easier to store commodities in the shop and transport them to and from work areas.

“Wire carts are designed to pass through doorways easily and even help payout cable,” Rees said. “Some have built-in wire guides for horizontal dispensing and fold for easy storage when they’re not in use.”

Want to eliminate clutter? Consider storage boxes in a variety of sizes. “Many boxes have concealed lock protectors for added security and built-in loading ramps to help store larger, heavier items,” Rees said. “Some come with swivel or rigid casters for better portability. There’s even a ‘field office’ storage box, featuring a slant work surface and lockable storage areas.” Rees added that mesh boxes will allow you to see what’s inside.

Having the best tools

Tools are an investment, so buying the best ones can provide peace of mind.

“My father always ran our business believing you can’t afford not to buy the best tools and equipment,” Koehler said. “It’s just cost effective. You want quality equipment that works right away, especially considering today’s dollar-a-minute labor costs.”

Rees said ECs tell him they are always looking for tools that will improve their performance.

“I don’t think that a professional installer would ever scrimp on a tool, especially if it made his or her job easier,” Rees said. “Plus, who can afford job downtime or the hassle and cost to keep replacing tools? We’ve found installers will always seek out and buy the best tool for the money.”

“The old saying, ‘you get what you pay for,’ is true,” Westerlund said. “But don’t pay more than you should. A little homework will help you identify overpricing.”

Weighing the latest and greatest

Today’s essential tools may change tomorrow as ECs discover new products.

“There will always be a need for a 120V outlet that will require wire, conduit and the tools to pull the wire through,” Koehler said. “That doesn’t mean you won’t find something new or improved that becomes a new essential on the job.”

“Tools do improve, and ECs need to be aware of these improvements to stay competitive,” Rees said.

Koehler and Soucy find that, though it’s technically a piece of equipment, the handheld core drill has become a new essential tool on their job sites.

“I’m always keeping an eye open for tools that allow us to do the job better and quicker,” Koehler said. “The handheld core drill does that for us. We own a few. The older technologies were large and bulky, needing to be anchored to the wall or floor. These handheld versions are smaller and lighter. Using one is now a one-man operation. Some of the designs don’t even need water. A two-hour job is now closer to a half-hour.”

“The new core drill is the perfect example of how we noted how often it was rented and realized we’d save money by purchasing it,” Soucy said.

Research and development

Research and development is vital to manufacturers who hope to improve their products or discover something new. Contractors should take note.

“Klein Tools and IDEAL Industries are always working to produce the most ergonomic designs possible,” Rees said. “Not only do these designs help to prevent repetitive-motion injuries and make working more comfortable, they can help ECs improve their cutting and gripping power, as well.”

A technology Rees regards as the new essential is lithium-ion batteries. “Lithium-ion battery technology provides cordless tools with longer runtime and more consistent power throughout the life of the battery charge,” he said. “The tools are also lighter and smaller than their NiCd battery-powered predecessors, which may help reduce injuries due to lifting and supporting heavier tools. ECs should consider making the upgrade to lithium-ion battery-powered cordless tools.”

Inventory reduction

There are a lot of ways to ensure technicians receive the essential tools they need when they need them. You might consider giving your tool managers a helping hand.

“Sometimes, it makes sense to look at outsourcing some material management to a distributor that can ship materials just-in-time to the job site,” Rees said. “Materials can be packaged or kitted and labeled according to the EC’s specifications and delivered to specific areas of a job site if needed. This frees up the EC to focus on the installation when the material is exactly where they need it, when they need it, and reduces the potential for material theft and breakage.”

VECA is looking at piloting a partial material management program.

“For the bigger jobs, having a vendor stock on-site of the little pieces, like washers, plates and screws, could be very efficient,” Westerlund said. “We would order a set number of pieces. The materials vendor would then charge us for what we use and take back what we don’t. This would take some pressure off our shop and allow them to turn to other things. To me, this could be one more way to be faster, better and minimize downtime on a job.”

Westerlund said he is just waiting for the right job to try out this materials-handling approach.

GAVIN is the owner of Gavo Communications, a marketing services firm serving the construction and the landscaping industries. He writes trend, design and other business articles.

By Jeff Gavin


Your Way, Right Away : Users Determine Tool Trends

The most significant trends in tools used by electricians continue to be driven by the needs of the those who purchase and use them.

“Manufacturers are listening carefully to contractors’ needs for increased safety and improved productivity,” said David Moeller, Graybar national construction market manager. “They are responding with new technology—tools and accessories that decrease installation time and increase flexibility for multiple uses. Lithium-ion battery technology provides much longer battery life, which greatly improves productivity. Some new ladders hold tools and materials and include leg levelers, allowing people to climb safely on uneven surfaces. Increasingly, hand and power tools are designed to be more ergonomic to reduce hand injuries.”

Dennis Rees, Graybar national product manager, considers lithium-ion battery technology still the most significant recent development in power tools.

“Major tool manufacturers,” he said, ”now offer lithium-ion battery-powered cordless tools. Now the question is, how much efficiency can they provide? They all claim different efficiencies from their lithium-ion technology, and they will continue to try and make their tools lighter and smaller while providing longer run time.”

Lithium-ion batteries allow for smaller, lighter and more efficient tools. Manufacturers want cordless tools to perform as well as corded ones. Lithium-ion technology makes that possible, Rees said.

“All major power tool manufacturers are looking at battery technology to find the next innovation,” he said.

Moving to manual tools, Rees said the industry is not seeing many new products, but rather improved designs of industry-standard tools.

“The main development is hand tools with more ergonomic-type designs that reduce user fatigue and stress,” he said. “Manufacturers are especially trying to improve hand tools used for tasks that require a lot of repetition, developing new ergonomic handle designs and handles with better cushioning.

Safety on the job is a major concern, and regulations pertaining to safety are a key issue for contractors, Rees said, observing that many tool features designed to reduce the risk of injury and encourage safety evolve from safety regulations.

ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR invited key tool manufacturers to comment about trends in tool products in the past 12 months. Listed alphabetically are summaries of those who responded.

Channellock, Scott T. Jonap,
vice president, sales and marketing:

“In manual hand tools, we see the trend toward more versatile, multifunction tools as an industry hot point. End-users have increasingly more complex needs with regard to their hand tools, and they want to carry as few tools as possible in their belts. Tools that offer the greatest versatility and quality at a reasonable price will continue to enjoy an advantage.

“Channellock is taking advantage of the latest manufacturing technologies to improve the quality and performance of our products. An example is the use of laser heat-treating technology to efficiently harden the areas of increased abuse, specifically cutting edges and jaw teeth on all of our products. Laser heat treating results in unmatched consistency of the hardness pattern for a more durable pair of pliers.

“Channellock’s new lineman’s pliers with integrated fish tape puller was introduced to simplify the task of pulling wire and cable. We have introduced a line of 12 wide-jaw capacity adjustable wrenches that feature four different sizes in three different grip configurations.”

FCI Burndy, Bob Poirier, senior product manager:

“Battery-powered crimping tools are smaller, lighter, faster and can do more crimps per charge for a full range of connector and wire sizes. Ergonomics and tool structure are our challenges, and we are constantly making more powerful tools that run on battery platforms. Burndy has recently created two new products: an in-line design of our popular MD6 tool on battery-actuated platform, and we are developing and testing a 15-ton battery-actuated tool.”

Gardner Bender, Derek Erickson, product manager, hand tools:

“The trend in hand tool design continues to be focused on multifunctionality. Enabling a contractor to use one tool for two or more functions can increase his productivity. All electricians carry a standard collection of hand tools. The difference between today’s set of ‘basics’ compared to those carried in the past is in their material composition and functionality. Tools feature comfort grip handles, stainless steel parts and additional components.

“Advances continue to be made, but they are founded on the basics. But new ideas, materials and technologies continue to thrust product design forward to produce innovative tools that can really change how professionals do their job. New tools incorporate innovative materials and add new features to existing tool concepts to create original designs. Ergonomic designs influence development of new tools or enhancement of existing tools.”

Greenlee Textron, Brian Allison, senior product manager:

“Advancements and improvements of manual hand tools in the last 12 months include adding or combining features of tools, such as adding stripping holes or tape pulling features to pliers, offering a retractable blade on saws, or adding on tool storage for saw blades/knife blades.

“In the past year, Greenlee has introduced battery-powered tools, including a compact 6-ton crimping tool,12-ton multifunction tool, a dieless crimping tool, and the first and only battery-powered cable tool designed specifically to cut basket-style cable trays.

“Adding battery power to these types of tools reduces repetitive motion injuries, so the addition of battery assist can be considered a safety improvement.”

Hilti USA, Robert Chetelat, product manager:

“Contractors have demanding applications and needs. Therefore, tools are being designed to last longer and to provide better performance. Lithium-ion battery technology allows manufacturers to offer cordless tools that were traditionally offered only in corded versions. Tools are becoming more efficient and are being designed for longer run times.

“Lithium-ion technology brings features to 14.4-volt tools previously seen only on higher-voltage models, including individual battery cell management that helps ensure consistent applications per charge over the life of the battery and drop resistance to protect batteries. All Hilti lithium-ion tools are enabled with our theft-protection system.

“In the past 12 months, cordless lithium-ion tools introduced by Hilti include impact driver and impact wrench, cordless rotary hammer, and rotary hammer drill. New concrete/masonry drill bits are the first with gradient technology.”

Ideal Industries, West Howard, product manager:

“The most significant advances in hand tools are in ergonomic designs, and as the average age of American electricians approaches 45, ergonomics has become an essential engineering goal. For example, dual-durometer grips on our pliers give the electrician improved hand control and comfort, plus reduced compression of nerves and blood vessels.

“Productivity is especially important today. This means that today’s electrical contractors have to get more work done in less time with fewer trained electricians. One way to lessen this burden is for manufacturers to add more features to hand tools the electricians already use.

“Our product design engineers use highly advanced CAD software to facilitate innovation. The software allows them to rethink established ideas about tool grips, shapes, handle design and what a hand tool can and can’t do. From there, we can quickly create dozens of prototypes that are tested in the real world by electricians who provide feedback.”

Makita USA, Wayne Hart, communications manager:

“The increased number of cordless hand tools with lithium-ion batteries is the most significant advance. Eighteen-volt tools have 12-volt weight. Makita’s slide-type battery design allows product designers to build the handle to fit the human hand, not the battery. Advanced battery technology and better designs have produced more compact cordless tools that are powerful yet weigh less. These tools are especially good for doing overhead work or in tight work spaces.

Improved battery charging time also is an important advance.

“Anti-vibration technology is also an advance that reduces vibration as much as three times in select tools. Reducing vibration improves efficiency and power and makes tools easier to use.

“Makita tools introduced in the past year include trim saw and metal cutting saws and compact impact driver and driver drill.”

Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., Rick Gray,
director, cordless product management:

“It would be great to have a power tool breakthrough every year, but the fact is that does not happen. Most improvements to tools come through evolution, but there are times when a significant development occurs that brings immediate changes, and Milwaukee’s introduction of the first lithium-ion powered cordless tools was such an event.

“The trend in cordless tools today is the continuing development of what lithium-ion technology will bring to the tool industry. Other companies have added lithium-ion tools, and there are more tools in more power classes offering longer run time, weight-to-size advantages and other benefits. Tool users see the advantages of these products, and that is being reflected in purchasing demands. We are receiving input about what tools they would like to see—so the trend shifts to breadth of line. We’re also seeing lithium-ion demand causing distributors to consolidate lines of NiCd offerings. With lithium-ion tools, we’ll see more tools in more sizes as we continue to learn what we will be able to do with the technology.

“For all power tools, ergonomic advances continue, and smaller, lighter-weight tools contribute to improved ergonomics. With cordless tools, some buyers look for breadth of line while others want one tool to be able to do more, making it a challenge for manufacturers to fill those needs.”

Panduit Corp., Tim Oliver, business development manager:

“The most significant advancement in cordless tools is development of smaller and lighter battery-powered tools designed for specific lighter-duty jobs. When tool design is matched to the specific job, both capital and operating costs can be driven downward. Greater portability also translates into quicker movement from one task to the next to reduce labor costs

“The adoption of cordless tools powered by lithium-ion batteries is driving new levels of productivity for electricians. Specifically, the longer life of lithium-ion batteries is resulting in more operations per charge and less user downtime due to battery changing and recharging.

“The latest advancement in pneumatic cable tie installation tools is the addition of an optional CO2 canister for portability. The canister is designed to be carried on a tool belt, which enables the installer to take the tool to the job without being tethered to a fixed air line. Improved operator safety has also been the focus of the latest manual cable tie installation tools. Panduit cable tie tools now feature cushioned handle grips to improve ergonomic safety by reducing the shock given off by the tool.”

GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at 405.748.5256 or up-front@cox.net.

By Jeff Griffin


Gotta Have It: Know the essential tools for low-voltage success

By Russ Munyan

Without a doubt, there always will be electrical contractors who opt to perform higher- voltage electrical work exclusively and stay out of low-voltage cabling, believing it is the best use of their resources. In contrast, many other contractors actively seek, perform and make money in low-voltage cabling.

But for those electrical contractors who remain unsure about whether to pursue that field, review the following opinions of two contractors and a leading manufacturer of cabling testing equipment. Each was asked about the low-voltage cabling business and what a contractor needs to be successful in that industry.

Cabling versus electrical work

“The first thing to understand is that electrical work is a lot harder than cabling,” said David Stallings, manager of communications for Miller Electric Co., Jacksonville, Fla. “So if you can understand electrical work, you can understand cabling. It’s just that cabling sounds different.”

He first recommends to get and read the Telecommunications Distribution Methods (TDM) Manual from The Building Industry Consulting Service International Inc. (BICSI) and learn its acronym dictionary.

“Study the terms and the language, and learn to converse in the industry,” Stallings said.

Miller Electric is an 80-year-old company with offices as far north as Baltimore and as far west as Little Rock, Ark. Of its $250 million in revenues in 2006, $25 million was in low-voltage work. The firm ventured into cabling in the 1980s and now employs 200 field technicians and 16 management staff in its new construction and moves/adds/changes sectors.

When it comes to the actual tools, Stallings said,  “Start with the almighty punchdown tool,” a spring-loaded impact tool designed to terminate and cut UTP cable and seat connecting blocks. Different types of termination block styles require either different tools or a single tool with interchangeable blades; the four most common are 66- or 110-style, Krone or BIX. Available from multiple manufacturers, punchdown tools are manufactured to perform either single-wire or five-pair terminations.

“After the punchdown tool, installers just need standard electrician’s hand tools to get them through most installations,” he said. “Things like strippers, knives, pliers, screwdrivers, keyhole saws and levels. I’d recommend a wire cart, but even that is not essential for smaller installations. And, of course, the contractor will need ladders for overhead cabling runs.”

The most important tool

Of course, quality cabling is not just dependent on what an installer keeps in his service van.

“Your most important tool is your field technician,” said Dan Smith, president of the Electric Co. of Omaha, Neb.

His 25-year-old firm employs 70 field staff. Eighteen of whom are dedicated to low-voltage work, which generates about 25 percent of the company’s revenue. In addition to telecommunications cabling, the Electric Co. of Omaha also provides low-voltage security, card access, closed-circuit television and total building integration installations.

“We learned the importance of having the right people in 1999 on our first big cabling job, the Children’s Hospital in Omaha. We had won the electrical contract on that project, and the owner and general contractor really wanted a single provider of all of the electrical services. We had done some low-voltage before then, but that job set us up to take on work that was at the next level.

“We ended up with 14 techs on that project, but we had to go through 40 different installers just to come up with those 14 quality men,” Smith said. “But honestly, that is how I would recommend that an EC get into low-voltage work: Start with small projects, get the right people, and then slowly work up to bigger and bigger projects.”

Just like Stallings in Florida, Smith said that low-voltage cabling is a field that ECs can do. “It requires a low investment up front—substantially lower than electrical work. You will actually spend your money on training and certifications.”

But don’t go at it alone, he recommends. Rather, he suggests a contractor team up with a specific manufacturer for training and certification. Another partnership might be to hire a qualified low-voltage team leader with a BICSI installer or technician certification, and maybe even a registered communications distribution designer (RCDD), which is BICSI’s “professional designation recognizing superior design knowledge.”

With the right people and the proper training and tools, Smith has found his low-voltage division is actually more profitable than his electrical division.

“There are about 50 NECA-member electrical contractors that service Omaha but only nine NECA contractors that do low-voltage work. That makes the low-voltage work a lot less competitive, so we can be more profitable in that area.” And now that both divisions are established, they win jobs for each other, he said, by identifying and winning work for the other division before it ever goes to bid.

The Electric Co. of Omaha has expanded from just installing low-voltage cabling to installing and programming the head-end equipment for the various systems. It has found that head-end equipment and the relatively minimal labor that it requires are fixed costs that provide predictable and appreciable profits. That is in contrast to the often unpredictable labor costs in cabling installation.

“Why should we do all of the work and take all of the risk [in the cabling work],” Smith asked, “and then not get any of the ‘gravy’ of doing the head-end equipment?” But all of that comes back, again, to having the right people who are properly trained and certified.

Electronic testing equipment

Although both Stallings and Smith agreed that, while the equipment entry costs are relatively low in cabling, electronic testing devices make up the biggest portion of that cost, especially certification testers. Subrata Mukherjee, Fluke Networks’ verification tools product manager, said that while there are numerous kinds of testers on the market, they generally can be classified into three broad categories: verification, qualification and certification. Fluke Networks offers products for testing, monitoring and analysis of copper and fiber optic telecommunications cables and networks.

Verification test tools are simple, relatively low-cost devices that are typically used by a cabling technician to check basic connectivity of the installed links (for example, wiremapping or toning), and to find connection and wire-pairing faults. In addition, they perform a quick and easy screening on large-scale installations to verify that cables have been correctly wired and terminated. They can identify breaks and shorts before the certification tests are performed, which can save valuable time and significantly reduce the overall costs of testing.

Qualification testers are designed for network technicians to determine if an existing cabling link can support certain network speeds and technologies (100BASE-TX, Voice over Internet Protocol, gigabit Ethernet, etc.) and to quickly isolate cabling problems from network problems. Qualification tools are most commonly used in residential installation projects. They are more powerful than verification tools but still do not perform the battery of tests required of a certification tool.

Certification is the most rigorous of all cable testing and determines if an installed cabling link complies with Telecommunications Industry Association/International Standards Organization (TIA/ISO) standards. While verification and qualification tools generally test the channel configuration, only certification testers are able to test the permanent link to certify that it meets all the performance criteria of a given category or class of cable (e.g., Category 5e/6/A6 or Class D/E). Project owners typically require contractors to provide documented test results (in print and/or electronic format) collected in the field from a high-accuracy certification tool. Similarly, structured cabling manufacturers require test results to warranty certified projects.

Depending on the brand and model, some copper certification testers can attach to fiber optic testing devices, including those for loss link and OTDR testing.

There is a range of features in copper certification testers. The prices reflect those differences, but the general cost (without fiber optic testing attachments) is about $5,000 to $8,000. But as Harley Lang, Fluke Networks’ product marketing manager for fiber test, explained, “The growth rate of cabling is high, but so is the demand for quality. In this market, the job must be done right. Proper testing ‘future-proofs’ both the installation and the installer.”

Fluke Networks’ public relations manager Dan Wright agreed. “The right equipment allows a contractor to show that he is serious so that he can win jobs. It also keeps his work profitable by ensuring that he does not have to return to a job to perform repairs on work that should have been done right the first time.”

The conclusion of those already in the low-voltage industry is that the tools, technology and know-how of that work are typically all within reach of an electrical contractor. If a contractor is considering a move into that field, there’s little that would be a prohibitive factor for what could prove to be a profitable venture.     

MUNYAN is a freelance writer in the Kansas City, Kan., area, specializing in business writing and telecommunications. He can be reached at www.russwrites.com.


Maximize Bandwidth : Understanding WAN Optimization Is Key

By Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas

Wide-area network (WAN) optimizatioN basically means maximizing bandwidth efficiency. It involves compressing data and providing quick access to certain protocols, which helps decrease the amount of communication on the network for common requests. Because of this, it is also sometimes referred to as WAN acceleration.

Some of the common functions are protocol optimization, application caching, bandwidth management and compression. The bandwidth and compression portions are the traditional benefits, and the others have almost become as important. All of these features help explain why WAN optimization keeps being requested as a WAN solution.

Beyond the basics, each product offering also provides its own set of additional features and functions that allow for users to tailor WAN optimization to their own unique needs. This is where things get complex and extend beyond the scope of contractors’ work, but knowing they are options increases one’s ability to work in the growing storage market.

Some of the major players in WAN optimization include Cisco (whose particular offering, WAAS, goes beyond WAN optimization), Riverbed, Packeteer, Juniper and Blue Coat. Others constantly appear. Knowing who the players are is important, since many times IT departments like to double-check interoperability, and knowing what products work with which others is part of the battle.

While WAN optimization may seem like a no-brainer for anyone with a WAN (who wouldn’t want increased speed?), it is not financially feasible for everyone. The return on investment seems to make it most beneficial for certain users.

Locations that support branches in addition to a primary site have shown a great interest in WAN optimization.This may be because optimizing one’s network increases the flow of information, and branch locations may slow down the overall speed.

Schools and government also are big users because branch locations generally require the same access as one would expect in a main site. Individual schools have hundreds or even thousands of users, all requiring the same applications to work. That means moving those applications from the main site to the branches needs to have a result that mimics a local area network (LAN) from a speed, accessibility and functionality standpoint.

Unfortunately, today’s powerhouse applications and increased bandwidth usages decrease network speed, which creates a need for WAN optimization. A proper WAN optimization solution should mean users do not need to purchase additional bandwidth, and thus, the delay of such purchases helps pay for the solution.

As applications toggle between being run on a LAN and a WAN, the optimization helps make that transition more seamless and aids in overall speed and productivity.

Perhaps one of the biggest boosts to WAN optimization relevance is the growing IT requirement known as compliance. Continually developing compliance and regulatory concerns, most of which mandate the storage, delivery and access of information, are further satisfied via WAN optimization, as it helps support the data backup aspect while simultaneously satisfying the data recovery portion.

Playing fair

Knowledge of WAN optimization is the first step for contractors to join the process. From that point, being able to assess the current status and functionality of a WAN can help a contractor assist in determining if WAN optimization is something the end-user should look into.

Contractors, most of whom continue to be hands-on when working with WANs, should learn WAN optimization, so they can take such requests into consideration. At the least, knowing what it is, being able to give end-users a brief description and being able to point them in right direction further adds to the contractor’s ability to provide exceptional service, maintaining the position as your customers’ contractor of choice.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at JenLeahS@msn.com.


The Technology Tie-In: Productivity Equipment And Software Builds Profits

By Deborah L. O’Mara

Talk has shifted from labor-saving hardware and tools—although both are still essential to project success—to remote connectivity and mobility. For project managers in the field, staying connected to the office is as critical as being on the job site. Now, technology helps them be in two places at once.

In a recent survey conducted by construction industry consulting firm FMI, Raleigh, N.C., 53 percent of construction companies surveyed reported that their productivity has been flat or decreasing over the past five years.

 Moreover,
81 percent of those said they could save more than 5 percent of their annual field labor costs through better management of productivity. Another side of this issue is ineffective and inefficient management of tools, equipment, materials and consumables—some of the most critical resources in a construction organization.

Virtual office

If you have resisted technological advancements in the cellular, wireless, and microprocessor and computing industries, let this be your nudge to re-evaluate that strategy. While there is a learning curve with these advancements, the proper knowledge can send you on your way to running your business more productively. That means gaining time to add new customers and generate additional revenue, perhaps with maintenance and service contracts.

A good example of innovation that boosts productivity comes from the mobile cellular industry: Verizon Wireless, Schaumburg, Ill., recently announced a new program called Field Force Manager that is designed to minimize worker downtime, improve information process flow, maximize productivity and increase customer satisfaction, all using the cellular network. The Web- and handset-based application provides visibility and supervision of mobile workers. Using GPS tracking, it allows subscribers to locate field workers, to dispatch teams to fulfill customer requests and to get daily activity reports.

People productivity

Tracking the location of important people and valuable assets has been improved through advanced GPS and satellite technology, making it easier than ever, said Rob Groot, chief operating officer of Teydo Holding Co., Potomac Falls, Va. “Advanced GPS and satellite technology offers peace of mind. You never have to spend time wondering where a person or asset is,” he said. Teydo’s FindWhere solution provides integrated global mapping, bills and data messaging. “Some businesses have reported a 70 percent cost savings with this solution,” Groot said.

In addition, there is now automated attendance tracking through companies, such as Exaktime, Calabasas, Calif. Exaktime’s product, Job Clock, helps the business owner or manager to track employee’s labor hours and allows those accounting for hours to automatically transfer that information into accounting software. It also eliminates the need to fill out time sheets, meaning workers can be more productive.

For electrical contractors, one traditional way to boost productivity is construction and project management software, and these products have evolved to address, merge and integrate nearly every reporting facet of the job. This type of software covers estimating, project management, job costing, tracking and final reporting.

Before purchasing software, it’s important to know exactly what you want to achieve from the application and make a list of those requirements. Then you can align those goals with products on the market. The idea is to help your business operate more effectively (see “Operating Effectively,” Electrical Contractor, August 2007).

Probably the biggest driver in productivity today is technology that promotes remote connectivity and results in an actual “cost to complete” the job, according to Brad Mathews, vice president of sales and marketing, Dexter + Chaney, Seattle.

“Construction software can bring together the company’s operations with financial groups, allowing them to share the same information, make better decisions and save time in the office and the field,” he said, adding that this can equal a large increase in profit. Mathews said Dexter + Chaney queried ECs about ways to make their jobs easier with construction management software and, as a result, implemented the following:

Software “dashboards” that provide at-a-glance visibility and real-time access to key information. These graphic displays in a company’s construction management software offer real-time insights into key performance indicators, such as project, schedule and cost information. Dashboards provide the data in a concise and easily understandable format.

Management modules that include document imaging to record paperwork. Integrated with accounting, job costing and even project management software, document management features incorporate job stats electronically into the construction company’s workflow. It allows the company to keep up with job documentation daily or on an as-needed basis. It also addresses a typically painful problem for construction companies: giving management, office staff and project managers the fast access they need to import documents, such as invoices, change orders, payroll timecards and contracts.

Automated human resource management. This feature automates the process of employee management, from recruitment through retirement and handles such complex issues as pay rates and benefits, safety, workers’ compensation, training, drug testing and skills certification.

“Construction software captures statistics that indicate the overall health of the company,” Mathews said. “When you’ve got this data, you have critical information, such as how much it costs to install a certain cable, for example, including labor and incidentals. Then you can compare those figures to the original job estimate, figure the ‘cost to complete’ and gauge the rate of productivity.”

Key performance indicators

Like other industries, Mathews said the electrical contractor’s productivity focus field is based on teamwork. “The whole company is working together, more effectively and efficiently. Software and connectivity that gives ready access helps that happen,” he said.

Resources, including tools and equipment, are another critical part of the company’s capital wellness.

“Picture this: An electrical contractor is about to complete a task like connecting wire to a circuit breaker when he realizes he is missing an important tool,” said Don Kafka, chief executive officer of ToolWatch, Englewood, Colo. “He then has to spend time searching for it, and not finding it, [he must] contact his manager for approval to replace it. His manager then requests a purchase order and finally, the worker has to go to the tool crib to pick up the replacement tool. Sound like a loss of productivity? You bet.”

Kafka said many executives are discovering their process for managing tools, equipment, materials and consumables—often referred to as construction resource management—is broken. The traditional paper-and-spreadsheet approach is no longer effective in preventing theft, loss and employee hoarding of these critical business resources, he added.

“Not surprisingly, the costs of having to continually replace resources can severely impair financial performance,” Kafka said. “But the consequences run much deeper than the mere cost of replacing them. Lost or stolen resources can also lead to costly project delays; lost time and decreased field productivity; injuries caused by the ineffective management of tool inspections and calibrations; inability to provide employee testing equipment and prove compliance with OSHA safety regulations; improperly maintained assets that must be replaced more often; and, for public companies, the failure to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 [Under Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, companies are required to attest to the internal controls used for financial reporting and, also, to account for all assets valued at more than $100, a threshold many tools and most equipment meet] and other mandates,” he said. A construction resource management system provides the ability to track information about a physical asset, such as its location, tool and equipment inspections and calibrations.

Any type of equipment or services is only as good as how it applies to your business. In the world of productivity equipment and software, there is such a wide range of offerings that the best way to approach it is to do a detailed examination of your company and what type of services and/or applications are most pertinent. Then you can decide what might aid you in meeting your goals for customers and electricians.

Construction project management is critical to measuring and assessing productivity; it involves both people and assets. This type of tracking can result in tangible numbers and real costs for the company. Remote access and connectivity is now part of the solution when a company wants to get more out of every project and ensure productivity and profits.       EC

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.


Green Builder Media Launches Online Education Program

Green Builder Media (GBM) launched Green Builder College, an online educational program that will certify building professionals as green builders. The program teaches building professionals how to incorporate sustainable systems and practices into their projects, leading to the development of more environmentally appropriate structures.

Through a partnership with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Research Center, GBM has launched the “Defining Green VISION House” program, a comprehensive market research and laboratory testing project to generate groundbreaking information about green building, including builder and consumer purchasing patterns and expectations for the future. Through this project, GBM will develop a template that will shape the future of residential construction.

GBM’s founding partner and editorial director Ron Jones is currently serving as chairman of the consensus committee that is taking the NAHB’s Model Green Home Building Guidelines through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process for national certification. The International Codes Council (ICC) also is partnering with ANSI on the initiative. The consensus committee intends to bring uniformity and standard practices to the way residential homes are constructed in the United States and beyond.

“There is a considerable amount of confusion as local municipalities and cities try to establish codes and standards for green building,” Jones said.

For more information, visit www.greenbuildermedia.com.   


For Rent: Renting Tools and Equipment

Need a tool you don’t have, and need it now? Chances are it’s available at a nearby rental center. The rental industry in the United States has experienced remarkable growth in the past decade, and a study conducted for the American Rental Association (ARA) published earlier in the year reported that the market’s construction and equipment segment is its largest category, accounting for 68.6 percent of revenue. Within that segment, tool rentals represent the fastest-growing subcategory.

Most basic power hand tools used by electricians are available at general rental centers. Specialist rental businesses carry sophisticated electrical and datacom test meters and other tools needed for electrical and low-voltage projects.

Perhaps the largest number of rentals by electrical contractors falls in the equipment category, although the line between “tools” and “equipment” isn’t always clear. For example, a basic hand conduit bender obviously is a tool, but the popular Greenlee quad bender can be more accurately described as equipment. Many of the items most often rented by electrical contractors—generators, work platforms, trenchers and loader-backhoes—clearly are equipment.

Whether it is a tool or equipment, customers can rent by the day, week, month or longer, and many rental outlets offer rent-to-buy deals and leasing options. Rental centers also are a good source for buying well-maintained used equipment, and because most turn inventories frequently, for-sale products usually are relatively recent models.

With 450 locations nationwide, Sunbelt Rentals (www.sunbeltrentals.com) is the second-largest rental company in the United States. Sunbelt promotes itself as having the widest variety of specialized equipment in the rental industry.

“We understand the importance of serving specialized trades, and electricians are an important market,” said Nat Brookhouse, Sunbelt director of marketing and communications.

Brookhouse said items most frequently rented by electricians include cable benders, cable cutters, cable pullers and feeders, cable reel rollers and reel stands, wire dispensers, circuit tracers, conduit benders, conduit racks, crimping tools, hydraulic punch drivers, pipe cutters, and pipe threaders.

Rentals vary by project needs, and both individual electricians and rental contracting companies rent tools with the size and scope of a project also a factor.

“Electricians tell us they rent for many reasons,” Brookhouse said. “It may be taking on a project that requires more tools and equipment than is owned or available, or a project that needs more or larger equipment to complete the job. For many electrical contractors, the cost of ownership of larger equipment is not considered an efficient use of funds.”

The ARA study and other research clearly document that renting of tools and equipment is a trend that continues to grow.

“At Sunbelt, we always have offered a broad range of tools, and they have been a part of our product mix,” Brookhouse said. “There is a trend toward renting rather than purchasing, so we think tool rentals will continue to grow.”

Brookhouse added that he believes the benefits of renting tools are recognized, but Sunbelt continues to educate the marketplace by exhibiting at trade shows, participating in opportunities to contribute information to articles such as this one, and working with strategic partners to provide information and rental options to customers.

Two specialist rental companies with a narrower focus are Electro Rent (www.electrorent.com), based in Van Nuys, Calif., and TRS RenTelco (www.trs-rentelco.com), located near the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. Electro Rent is one of the world’s largest sources of test and measurement equipment for renting, rent-to-own and leasing options. TRS RenTelco operates nationally, renting and leasing general-purpose and communications test equipment.

Patrick Chu, director of marketing for Electro Rent, said the most frequently rented items by electrician customers are power analyzers, relay and transformer testers, cable fault locators, bore scopes for inspecting hard-to-access spots, hipots for testing electrical insulation, and megaohmeters.

Chu said electrical customers typically rent when peak demands require additional tools, for short-term use of tools only needed occasionally, and at times when capital is in short supply.

“Tools are being rented more often,” he said, “because users realize the true cost of ownership is not only the one-time purchase cost, but there are added costs for maintenance and calibration of testing equipment, as well as lost-opportunity costs associated with idle tools and improved efficiency to be gained by using newer tools available for rent. In addition, rentals can be used not only to expand a contractor’s current business and as an inexpensive way to test new business opportunities.”

At TRS RenTelco, marketing manager Greg Barkemeyer said the greatest rental and leasing demand is for power quality analyzers, ground testers, resistance test sets, protective relay test sets, circuit breaker tests sets and chart recorders.

“The electrical market industry is very project-oriented, so the need for a particular piece of equipment is often short-term, making the cost of purchasing the equipment prohibitive,” Barkemeyer said. “Rentals and leases are taken out by contractors, individual electricians or their end-user customers or clients; it depends on how the job has been structured. The contractor may be responsible for supplying all tools, or the client may agree to provide them.”

Controlling operating expenses is essential in today’s competitive marketplace.“Renting and leasing is a way to keep tight control on costs while having the breadth of equipment necessary to meet changing job requirements,” Barkemeyer said. “Rental in the electrical industry continues to grow because it is an increasingly important option that allows contractors to manage cash flows and peak demand periods without having to invest in equipment that might not be fully utilized throughout the year. It also allows contractors to bid on jobs that they may have previously passed on, due to test equipment requirements they could not supply.”

The costs of ownership become an increasingly important factor with more expensive tools or machines.

Sunbelt’s Brookhouse said equipment most often rented to customers in the electrical market is aerial work platforms, generators and accessories, trenchers and trench shoring.

Compact trenchers have been a staple in rental stores for nearly 50 years, with most general rental centers having one or more walk-along machines, which are popular with small electrical contracting companies for installing curb-to-house services. Equipment rental specialists inventory larger riding models, which accept a variety of attachments.

Skid-steer loaders with trencher and auger attachments and compact excavators also are found in most general rental stores, even small, neighborhood stores.

Other high-end tool and general equipment items used by electricians include concrete saws, pavement breakers, electronic pipe and cable locators, air compressors, hydraulic power units, pumps, and hydraulic and air hammers.

Much of the equipment rented by electrical contractors is for both aerial and underground utility construction and is offered by many different companies. For instance, NES Rentals (www.nesrentals.com) in Chicago specializes in work platforms, cable cutters, cable pullers, fish tape, generators and compressors, compaction equipment, and concrete saws. Also, the Georgia Underground Superstore (www.georgiaunderground.com), located near the Atlanta airport, specializes in serving utility contractors throughout the Southeast.

President David Bartosh said electrical contractors who perform both power and telecommunications work are among the company’s regular clients.

Bartosh said items frequently rented include cable reels and trailers, fusion equipment for connecting segments of HDPE conduit, pneumatic piercing tools for making short bores under drives and sidewalks to install cable and duct, and both fiber optic and heavy-duty electrical cable pullers.

“While we write short-term rentals,” Bartosh said, “many rentals frequently [turn] into purchases.”

Rental history: from independent to consolidated

Rental stores first appeared in the United States in the 1950s and grew on the strength of individually owned neighborhood stores. As the benefits of renting caught on with homeowners and businesses, renting as an industry began to evolve and in 2006 generated revenues of just under $33 billion, based on information gathered for the recent ARA report.

By the last half of the 1990s, big business had taken notice of the rental industry, and it went through a period of consolidation. Rental chains were not new. Many independents had developed into small chains, but a wave of consolidations resulted in fast growth of several rental giants whose ranking and size changed quickly with acquisitions and buyouts.

Today, United Rentals (www.ur.com), with about 700 locations, is the largest, and Sunbelt Rentals recently moved to the number two spot. Add to the mix equipment dealerships, which rent equipment such as directional drilling units, vibratory plows, vacuum excavators, skid-steer loaders, compact excavators and trenchers.

In what has come as a surprise to many in the industry, big chains and independents coexist in the marketplace. Some expected the powerful chains to force independents out of business, while independents did not believe the chains could provide the level of service rental customers had come to expect. Equipment rental is a service business, and family-owned independents have built success on excellent customer service. Many independents have long-time electrical contractor and small electrician customers.

Barry Sawyer, second-generation owner of A&B Rent-All (www.abrentall.com) in Oklahoma City, has electrical contractor customers who have been clients for more than 20 years.

“Most rent for utility or utility-related jobs,” Sawyer said. “They need trenchers to bury electrical service lines, hammers for breaking concrete to run cable under floors, and concrete saws. Cable locators often are rented by electricians doing maintenance work on lighting at service stations. They also often rent power hammers to drive ground rods.”

Jeff Wearing operates four Ready Rent-All centers (www.readyrentall.com) in the metropolitan Atlanta area. He, too, has long-time electrical contractor customers and estimates his electrical market to be about 15 percent of business.

“We occasionally rent hand tools if the contractor has a job in the area and has an immediate need for a particular tool or tools,” Wearing said. “Most of our electrical rentals are trenchers, cable pullers, conduit benders, and small portable lifting tools powered by separate power sources. Many of our electrician customers are repeat customers.”

Tool and equipment rental is an important and growing business that can help keep electrical contractors stocked with the items needed to succeed.        EC

GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at 405.748.5256 or up-front@cox.net.


Get It Done Right: Quality Matters To Those You Help Protect

By Wayne D. Moore

In this age of e-mails, cell phones and text messages, every contracting project seems to take on an urgency. The mantra everyone seems to voice is, “Get it done now!” Along with this comes the inherent problem of finishing projects, while maintaining the attitude that the installation must follow proper procedures and proper work practices.

The age of the patient craftsman seems to be over. How do you feel when you reach the end of the overall project? You are called on to finish the fire alarm system, so the authority having jurisdiction can approve your work and issue the certificate of occupancy. And it needs to be done quickly.

Many unreliable—meaning the system won’t work properly when called upon to do so—fire alarm system installations begin with this issue.

Operational reliability of a fire alarm system consists of four elements: design, equipment, installation and maintenance. Of these elements, installation and maintenance have the greatest impact on the operational reliability of a fire alarm system.

Some of you may think reducing false alarms in a fire alarm system will make the system reliable. Actually, reducing the false alarms from a fire alarm system will make the system more credible, which is also important. A more credible system reduces the “cry-wolf” syndrome. But credibility and reliability do not necessarily possess the same elements of quality. Fortunately, NFPA 72-2007 has requirements to improve both reliability and credibility of installed fire alarm systems.

For example, the following excerpts from the 2007 National Fire Alarm Code speak to reducing false alarms and, therefore, increasing the credibility of the installed system.

5.7.1.7 The selection and placement of smoke detectors shall take into account both the performance characteristics of the detector and the areas into which the detectors are to be installed to prevent nuisance alarms or improper operation after installation.

5.7.1.8 Unless specifically designed and listed for the expected conditions, smoke detectors shall not be installed if any of the following ambient conditions exist:

(1) Temperature below 0°C (32°F)

(2)
Temperature above 38°C (100°F)

(3)
Relative humidity above 93 percent

(4)
 Air velocity greater than 1.5 m/sec (300 ft/min)

5.7.1.9 The location of smoke detectors shall be based on an evaluation of potential ambient sources of smoke, moisture, dust, or fumes, and electrical or mechanical influences to minimize nuisance alarms.

5.7.1.11 Detectors shall not be installed until after the construction cleanup of all trades is complete and final.

“Exception: Where required by the authority having jurisdiction for protection during construction. Detectors that have been installed during construction and found to have a sensitivity outside the listed and marked sensitivity range shall be cleaned or replaced in accordance with Chapter 10 at completion of construction.”

The entire code-writing community has dedicated the code to provide installation requirements that will help ensure a suitably high operational reliability. In fact, the code states its purpose “is to define … the levels of performance; and the reliability of the various types of fire alarm systems.” It “establishes minimum required levels of performance, extent of redundancy, and quality of installation … .”  “Reliable,” “reliability” and “quality” appear 54 times throughout the code.

Obviously, operational reliability remains an important concept to the NFPA 72 Technical Committees.

I understand words in a document mean something only if the reader heeds them and takes appropriate action.

I believe you must understand the principle that when you accept the job to install a fire alarm system, you also inherently accept the responsibility for the life safety of the building occupants. This should encourage you to slow down and install the fire alarm system in a workmanlike manner.

From a profit motive, a contractor understands that callbacks to fix something on a recently completed project can drain the profits. My first boss said to me, “Why is there time to do it over, but never time to do it right the first time?”

So there lies the crux of the problem. Maybe we have become so enamored with the fast pace of our world that we simply assume a fire alarm system installation will take less time than it really does. And, when we discover our mistake, we assume working faster will help put the profit back into the job.

The sad fact of the matter remains: A properly installed code-compliant fire alarm system takes time. The wise contractor will realize that a fire alarm system exists as the one building system that he or she must install correctly the first time. Realizing this, he or she will plan accordingly. The people you protect will express their gratitude that you took the time to get it done and to get it done right.

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker and an expert in the life safety field, is a co-editor of the current National Fire Alarm Code Handbook. Moore is a principal with Hughes Associates Inc. at the Warwick, R.I., office.


States Catching onto Green Building Codes

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a number of states are seeing a significant number of new homes being built according to green building standards.

The agency reports that in 15 states, more than 12 percent of new homes are meeting so-called Energy Star standards. The leading states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Vermont.

The Energy Star program is a joint effort of the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE), which was started in 1992. To qualify for the rating, a home must now be at least 15 percent more energy-efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code. An Energy Star home includes additional energy-saving features that can make it actually 20 to 30 percent more efficient than a standard home.

Collectively, the 15 states have contributed to a dramatic shift in green building practices across the country. According to the EPA, nearly 200,000 new homes nationwide earned the Energy Star in 2006. The total number of these homes across the country now is approaching 750,000. They have saved more than 1 billion kWh of electricity, and locked in more than $180 million in annual savings on energy costs for their owners.

            —Rick Laezman


Rising High : Specifying IBS performance

By Dr. Thomas E. Glavinich

The drive toward high performance buildings demands the integration of diverse building systems that were not previously required to interact with one another. For example, occupancy sensors no longer control just lighting in a space. They also control the HVAC system supplying that space. When a worker leaves the office, not only does the occupancy sensor turn off the lights, it sends a signal that throttles down the variable-air-volume (VAV) box serving the office to its preset minimum.

This example of the integration of the building lighting and HVAC system serving a particular room or area through a shared sensor is becoming increasingly common in today’s commercial and institutional buildings. Controls are the key to integrated building systems (IBS) and to reconciling the seemingly conflicting goals of increasing both building operating efficiency and occupant comfort simultaneously.

However, from a design standpoint, the integration of diverse building systems becomes very difficult to specify using traditional descriptive and prescriptive specifications because of differences in control device and system characteristics, options and operation. Increasingly, consulting engineers use performance specifications for IBS, and this provides new opportunities for electrical contractors (ECs).

A performance specification defines the performance requirements for a particular type of equipment or system. It is the EC’s responsibility to select the equipment or design the system needed to achieve the contractual performance requirements, procure necessary materials and equipment, install the equipment or system, and verify its functionality. A performance specification is an opportunity for the electrical contracting firm to showcase its technical knowledge and expertise and provide the owner with the equipment or system that meets its needs. In addition, a performance specification allows the electrical contracting firm to select materials and equipment that meet the contractual performance requirements and allow the electrical contracting firm to select manufacturers and suppliers that provide the best combination of price, delivery and service.

The advantages of performance specifications do not outweigh increased risk for the EC. With traditional descriptive and prescriptive specifications, the electrical contracting firm only had to purchase materials and equipment that met the technical specs and install them in accordance with the contract documents. Responsibility for equipment or system performance remains with the owner under a traditional descriptive or prescriptive specification.

If the EC procured and installed the equipment or system in accordance with the contract documents and performance fell short of the owner’s expectations, then the owner would need to turn to its consulting engineer for the fix. In this case, the EC should receive a change order for any additional work required to modify or replace the installed equipment or system. Under a performance specification, however, if the equipment or system does not meet the contractual performance requirements, then it is the contractor’s responsibility to fix the installation for no additional time or money.

The key to controlling performance risk associated with an IBS performance specification is to thoroughly understand the owner’s requirements. They may be explicitly stated in the specification as measurable operational characteristics or performance criteria. The performance requirements also may be implicitly included in the specification by reference to codes, standards or green building rating systems.

The electrical contractor also needs to make sure the performance criteria in the specification can be met with current technology. In the past, ECs have gotten into trouble by assuming, since the criteria could not be met by current off-the-shelf technology or that the owner really didn’t need the level of performance specified, they would not be held to the specification requirements. Electrical contractors should always request a clarification prior to submitting their bid or proposal to avoid problems at the end of the project.

If the specification does not include measurable performance requirements, the EC must develop his own criteria and include it as part of the bid or proposal and, eventually, as part of the contract. Wherever possible, performance requirements should be based on industry codes and standards, especially when the outcome may be subjective, such as in the case of illumination levels and visual comfort. In this case, look to Illuminating Engineering Society standards and recommended practices for measurable criteria. Always define subjective IBS performance specification adjectives, such as “the best,” “adequate” or “state-of-the-art” in a bid or proposal, using measurable performance criteria. After the contract is signed, it is too late to further define the terms, and these subjective terms often provide ground for disagreements and disputes at the end of the project.

This article is the result of a research project investigating the emerging IBS market for the electrical contractor that is being sponsored ELECTRI International (EI). The author would like to thank EI for its support.

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or tglavinich@ku.edu.


Final OSHA PPE Rule Holds Contractors Responsible For Providing Workers’ Safety Gear

OSHA recently published a new final rule requiring employers to provide personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA's standards for all employees. Employees are responsible only for the costs of everyday clothing, footwear, and safety eyewear. 

NECA submitted comments to OSHA on the proposed revisions in 2004, stating employers shouldn’t provide “tools of the trade.” The new rule states that employers are responsible for most personal protective equipment specified in the NFPA 70E standard for electrical work, in addition to basic worksite personal protective equipment.

“Safety is of paramount importance to NECA and our electrical contractor members,” said NECA CEO John Grau. “Electrical construction has always required comprehensive and methodical use of specialized personal protective equipment, and we appreciate OSHA’s recognition of this fact. I am certain that NECA-member contractors will make every attempt to satisfy the new OSHA rules.” 

“Job site safety is essential to worker protection and productivity,” said NECA member Dick Nogleberg, president of Placer Electric, Sacramento, Calif. “Electrical contractors require workers to use the correct PPE and follow safety policies to keep a construction project on track, as well as for their own safety. Nothing hurts a project more than an injury or accident, so we do everything we can to prevent them.” Nogleberg already provides all levels of NFPA 70E-specified PPE to his workers and says that the OSHA rule will help him justify the costs to general contractors and owners.

The new rule has an enforcement deadline of May 15, 2008, six months from the date of publication to allow employers time to change their existing PPE payment policies to accommodate the final rule. www.necanet.org


Fluke Networks Introduces All-in-one Fiber Kits For Inspection, Cleaning And Verification

New Fiber Kits are the latest enhancement to the Fluke Networks fiber family solutions.  In addition to verifying loss and power levels for both singlemode and multimode fiber links, the new Fiber Kits help installers and network owners ensure smooth clean fiber connections with the FiberInspector Mini video microscope. Choose one of three kits that include a SimpliFiber power meter, singlemode or multimode sources, a grip activated video microscope, visual fault locator or cleaning supplies for both patch cords and ports.

FiberInspector Mini and Cleaning Kit (FT525)

Solve the #1 cause of fiber failures

Multimode Fiber Verification Kit with FiberInspector Mini (FTK350)

Measure and verify optical loss and power levels at 850nm, 1300nm, inspect fiber end-faces and locate cable faults and polarity issues

Complete Fiber Verification Kit with FiberInspector Mini (FT450)

Measure and verify optical loss and power levels at 850nm, 1300nm, 1310nm and 1550nm, inspect fiber end-faces and locate cable faults and polarity issues

See more information about the kits and where to buy

www.flukenetworks.com


PfR Manager is the first WAN Route optimization solution available using Cisco Performance Routing technology

Fluke Networks, provider of innovative Network SuperVision Solutions for the monitoring and analysis of enterprise and telecommunications networks, today announced the introduction of PfR Manager, a wide-area network (WAN) route optimization solution using new Performance Routing (PfR) technology from Cisco Systems, Inc.  Together, the new offerings enable significant cost savings through intelligent bandwidth utilization and automatic routing optimization across multiple network paths by providing enhanced PfR configuration and management.  In addition, network performance improves due to application and traffic based policies and prioritization.

Cisco PfR technology coupled with Fluke Networks PfR Manager is a network innovation that will help our customers maximize the performance, availability and resiliency of their wide-area network.  Organizations will then be able to intelligently optimize network routes by matching network conditions to application needs, said Inbar Lasser-Raab, director of network systems at Cisco. We look forward to working with Fluke Networks to further enhance our customers work environments and increase productivity for businesses.

PfR Manager is the most comprehensive management and reporting tool available today to directly integrate with and utilize Ciscos new Performance Routing technology.  The release of PfR Manager from  Fluke Networks coincides with Ciscos own worldwide announcement of its new Performance Routing systems.
Ease of use brings rapid cost savings to PfR Manager user

PfR Manager is easy to install and is now providing us with the visibility needed to ensure that PfR is working properly, said Martin McCarrick, Network Manager for ITnet, which provides network service across a college campus in Dublin, Ireland.  We are delighted with the performance benefits and cost savings that Ciscos Performance Routing is already showing.

Fluke Networks new PfR Manager is a software solution that runs on a users Windows-based server.  PfR Manager helps enable users to quickly and easily realize the benefits of Ciscos breakthrough PfR capabilities.  PfR Managers intuitive GUI simplifies installation, configuration, monitoring and reporting.  Once in place, PfR Manager offers several important benefits:

  • Reduced network operating costs through the configuration for full utilization of all WAN links, including previously idle back-up links.
  • Improved network performance and response times through optimal configuration and monitoring of dynamic application-based routing and continuous performance measurement.
  • Simplified reports help enable baseline measurements and simplified verification against service-level agreements (SLAs).

PfR Manager is part of Enterprise Performance Management
PfR Manager is Fluke Networks first product for active management of network resources.  It is the latest addition in the rapidly growing area of Enterprise Performance Management, defined as the delivery of application, VoIP and network performance management in a converging enterprise network environment.  Fluke Networks Enterprise Performance Management solutions provide broad enterprise visibility, deep analysis and troubleshooting capability in an integrated platform. This allows IT organizations to maximize the value and performance of their IT infrastructure and deliver a superior end-user experience.  For more information on Fluke Networks Enterprise Performance Management products and solutions, visit www.flukenetworks.com/epm.

Product availability
PfR Manager is available for immediate delivery through Fluke Networks sales partners worldwide.


FOA Backs “OM3” Nomenclature Convention For Fiber Cabling Systems

The FOA has begun encouraging the adoption of a new nomenclature for fiber optic cabling systems based on international standards in an effort to assure users that fiber offers equal if not more standardization that UTP copper. For example, an “OM3” fiber optic system consists of laser-optimized 50/125 micron fiber with LC connectors. The FOA is asking its 23,000+ CFOT certified fiber optic technicians, two hundred schools and hundreds of instructors to adopt this naming convention to help create a “de facto” standard in the industry.

In fact, fiber has always been a much more “standardized” product than category-rated UTP cabling. “One optical fiber premises network type was a de facto standard for almost 20 years, during which copper went through up to 9 generations of technologies, including 6 generations of category-rated UTP,” notes Jim Hayes, President of The Fiber Optic Association, Inc., the professional society of fiber optics. “From the mid-1980s to just recently, one multimode fiber, 62.5/125 micron “FDDI” fiber, named for the first all-fiber network developed in the 1980s, generally terminated with ST connectors, was used for most premises networks. The superior performance of this fiber cabling allowed it to be used unchanged for almost two decades while copper networks progressed from coax to UPT categories 3, 4, 5, 5e, 6 and 6A to keep up with rising network speeds.”

With the advent of 1 to 10 gigabit networks and research currently being done on 40 to 100 gigabit networks, fiber manufacturers now offer laser-optimized 50/125 micron fibers with higher performance, graded according to intenational standards as “OM2” and “OM3” depending on information carrying capacity. Today, most users are considering OM3 (laser optimized) fiber the best choice for today and the future, and many are using the new smaller LC connector to differentiate new networks from older types.

Fiber is recognized as the performance leader and users are becoming more aware of its cost-effectiveness. Rising copper costs and high-speed copper transceiver complexity and high power consumption make fiber look more attractive to many users. Simply adopting a standard name like “OM3” to describe the fiber cabling can help users understand that fiber is no more complicated than copper.

In fact, the real choice in fiber optic cabling is a big advantage to users, since fiber cabling options allow optimal component choices to fit cables in limited spaces. A single OM3 cable system can be configured with tens or hundreds of links in one small cable, comparable in size to one Cat 6A cable, saving cost, space and reducing combustibles and thereby fire risk. Even indoor/outdoor runs are easily done with simple cable options.

Using the same convention, 62.5/125 fiber becomes an OM1 cable system and conventional 50/125 fiber becomes an OM2 cable system. Much of the use of these two types of cabling is in legacy systems, while OM3 is now the cabling system of choice.

The FOA believes that adopting this simple cabling nomenclature will help users understand the simplicity of fiber and is encouraging its adoption by our members, schools and instructors, as well as manufacturers and users. http://www.thefoa.org/


Freeport Sells Wire And Cable Business For $735 Million To General Cable

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. said it has sold its international wire and cable business to General Cable Corporation for $735 million.

Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan, one of the world's largest copper miners, said Wednesday it will use net proceeds of about $620 million to help pay off debt following its acquisition of Phelps Dodge.

The wire and cable business, known as Phelps Dodge International Corporation, operates factories and distribution centers in 19 countries throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Freeport-McMoRan said it expects to record charges of about $20 million, including $12 million to net income, for transaction and related costs. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. http://www.fcx.com

General Cable Corp. http://www.generalcable.com


Graybar Recognized For Excellent Performance By National Group Purchasing Organization

Graybar, a leading distributor of communications, security and electrical products and related supply chain management and logistics services, received a 2007 Amerinet Supplier Performance Award during the national health care group purchasing organization’s annual Supplier Forum Nov. 12 in St. Louis. 

Graybar earned the award for delivering outstanding customer service and margin improvement tools in the “Distributor under $25 million” category, a designation based on contract sales volume with Amerinet. Graybar met several criteria for the recognition, including membership in the “Amerinet 20 Percent Club” in which companies demonstrate 20 percent or more sales growth over the previous year.  Graybar was one of two distributors out of 120 to receive the honor.

”Graybar shows strong support of Amerinet programs, processes and joint customers,” said Allen Dunehew, chief contracting officer at Amerinet. “Graybar representatives understand our members’ needs and help us save money through process efficiencies and quality customer service.”

"Customer recognition like this is extremely important to the entire Graybar team, and it helps validate that we are achieving our goal – to work to our customers’ advantage,” said John Mansfield, vice president-corporate accounts for Graybar. “Graybar is honored and proud that Amerinet would recognize us with this award." http://graybar.com/


LANshack.com Celebrates Ten Years Of Ecommerce Excellence

It was the brainchild of Atcom President Tony Casazza back in 1997 to sell network cabling components on the internet. Prior to and during this time Mr. Casazza had been in the business of Structured Cabling design and installation, which industry was also brand new then and in its infancy. In the 90’s, installation of Fiber Optic and Category 5 Cabling was considered by most to be a science. Casazza saw the fallacies in this mind-set and thought to create a way for non-professionals to install their own network cabling, and therefore developed a website that would make this possible. With that Atcom Services Inc. registered the URL AtcomServices.com (which later became LANshack.com) on November 3, 1997 and opened the internet’s very first ecommerce store to sell Cabling, Connectivity and Network components immediately afterward.  By contrast, most websites at the time were strictly informational one or two page sites and not at all ecommerce capable.

Within two years the website was generating enough revenue to allow Mr. Casazza to sell off the cabling, installation, and design portion of the business so that he could focus directly on sales through the internet site. Soon afterward, the Industry experienced downturns which claimed the life of many telecom related businesses both large and small. But LANshack.com persevered through the slump and managed to weather the storm. According to Casazza, “A good part of the reason why we lasted through both the dot-com bust and the fall of the telecom industry was because we resisted the temptation to over expand when the dot-com frenzy was in full swing. It was during the lean times of the industry when we focused on new product development and overall efficiency which in turn lead to better customer service and a large selection of unique offerings that has remained unparalleled until this day.”

A more recent shift in the Structured Cabling business has left some in the field wary for success. Wireless technologies are starting to dominate the marketplace, and although some feel that this is a looming threat to the Structured Cabling field, Casazza disagrees, and once again sees a beneficial opportunity.  “Some Industry naysayers had been predicting the end of Structured Cabling due to the introduction of wireless technologies. In fact, these days we are actually seeing more opportunity for Structured Cabling due to the need for infrastructure for new technologies including wireless. A Campus Wi-Fi System must be inter-connected by a network of Fiber Optic Cabling to assure full speed and bandwidth for all hot-spots. Other technologies increasing the need for Structured Cabling include Gigabit and Ten Gigabit Ethernet (the need for speed), Colocation, Video over Twisted Pair, Network Security Systems, and Power Over Ethernet (POE) just to name a few.”

Since its inception LANshack.com has served customers in over 150 countries; the gamut of “Who’s-Who” in business and Government. For the most part, it was Tony Casazza’s vision and strategy that kept the company afloat during the lean times and to also thrive in the prosperous times. “Our success today reflects our good choices through the past ten years, and continues to defy the traditional “brick and mortar” business models while we continue to write chapters in the book of ecommerce history. Because of our vision and perseverance we are now in a very prestigious company of websites that have been in operation for 10 years or more such as Amazon.com, Google, and EBay,” said Casazza. 

It is LANshack.com’s mission to maintain and uphold their high level of service and to continue to offer their customers a unique combination of quality products.  http://www.lanshack.com 


The Light Brigade’s January 2008 Training Schedule

Fiber Optics 1-2-3

This course focuses on how to design, install, test and maintain fiber optic communication systems for voice, video and data applications. The course consists of two days of classroom content and two optional days of hands-on practices. Course material and techniques taught are based on ITU, TIA/EIA, IEEE, Telcordia and ANSI standards. Class participants will learn to understand and effectively use any manufacturer's equipment or product designed to conform to these widely accepted standards.

 

 

 

 

 

January 7-10

Washington, DC

 

January 22-25

San Jose, CA

 

Topeka, KS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa, FL

 

January 28-31

Richmond, VA

 

 

 

 

Austin, TX

 

 

January 14-17

Montgomery, AL

 

 

Charleston, SC

 

Minneapolis, MN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced Hands-on Modules

These intensive one-day fiber optic training courses were developed as the next level of training for those who require more advanced skills and experience with major fiber optic disciplines and equipment. Each of the five modules focuses on a specific discipline and incorporates concentrated hands-on exercises.

January 14

Fiber Optic Cable Preparation, Patch Panels and Splice Closures

January 15

Fiber Optic Connectorization

January 16

Optical Loss Testing, Troubleshooting & Documentation

January 17

OTDR Theory, Operation and Emergency Restoration

January 18

Fiber Optic Splicing (Fusion and Mechanical)

FTTx for Installers and Planners

This course focuses on how to design, install, test and maintain fiber optic communication systems for voice, video and data applications. The course consists of two days of classroom content and two optional days of hands-on practices. Course material and techniques taught are based on ITU, TIA/EIA, IEEE, Telcordia and ANSI standards. Class participants will learn to understand and effectively use any manufacturer's equipment or product designed to conform to these widely accepted standards.

January 22-25

Atlanta, GA

For more information on the Light Brigade’s courses or to register, call (800) 451-7128 or visit lightbrigade.com


NAED Invites Members To Participate In 2008 Employee Compensation Survey

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) encourages member electrical distributors to participate in its bi-annual benchmarking survey, the 2008 Employee Compensation Study. Copies of the survey are being sent to all NAED member distributors in early November; the deadline to complete the survey is January 15, 2008.

“This survey is extremely useful in helping electrical distributors determine how their compensation compares to other distributors both regionally and nationally,” said Tammy Miller, CEO of Border States Electric Supply. “Plus, by joining with over 35 other distribution organizations to administer the survey across their industries, we can obtain very reliable data.”

Results of the survey are scheduled to be released in April 2008 and will consist of two volumes:

Vol. 1: NAED Employee Compensation Report—Contains compensation data specific to NAED members, including benchmarks in executive and employee compensation, sales commission plans, outside sales policies, benefit programs and more. This is presented in printed form.

Vol. II: 2008 Employee Compensation Cross-Industry Data Report—Compiles data on thousands of distributors from more than 35 trade associations, reported by sales volume and geographic area, presented in a CD-ROM format. This report supplies the latest data on salaries and bonuses, as well as health, retirement, vacation and other benefits.

To guarantee confidentiality of company data, all survey responses are sent directly to and compiled by the Profit Planning Group, an outside organization that specializes in survey research. The company also administers NAED’s popular Performance Analysis Report (PAR).

Besides the hard-copy survey form sent in the mail, NAED member distributors also may complete the survey online at http://www.naed.org/common/articlelink.asp?currentpage=2542. For more information, contact NAED Customer Service at (888) 791-2512 or customerservice@naed.org. NAED members who participate in the survey can purchase the study for a significantly reduced price of $95, which is a $200 discount from the regular member price of $295. The non-member price is $345.

NAED is the trade association for the $70+ billion electrical distribution channel. Through networking, education, research, and benchmarking, NAED helps distributors and manufacturers increase profitability and improve the channel. NAED’s membership represents approximately 4,100 locations internationally.

www.naed.org


NAED Names Borchers As Incoming Eastern Region Vice President-Elect

Dickman Supply's Doug Borchers is the new vice president-elect of the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) Eastern Region. He was elected by the Eastern Region Council, which represents NAED member companies in the northeastern U.S.

"I am honored and humbled at having this opportunity to serve the industry," said Borchers, who is the vice president of sales & engineering for the Sidney, Ohio-based distributor. "In my experience with NAED, I find for every unit of input we give, we receive at least three back. Our organization today is a very different company than it was ten years ago, in large part because of the methods, techniques, and systems we learned from NAED training sessions and from listening to other distributors at the conferences, then implementing those ideas in our organization."

His involvement with NAED includes serving on the Leadership Enhancement And Development (LEAD) Committee since 2002 and the Eastern Regional Council for the past two years. Borchers is also the present LEAD chair, a position that plans and oversees NAED's annual LEAD Conference. In his LEAD chair role, he also sits on the current NAED Board of Directors.

Borchers, a husband and father of six, has achieved acclaim both inside and outside of the industry for his business accomplishments. He received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and MBA from the University of Dayton. In 1991, he was named the National Industrial Salesperson of the Year at Eaton/Cutler-Hammer, soon after becoming that company's youngest branch sales manager. In addition, the Dayton Business Journal honored him with their top "40 under 40" Award.

Borchers also helped his present company attain the distinguished "Fast 50" Award, recognizing the business with the most accelerated growth in the region. Dickman Supply is a three-branch, 60-employee full-line electrical distributor. 
 
As a NAED regional vice president-elect, Borchers will help lead the region's conferences, council meetings, and other events. He will also participate in the NAED's Membership and Strategic Focus Committees. In addition, when Borchers becomes vice president in May 2009, he will again serve on the NAED Board of Directors.  

Dan Gray, president & CEO of Independent Electric Supply, Somerville, Mass., currently directs the Eastern Region. Beginning in May, Richard Williams, president & COO of Dominion Electric Supply Co., Inc., Arlington, Va., will take up the regional leadership for 2008-2009.

NAED is the trade association for the $70+ billion electrical distribution industry. Through networking, education, research, and benchmarking, NAED helps electrical distributors increase profitability and improve the channel. NAED's membership represents approximately 4,100 locations internationally.  www.naed.org


BAUERS Installed As 2008 NEBB President

Gerald T. Bauers of Sebesta Blomberg Associates, Rosemont, Illinois, was elected president of NEBB at the 2007 Annual Meeting and Educational Conference held at the Walt Disney World® Resort, Florida on November 9-10, 2007.

Bauers is the National Director of Commissioning for Sebesta Blomberg Associates, a professional engineering firm providing design, commissioning and retro-commissioning, and facility support services for clients worldwide.  Bauers is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a MS-Mechanical Engineering.  He is a member of ASHRAE and a Registered Professional Engineer with more than 30 years in the consulting engineering industry.

Bauers has been involved with the NEBB organization for over 25 years.  He is a NEBB-Qualified Supervisor in TAB, Commissioning, and Retro-Commissioning.  Bauers has been a member of the NEBB Board of Directors since 2004 and has served on several NEBB national committees, including the Building Systems Commissioning and the Executive Finance committees. At the local level, Bauers served the Great Plains NEBB Chapter on the Board of Directors as Technical Committee chairman and Chapter president in 2005.

Other 2008 NEBB Officers include: President-Elect John Stevenson of TAB Technologies in Austin, TX; Vice-President Patrick Reilly of John W. Danforth Company, Tonawanda, NY; Treasurer Stephen R. Wiggins of Newcomb & Boyd, Atlanta, GA; and Immediate Past President John G. (Jack) Cappell of Comfort Control, Beltsville, MD.

Established in 1971, the National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB) has become the premier international association of certifying firms that perform testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems in addition to building systems commissioning and cleanroom certification. In addition to certifying firms, NEBB is the leading source of industry information providing industry standards, publications, text books, study courses and newsletters.  Today, NEBB is proud to have over 600 certified firms with over 900 qualified supervisors worldwide.

www.nebb.org


NEMA Publishes ANSI Z535.5-2007 American National Standard For Safety Tags And Barricade Tapes (for Temporary Hazards)

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has published ANSI Z535.5-2007 American National Standard for Safety Tags and Barricade Tapes (for Temporary Hazards). Safety tags and barricade tapes are a means of alerting persons to temporary hazards often associated with construction, equipment installation, maintenance, repair, lockout, or other transient conditions.

According to Gary Bell, chairman of the Z535 committee, this standard addresses specific situations. "Safety tags and barricade tapes are widely used to alert people to hazardous situations that only have a limited duration,” he said.

Examples include tags used during machine repair or maintenance (OSHA tag-out), barricade tapes used to cordon off an area where access must be restricted during maintenance or investigation, or to indicate proper installation connections on a product intended for permanent fixed installation.

“Once the activities are completed,” he said, “the tag or barricade tape no longer needs to be displayed.”

Major changes in this edition reflect harmonization with international standards by permitting different colors to be used with the safety alert symbol. This edition also defines the requirements for the design and use of safety tags and barricade tapes, thus minimizing the proliferation of designs for safety information. It also establishes a uniform and consistent visual layout for safety information in these media, as well as a national uniform system for the recognition of potential personal injury hazards.

“This standard uses the graphic principles set forth in ANSI Z535.2-2007 Environmental and Facility Safety Signs and ANSI Z535.4-2007 Product Safety Signs and Labels,” Bell said. “It establishes a hazard communication system that uses different signal words and colors to distinguish between levels of hazards.”

The table of contents and scope of ANSI Z535.5-2007 may be viewed, or a hardcopy or electronic copy purchased for $66 by visiting NEMA’s website at www.nema.org/stds/z535-5.cfm Copies may also be purchased by contacting IHS at 800-854-7179 (within the U.S.),
303-397-7956 (international), or 303-397-2740 (fax).

NEMA is the trade association of choice for the electrical manufacturing industry. Founded in 1926 and headquartered near Washington, D.C., its approximately 450 member companies manufacture products used in the generation, transmission and distribution, control, and end-use of electricity. These products are used in utility, medical imaging, industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential applications. Domestic production of electrical products sold worldwide exceeds $120 billion. In addition to its headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia, NEMA also has offices in Beijing, São Paulo, and Mexico City.


Power Distribution, Inc. Names Keith Schmid as CEO

Power Distribution, Inc. (PDI), the largest independent designer, manufacturer and servicer of a full spectrum of mission-critical power distribution, power monitoring and static switching equipment, is pleased to announce Keith Schmid as Chief Executive Officer.  Schmid replaces Rich Combs who will serve as PDI Executive Chairman.

Schmid comes to PDI from Exide Technologies where he was General Manager of Exide Industrial Energy - Americas.  At Exide, Schmid successfully built and managed the company’s most profitable P&L, representing a best-in-class business in the industry.  As part of his role, Schmid was deeply involved in acquisition integration activities as well as the development and rollout of a global brand strategy focused on power solutions.  Prior to Exide Technologies, Schmid was at GNB Technologies, Philips Consumer Communications, AT&T/Lucent Power Systems and AT&T Bell Laboratories. 

“I first met Keith when we served as Directors together at Valere Power,” commented Bertram Capital Managing Director Jeff Drazan, PDI’s majority shareholder. “He has a wealth of insight, relationships and appreciation for the needs of the customers in the industrial power business.”

"Keith possesses a strong combination of skills in P&L management, general management, marketing and engineering,” said Rich Combs, PDI Executive Chairman.  “Combined with extensive experience as both customer and supplier of power-based solutions, particularly in data center and telecommunications applications, Keith will bring substantial leadership and experience to PDI, partners, and customers.”

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to join the PDI team and expand its presence in the power solutions industry,” said Keith Schmid.  “PDI’s strong management team, culture, and identity pooled with its deep operational and customer focus is a recipe for growth.  I look forward to working with the PDI team to take this power platform to the next level.”

Schmid will assume CEO responsibilities effective November 15. 

About Power Distribution, Inc.

Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia and founded in 1978, PDI is a leading provider of power distribution equipment and services. Principle products include Static Switches, Power Distribution Units, Remote Power Panels, Redundant Power Systems, Harmonic Cancellation technology and Branch Circuit Monitoring Systems.  www.pdicorp.com


SCTE Foundation conducts annual election of officers

As a customary function of its annual meeting conducted earlier this month, the SCTE Foundation Board of Directors elected its four officers to one-year terms.

Three of the four officers were re-elected to their posts. Keith R. Hayes will continue to serve as SCTE Foundation president, John Clark as vice president, and Mike Phebus as secretary. The fourth officer is new SCTE Foundation Board member Greg Allshouse, who will serve as treasurer.

Hayes is with Charter Communications, Clark with SCTE, Phebus with Jones/NCTI™, and Allshouse with Comcast Cable Communications.

The SCTE Foundation’s primary mission is to award grants and scholarships to Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) members to help those members achieve their educational goals.

More about the SCTE Foundation, including its Founding Donor Campaign and the application for grants and scholarships, is available at www.scte.org 


SCTE Set To Develop Trio Of New Addressable Advertising Standards

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) recently initiated work on three new technical standards to meet the industry’s vital need to facilitate delivery of more cost-effective advertising—specific advertisements directed at just the right audience.

The SCTE Standards Program is defining this process, known as addressable advertising, via DVS 629, which currently comprises seven parts or individual standards. The first four parts already have been in development and issued for technical comments, the consensus balloting stage, within the Digital Video Subcommittee (DVS).

With the recent approval by the SCTE Engineering Committee, which oversees the SCTE Standards Program, efforts are now under way to start development of the remaining three parts of DVS 629.

Part 5 is the Placement Opportunity Information Service, which defines the interface between software routines of the ad-placement query and notification functions. The Subscriber Information Service interface specified in Part 6 implements the subscriber information (some level of demographical data) query functions. And Part 7, Message Transport Compliance, provides the glue connecting the system together by defining the physical and messaging protocols that transport data between services that are specified in Part 2 through Part 6.

The earlier DVS 629 parts, already issued for balloting, encompass the following: Part 1 is an Advertising System Overview, which provides an informative introduction and the overall description of the suite of DVS 629 standards. Part 2 defines the Core Data Elements, including data types and messaging services within the digital advertising system. Part 3, Ad Management Service, explains the requirements of the interface that defines ad-insertion opportunities and the handling of subsequent placement decisions. The Content Information Service described in Part 4 defines the content query and notification functions.

Including the initial planning stage, SCTE’s involvement with standardizing addressable advertising began about two years ago, but most of the work has been performed in the last year. Within the DVS Subcommittee, the specific Working Group charged with building DVS 629 is Working Group 5 (WG5), Digital Program Insertion (DPI). More than 60 companies are participating in the DVS Subcommittee, and about 30 of those companies are involved in developing DVS 629.

The subcommittee has no specific deadline for completing DVS 629, but competition for the cable telecommunications industry from other media such as the Internet is providing the impetus to move forward quickly in developing these new models and means of delivery of advertising content.

Platforms taken into account in the initial design of the DVS 629 standard include traditional linear advertising, Video on Demand, and advanced Set-Top Box and DVR applications.

At least one Multiple System Operator (MSO) is planning to trial the DVS 629 system for VOD applications late in 2007.

Being the popular topic that addressable advertising is, SCTE Director of Standards Thomas C. Russell has featured the DVS 629 development process in the By the Book column of Broadband Library’s winter edition.

Complete details about the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited SCTE Standards Program are available at www.scte.org.


The Light Brigade releases Three-day Fiber Characterization Course

The Light Brigade has announced the newest addition to its arsenal of fiber optic training titled Fiber Characterization: PMD, CD, and ORL. This three-day course not only provides the classroom instruction necessary to understand the theory and principles of fiber characterization, it also includes hands-on instruction on fiber-optic splicing, connector inspection and cleaning, span testing, and documentation.

Over the past twenty years, fiber optic cables have come to handle exponentially increasing bandwidth demands. As network speeds increase, optical dispersion compensation becomes more critical for maintaining high signal quality and low bit error rates. Transmission equipment manufacturers often will not guarantee the performance of their systems unless polarization mode dispersion (PMD), chromatic dispersion (CD), and optical return loss (ORL) tests have been documented. These vital tests require an understanding of the importance of optical cleanliness of the optical connections as well as how to properly perform reflection measurements using an optical time-domain reflectometer (OTDR).

Day one of the course includes classroom review of basic optical theory, standards, transmission basics, fiber types, connectors, test equipment, installation, systems, and the theory and principles of dispersion.

Day two specifically focuses on OTDRs, detailing the types available and how they function, as well as give practical experience with OTDR calibration and setup, loss measurement, and the proper use of deadzone boxes and terminators for reflectance measurement.

During day three, attendees will build an 80-km span using G.655 fiber (at 1,550 nm), and a 50-km span using G.652 fiber (at 1,310 nm). After testing and documenting these spans for PMD and CD, the attendees will insert dispersion-compensating modules into each span and then re-test for the new dispersion values.

Since 1987 The Light Brigade has instructed 30,000 attendees in its public and custom classes. The company offers courses nationwide covering basic fiber optic design, maintenance and testing plus advanced courses such as FTTx, DWDM, SONET, PMD/CD, and video for traffic or surveillance. The Light Brigade has produced professional-quality educational DVDs, videos and CDs, and a self-paced FTTx/PON computerized training module. All of The Light Brigade’s training materials are non-vendor specific and demonstrate theory and techniques applicable to any manufacturer’s product.

www.lightbrigade.com .


Tripp Lite Introduces First 50 ft. and 100 ft. Plenum-Rated Category 6 Patch Cables

Tripp Lite, a world-leading manufacturer of power protection and connectivity equipment, has introduced two new Plenum-Rated Category 6 Patch Cables for use in ceilings and air ducts where fire codes require plenum-rated cabling.  These Plenum-Rated patch cables are the first of their kind in the market and are stocked in 50 ft. and 100 ft. lengths (models: N201-050-GY-P and N201-100-GY-P).

“Our new Plenum-Rated Patch Cables will benefit users who need plenum cabling for specific fire code applications,” stated David Posner, Tripp Lite’s Product Manager for Cables and Connectivity.  “Now, users won’t have to field terminate a patch cable which takes time and adds the risk that the cable will not function at full speed because of less than ideal workmanship or error.  Additionally, users will not need to purchase a large spool.  Other computer cable manufacturers only offer plenum-rated cabling in long, more expensive bulk lengths.  This makes our new 50 ft. and 100 ft. cables a convenient alternative at a great cost-saving.”

Tripp Lite's new Plenum-Rated Category 6 Patch Cables are perfect for long cable runs that require CMP-rated cabling in ceilings, ducts and other places where fire codes require plenum-rated cabling.  Made with a solid conductor cable, attenuation losses are greatly reduced over stranded conductor patch cables.  New Plenum-Rated Category 6 Patch Cables are pre-terminated with Cat6-rated staggered RJ45 plugs and pliable snagless boots that protect the RJ45 clip during cable pulls through tight locations.  In addition, the new cables are fully tested on Fluke® test equipment to ensure cables meet or exceed Category 6 requirements.  Tripp Lite warrants its cables to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for life.

For more information on Tripp Lite’s new Plenum-Rated Category 6 Patch Cables and the entire Cables and Connectivity Line, go to:
http://www.tripplite.com/products/cables/index.cfm


Check out what’s new for Cabling Business Magazine’s January 2008 issue!

Packed full of hot new products, timely industry columns and of course, the latest technology news you’ve come to expect every month!

Please note that each month articles will be categorized by the following:

1. Commercial Voice & Data

2. VoIP – Telecommunications

3. Low-Voltage Systems/

Building Integration

4. Retail Communications

Systems

5. Industrial Plant Ethernet

6. Wireless WI-FI

7. Fiber Optics

8. Outside Plant

January 2008 Articles

Getting the Design/Build 411

By Alexander A. Olivares, RCDD

Fiber Optic Plug-and-Play Solutions

By Ortonics/Legrand

Maximizing Productivity of Automatic Termination Machines

By Rob Boyd, Schleuniger, Inc

Composite Material Shields Workers From Electric Shocks

By Brett Koelle, Norplex-Micarta

Bonding and Grounding Strategies for the Telecommunications Room

By Panduit

New Printing Technology and the 606A Standard

By Lori Aeschbacher, Brady

SMBs: Cable Companies’ Next Frontier  

By Amir Mahmood

January Featured Products

Cable tie removal tools, cameras, enclosures, electrical wire protection, safety items, labels, printers, software, rack systems, RJ45 jacks, patch panels, plug and play solutions, cleaning solutions, green-friendly products, and much, much more!

As always readers can log on to the magazine Web site at www.cablingbusiness.com  and download the latest issue online! Don’t miss out!


Construction Cabling Waste Hard On The Environment

From Halogen-free and ROHS compliance to removing abandoned cable, environmentally friendly products and practices are receiving much attention throughout our industry. However, there is one area not receiving enough attention – cabling waste on the job.

Let’s face it – few projects, if any, are installing ROHS-compliant or lead-free cabling here in the U.S. Most of the cable being installed is plenum cable, which is jacketed with polyvinyl chloride that includes lead stabilizers and plasticizers. While skilled crews work hard to manage cable quantities, post-installation calculations show that most cabling installers end up with between 17% and 22% waste. The copper of the wasted cable is regularly recycled, but the lead in the cable jacket ends up in our landfills. Testing has shown the lead content in the cable jacket to range between 2 and 8 percent by weight, which equates to 1.5 pounds for every 1,000 feet of cable. On a construction job requiring one million feet of cable, waste can amount to more than 350 pounds of lead!

Discussions with “green” architects certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED™ program have revealed that most are completely unaware of and have not considered the affects of cabling waste during installation, despite the fact that the LEED program includes credits for total hazardous waste materials diverted from landfill disposal. There are many practices and systems available in our industry to help installers reduce cabling waste on the job, some of which have shown to reduce waste by as much as 60%. Perhaps it’s time for our industry and the LEED-certified architects designing and building “green” buildings to take a closer look at cabling waste on the job, the amount of lead ending up in our landfills, and the tools available to reduce that waste.

“Top cabling contractors are discovering Beast Cabling Systems – a powerful systems that reduces costs and increases values while eliminating waste.”, according to Frank Bisbee, President of Communication Planning Corp.

www.beastcablingsystems.com


Ed Donelan Elected President Of BICSI

Ed Donelan, owner of Telecom Infrastructure Corp, an award winning Information Transport Solutions (ITS) Corp. www.telecom-wiring.com, has been elected President of BICSI.  Donelan has completed a leadership role as President-Elect for 2 years and will be inaugurated at the winter conference in Orlando the end of January 2008, for an additional 2-year term.  BICSI, a worldwide organization founded in 1974, boasts over 17,000 members in more than 100 countries.  BICSI is a non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the voice, data, audio, video, electronic security and surveillance industries through excellent education, skill sharing, and the assessment of knowledge.  BICSI provides training, education and publications and holds several conferences annually to assure that ITS professionals are versed in the standards, codes and regulations necessary to deliver the highest quality products and services www.bicsi.org

Telecom Infrastructure Corp was established in 1985 as a privately held, family run company dedicated to crafting network infrastructures that support the most demanding commercial building information transport solutions.  From copper to fiber optics to wireless, Telecom Infrastructure Corp provides a full spectrum of information transport systems and services. www.telecom-wiring.com

(274 Madison Avenue Suite 1604 -  NY, NY 10016) tel. 800-394-7464 

Donelan served 2 years as the Treasurer for BICSI, 2 two-year terms as Northeast Regional Director and has taken an active role in helping the organization become what it is today.  Donelan was also awarded the prestigious University of South Florida’s Harry J. Pfister Award in 2003.  This award is presented to a person “who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of telecommunications over a period of time”.  When asked about his opportunity and responsibility as President Donelan said “I am excited about the opportunity to ensure that BICSI is the worldwide preeminent source of information, education and knowledge assessment for the constantly evolving information transport systems industry”.     


Company Families Are IMPORTANT

November 11, 2007, Communication Planning Corporation (Jacksonville, FL) lost a valued employee and friend.  Mike Rice, Cabling – Senior Project Manager, passed away in his sleep. He was only 42. His totally unexpected death shocked everyone who knew him.  “Big Mike” had a passion for life that was contagious.  We heard many comments from customers praising the outstanding quality of his projects, and on how they always looked forward to “Big Mike” coming to their site with his smile and quick wit.  He will be greatly missed by many.

With the holiday season in full swing it is a perfect time to let your “company family” know how appreciated they are.  Most of us spend 5 days a week, 8 (or more) hours a day with our co-workers.  They inadvertently become, in a sense, an extended family.  As we rush through the year, meeting deadlines of one kind or another, we rely on these co-workers on a daily basis without realizing how much they would be missed if they were not there. 

As the year comes to a close, make time to reflect on your co-workers and how they have brightened your days, helped you when you were stressed, or just took time to share a smile with you.   We all have those days that getting up and going to work is made easier by those we work with.  Let them know how they are appreciated.

Frank D. Bisbee
President
Communication Planning Corporation


REMEMBER TO RECYCLE, REDUCE AND REUSE

   
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