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Wireville.com

Issue: September 2007
By: Frank Bisbee


Datacom/Telecom Glossary
In This Issue

Bits N' Pieces


BISBEE’s BUZZ

The world of Communications and Cabling is fast paced and stressful.

Sometime things get a little crazy. Maybe you should follow these helpful hints to cope with the pressure.

20 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

1.     At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.
2.     Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don 't Disguise Your Voice.
3.     Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.
4.     Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."
5.     Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.
6.     In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Smuggling Diamonds"
7.     Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy," "By your command," or "Live Long and Prosper!" 
8      Dont use any punctuation
9.     As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.
10.   Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat with a serious face.
11.   Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."
12.   Sing Along At The Opera
13.   Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don 't Rhyme
14.   Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play tropical Sounds All Day.
15.   Five Days In Advance , Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party Because You're Not In The Mood.
16.   Have Your Coworkers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.
17.   When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won!, I Won!"
18.   When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking lot, Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"
19.   Tell Your Children Over Dinner. "Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go."
20.   Put Labels On All The Food In the Pantry. No Fat, Low Fat, Reduced Fat, or Fat (but with Great Personality).

We hope to visit with many of our industry professionals at the BICSI 2007 Fall Conference in Las Vegas (Sept. 10-13) at the MGM Grand. We are always hunting “for all the news that you can use”.

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


BICSI 2007 Fall Conference Is Just Around The Corner!

The Fall Conference takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 10-13, 2007. BICSI invites you to take part in this phenomenal Conference, with exciting presentations, keynotes, pre-conference seminars and networking opportunities.

The Exhibit Hall is almost sold out, so be prepared to see some of the industry's best solutions and products. Get exclusive access to the information transport systems industry through this conference, and learn all about the newest hot topics.

There are a number of new things debuting at this conference also, such as the new BICSI merchandise line--BICSI Gear. Now with better customer service and better products, we are looking to have you walk away from the conference with some brand new BICSI gear! BICSI is also releasing its new interactive learning network at this conference. BICSI CONNECT representatives are looking to meet you down at the Exhibit Hall at the BICSI Booth, where you will be able to see the demos.

The BICSI Credential Holders Lounge is holding a door prize drawing for a flat-screen TV, so make sure you stop by to fill out your drawing ticket. The Lounge is located on the second level of the MGM Grand Convention Center, in Vista Ballroom 206-211. In addition to all these brand new opportunities, don't forget about the first-class sessions, brought to you by the leaders of our industry. Subjects discussed are relevant to everyone, from first-timers to experienced professionals. The topics include protecting your networks against hackers, AV systems, data centers, LEED, fiber optics, horizontal cabling, stadium design, installation, and more. There's no better time than now to sign up! Go to www.bicsi.org  and click on the Fall Conference link.

This BICSI Conference is too good to miss. The biggest value is the educational aspect.

BICSI is bring parties together in a “WIN – WIN” scenario.


Lunch At BICSI With Netversity, Eaton Power Quality Company & Server Technology September 11 At 12:00

Netversity Solutions, Eaton Power Quality Company and Server Technology invite you to lunch on Tuesday September 11th from 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM in the Premier Room (Room 318) at the MGM Grand Hotel, at the BICSI Las Vegas Conference.

Power in equipment cabinets and data centers (Small, Medium or Large) needs to be efficient, abundant and under control! 

Learn how Netversity Solutions can work with you in developing solutions for power distribution and remote power control from Eaton Power Quality Company and Server Technology.

There will be two presentations (one from Eaton Power Quality Company and one from Server Technology) to get you the information you need to be up to date on power issues.

Seating is limited so get there early!!

Tuesday September 11th from 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM in the Premier Room (Room 318) at the MGM Grand Hotel.

Hosted by;

Roman Dabrowski, RCDD, Netversity Solutions, Rdabrowski@netversity.ca, 416-428-4641


NetClear 10G Channels Co-exist With Lower Category Cabling And Meet 10G Channel Specifications

Ortronics/Legrand and Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company, announced that their warranted NetClear GTX 10G UTP cabling system can be installed alongside existing NetClear structured cabling systems within the same pathway without degradation of the performance of either system.  Tests were performed at the Nexans Data Communications Competence Center, which placed Berk-Tek's LANmark-10G Augmented Category 6 in the same raceway as LANmark-1000 and LANmark-2000 Category 6 cables. Both were unaffected with the LANmark-10G cable continuing to meet all the requirements of the draft TIA 568B.2-10 Augmented Category 6 specifications.

Tests at the Nexans DCCC included the worst case 6-around-1 configuration where a NetClear GTX channel, comprised of LANmark-10G and Ortronics Clarity 10G connectors, was inserted into the center of a bundle that included 7 NetClear GT2 channels around the outside.  NetClear GT2 channels consist of Berk-Tek's LANmark-1000 Category 6 cable and Ortronics Clarity 6 connectivity.  The NetClear GTX 4-connector channels passed the Augmented Category 6 channel specifications for both internal parameters, as well as all alien crosstalk parameters.

"The industry leading performance of the LANmark-10G cable combined with the co-engineered Clarity 10G termination products from Ortronics, allows the NetClear GTX channels to be intermixed with channels of lower category performance, without interference " states Jim Frey, Copper Products Manager for Berk-Tek.  "No other 10G UTP cabling system available today can offer this kind of flexibility and performance," he added.

"Another unique feature of the NetClear GTX 10 Gb/s system is that the Clarity patch cords are stranded and available in lengths down to 3 feet, which is less than the minimum 7 foot lengths offered by other cabling manufacturers. The design of these patch cords also allows these cords to be adjacent to other category patch cords at the workstation without impacting their 10G performance.  This reduces cost and eliminates the need to manage excessive lengths of cordage in the TR or data center, while providing better 10 Gb/s system performance" states Gregg LaFontaine, Senior Copper Products Manager for Ortronics/Legrand.

Ortronics/Legrand and Berk-Tek were instrumental in providing their combined engineering expertise to the IEEE P802.3an to define the cabling system requirements for 10 Gigabit Ethernet over twisted pair cable media.

As a result, both the NetClear GTS (FTP), introduced in January 2005, and NetClear GTX (UTP), introduced in May 2005, became the first to offer two complete channel solutions with guaranteed compliance to all current and future 10G channel specifications identified by the IEEE and TIA committees.

About the NetClear Alliance

NetClear is a Technology Alliance between Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company, and Ortronics/Legrand to provide advanced, end-to-end co-engineered solutions for enhanced Category 5e, Category 6, Augmented Category 6 - 10 Gigabit and optical fiber channels - all backed by a 25-year warranty.  www.berktek.com.   www.ortronics.com.


RHINO Professional Labeling Tools Hires Taz Cantrell As Regional Sales Manager

Taz Cantrell to Manage Sales for North Central U.S. Region

RHINO Professional Labeling Tools is proud to announce the hiring of Thomas (Taz) Cantrell for the position of Central Regional Sales Manager. Mr. Cantrell brings to the position over 16 years of telecommunications experience, nine directly in sales and sales management.

“We are very excited to have Taz on our RHINO team,” stated Ernie Racenet, Global Business Unit Director of RHINO. “Taz brings an excellent depth of experience in regional sales management, distribution and end user education in similar technology categories.  This experience will allow him to have an immediate and substantial positive impact on our business.”

“Taz has many years experience not only growing key business accounts and sales, but also training and educating his sales teams, distributors, end users and even industry professionals,” continued Keith Smith, RCDD and Strategic Account Manager with RHINO. “RHINO prides itself in the close relationships it has built with its customers, and education is a key component in those relationships. Taz’s knowledge of the industry and personable demeanor will be essential in growing awareness of the RHINO brand while building and maintaining close customer ties.”

Prior to joining RHINO, Mr. Cantrell held sales management positions with IDEAL Industries and Wavetek, and other sales positions with Data Voice Supplies and Services and Nbase Communications. He was also a proud member of the U.S. Navy.

The hiring of Taz Cantrell is in line with the recent sales expansion effort of RHINO. www.rhinolabeling.com


KITCO Fiber Optics Announces Evening Courses

KITCO Fiber Optics is pleased to announce that the Certified Technician and Certified Military (Shipboard) courses are now available in evening courses.  These courses are designed to allow busy technicians the opportunity to train with the same 40-hour courses that KITCO teaches in a one-week format from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM.  The Evening Courses are offered at KITCO’s Virginia Beach Training Facility from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM Monday – Friday and will prepare students for the Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) Certified Fiber Optic Installer (CFOI) and Certified Fiber Optic Technician (CFOT) certifications.  The cost for the Shipboard Course is $2,355.00 and $1,955.00 for the Certified Technician Course (including ETA certification).  All materials and toolkits are included in the price.  These courses also qualify attendees for BICSI CEC’s (Continuing Education Credits).

Certified Fiber Optic Installer, Technician and Shipboard courses are still offered during the day as usual, as well as Aviation Fiber Optic Courses, Hermaphroditic Courses and TFOCA classes.  The evening classes were added due to increased demand from technicians currently performing copper installations who need to learn how to install, terminate and test fiber optic cables in order to remain competitive in an industry that is rapidly changing from copper to fiber topologies.

The Certified Technician course is designed to provide students with the hands-on knowledge and ability to successfully terminate a variety of ST, SC, FC and Small Form Factor (SFF) connectors; perform fusion splicing, mechanical splicing, and assemble a splice enclosure.  Additionally, students will be trained to fully test and troubleshoot fiber optic cables and fiber optic systems using an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR).

The 2 Week Shipboard Fiber Optics Course has been approved by the Chief of Naval Education and Training (CNET) as an equivalent to their Fiber Optic Maintenance Technician Course (A-670-0063) and KITCO is the Navy’s exclusive provider of this course.  Taught for the Navy at various Naval Bases, this course is in strict adherence to MIL-STD-2042B(SH) and NTSM-408.  All KITCO instructors have real world experience having spent literally thousands of hours terminating, splicing and testing fiber optic cable systems on over 200 U.S. Navy ships and submarines.  This course is the most comprehensive, hands-on shipboard fiber optic training available anywhere. 

The Certified Military Courses (Shipboard) are scheduled for September 17 – 28 and November 5 – 16, and the Certified Technician Courses are scheduled for October 15 – 26 and December 3 – 14.   www.kitcofo.com

KITCO is an ISO -9000-2001 Certified Company


BOMA International Webinars; BOMA Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP)

Sponsored by the BOMA Foundation and EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Program

Course 5

Valuing Energy Enhancement Projects & Financial Returns

Thursday, August 16, 2007

2:00 to 4:00 p.m., ET

Course 5 teaches the use of financial metrics and tools to calculate and sell enhancement projects to owners, asset managers and tenants by highlighting the positive financial and environmental impacts of improved energy performance.

Course 6

Building an Energy Awareness Program

Thursday, October 18, 2007

2:00 to 4:00 p.m., ET

Course 6 rounds out the series by focusing on how to create an effective awareness program, communicate accomplishments and benefits to key stakeholders, as well as provide samples and templates for attendees to easily customize.

Registration

Register for Course 5 or 6 Today

You will receive instructions for accessing the Webinar approximately 48 hours prior to each offering. Web access is required to participate in these Webinars.

Registration Fees

BOMA members: $99 for each Webinar in the series.

Non-BOMA members: $124 for each Webinar in the series.

The BOMA Foundation’s BOMA Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP) is an innovative program teaching property owners, managers, and operators important no- and low-cost strategies for optimizing equipment, people, and practices to reduce energy use and cost.  For more information about BEEP, visit www.boma.org/beep. 


Top Stories At Environmental Building News

Antimicrobial Chemicals in Building Materials: Hygiene or Harm?

Tristan Roberts

Fear of infection is hardly a new phenomenon, but it seems to have risen to a fever pitch in recent years. Modern medicine appeared to have all but conquered infectious disease decades ago-but in the last three decades our society's confidence in that victory has unraveled. Diseases like AIDS, anthrax, "mad cow disease," severe acute respiratory syndrome, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, and bird flu have perplexed and challenged the medical establishment, and popular culture and the press have seized on reawakened fears of uncontrollable diseases, reporting on health emergencies around the globe with ever greater fervency.

The market for antibacterial lotions, soaps, and wipes has exploded, and antimicrobial compounds are now common in other consumer items like shampoos, deodorants, shoes and apparel, and food-preparation and storage items, despite widespread evidence that these compounds often don't work as advertised. But now even our buildings are getting in on the trend. The use of chemicals in building products, especially to kill mold, is centuries-old, but antimicrobial chemicals are proliferating in heretofore rarely seen places: furniture, flooring, wallcoverings, textiles, countertops, sunshades, doorknobs and push-plates, ductwork, and caulking.

This article examines applications of antimicrobials in buildings, asking whether they are warranted, and looking at how antimicrobials work. It also explores health and safety concerns and suggests ways to make buildings more hygienic, with or without antimicrobials.

To see the full feature article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=160801a.xml

You are welcome to post the summaries and links from this email on your website(s), provided that you make it clear that the stories are coming from Environmental Building News and that the full article is available at www.BuildingGreen.com. Please include this byline: From Environmental Building News, www.BuildingGreen.com.

BuildingGreen, Inc. owns the copyrights to all material contained in this email and to the full written articles. All rights are reserved except those explicitly granted herein. Contact Jim Newman at BuildingGreen, Inc., Jim@BuildingGreen.com with questions or for additional information.

Other Current Stories from Environmental Building News:

Report Says Green Still Doesn't Drive Building Costs

Nadav Malin

Having updated their influential 2004 study of the cost of green building with new data, Lisa Fay Matthiessen and Peter Morris of Davis Langdon still come to the same conclusion. There are so many huge cost factors in construction that it is not possible to detect any statistically significant difference between the cost of green and non-green buildings, they report in "Cost of Green Revisited," released in July 2007. Based on an analysis of the budgets for 221 projects, of which 86 were pursuing some level of LEED certification, the report concludes that "buildings cannot be budgeted based on averages," leaving open the question of whether, for any given building, a green agenda affects its cost.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=160805a.xml

Carnegie Introduces SurfaceIQ Wall coverings

Nadav Malin

The wall covering company Carnegie, maker of Xorel and other non-PVC wall coverings, has introduced a line of polyethylene wallcoverings with an affordable price of $22.50 per yard ($24.20/m; net wholesale rate). The Surface iQ line, manufactured by Len-Tex Corporation, has been available directly from the manufacturer since 2005. Carnegie's offerings include seven new patterns in a range of colors.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=160810b.xml

Light-Emitting Diodes: Chasing White Light

Allyson Wendt

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use semi-conducting materials to turn electricity into light; electrons jump from one material to another, emitting photons as they travel. While LEDs use very little electricity, they also produce relatively small amounts of light.

To read the full article:

http://www.buildinggreen.com/auth/article.cfm?fileName=160820b.xml

BuildingGreen, Inc. is publisher of the nation's oldest publication on sustainable design and construction and the leading national directory of green building products. For more information on BuildingGreen and its resources on environmentally responsible design and construction, visit www.BuildingGreen.com, e-mail info@buildinggreen.com, or call 800-861-0954 (outside the U.S. and Canada, call 802-257-7300). BuildingGreen is an independent, socially responsible, company based in Brattleboro, Vermont. www.buildinggreen.com


TIA Welcomes New Staff to Leadership Team

New VPs, Directors bring years of industry experience to help guide TIA’s rapid growth.

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is pleased to announce the addition of four new members of its leadership team as part of its efforts to augment its member companies’ strategies during this period of market growth in the communications industry. TIA’s newest staff include: Ed Mikoski, VP-Standards and Business Development; Suzanne Ugast, VP-Marketing and Business Development; Carolyn Holmes Lee, Director, Legislative and Government Affairs; and Lora Ann Magruder, Director, Member Relations.

Mikoski will be responsible for coordination of TIA’s influential work in the standards development arena. He joins TIA after holding similar positions at the Electronic Components, Assemblies and Materials Association and with the Electronic Industries Alliance. Mikoski possesses 30 years of experience in the technology sector shepherding the development of numerous standards that have benefited the communications sector of the high-tech industry.

Ugast will steer TIA’s future growth as the leading advocate for the information, communications and entertainment technology industry. Ugast brings 20 years of experience in the marketing profession, exclusively in telecommunications and technology and will be responsible for managing the association’s Marketing and Communications, Membership, and Web Development departments. Ugast will also lead the effort to create and implement a marketing and branding campaign to grow TIA’s membership while promoting the work in the association’s policy, standards, business and networking events and market intelligence reports.

Holmes Lee comes to TIA this month after managing federal and state government affairs for 3M, where she showed effectiveness and a grasp of tech-related issues like telecom, energy and the environment, and tax policy. Prior to 3M, Holmes Lee was Legislative Director in the office of Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, a prominent member of the Commerce Committee that oversees many issues important to TIA members. Before serving with Snowe, Holmes Lee was a legislative assistant handling national issues for Congresswoman Sue Kelly from 1998-2001.

Magruder comes to TIA after 7 years as Director of Membership for the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies (OPASTCO), where she developed the group’s campaigns for recruiting and retaining members. She has an illustrious career in the communications industry: prior to OPASTCO, Magruder was Government Relations Manager for the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), and she began her career with the U.S. Telephone Association. http://www.tiaonline.org.


Release Regarding OFS Patent Litigation

Draka Comteq Americas, Inc, a joint venture of Alcatel-Lucent and Draka Holding NV and a leading manufacturer of optical fiber, fiber optic cables, and copper communications cables, has formally responded to a lawsuit for alleged patent infringement filed against it in North Carolina Federal Court by Furukawa Electric North America ("FENA"), owner of OFS Fitel.  In its response, Draka Comteq Americas completely and categorically denied all allegations that it has infringed any patents allegedly owned by FENA.  Draka Comteq Americas also asserted counterclaims based on the unenforceability of the patents that FENA has asserted. 

In addition, Draka Comteq Americas has filed a patent infringement case against FENA and its subsidiary, OFS Fitel, in the U.S District Court in Marshall , Texas .  In that case, Draka Comteq Americas identifies at least eight valid and enforceable U.S. patents that FENA and OFS Fitel infringe, and requests as a remedy both monetary damages and injunctive relief. 

"Draka Comteq Americas is an industry leader in developing relevant intellectual property.  As such, we take our position surrounding intellectual property, as well as our obligations as a good corporate citizen, very seriously," stated Jacques Blanc, Chief Operating Officer for Draka Comteq. "Our response in the North Carolina lawsuit demonstrates our strong belief that Draka Comteq Americas has not infringed anyone's patent rights and that we will be totally vindicated in this proceeding."  Mr. Blanc further stated “Indeed, our review of this matter demonstrated that it was actually FENA and OFS Fitel -- and not us -- that were engaging in patent infringement, and that they were doing so by violating numerous Draka Comteq Americas patents.  These improper acts of infringement necessitated our commencement of the lawsuit in Texas , where we are confident we will prevail."   

 Draka is a 97 year old wire and cable company engaged worldwide in providing innovative cabling solutions for a wide range of applications. A top five cabler worldwide, Draka focuses its solutions through:
Draka Comteq, providing communications cabling solutions and Draka Cableteq, providing low-voltage and specialty cabling solutions. www.drakacomteq.us


Light Brigade Announces 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.

Company Information

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.


Coleman Cable’s 3-Outlet Extension Cord Delivers ‘Power Where You Need It’

Coleman Cable Inc. (CCI) introduces the Cord Runner™ extension cord featuring three evenly spaced outlets, instead of just one outlet at the end. The new product is ideal for landscaping, workshops, holiday lighting or any job-site requiring multiple tasks in different areas. 

The Cord Runner has a heavy-duty 14-gauge STW outdoor rated cord that is durable, reliable and flexible even in the coldest weather. Each evenly spaced outlet has a power indicator light to let you know when the power is on. The extension cord is available in 6 ft. and 25ft. lengths and green or yellow jacket. 

“The Cord Runner makes it easier and safer to power multiple tasks using just one extension cord,” said Blaine Ballard, CCI product manager. “And because the Cord Runner’s three outlets are conveniently spaced, it provides much more flexibility in running tasks in different areas. The new Cord Runner is yet another solution from Coleman Cable delivering power where you need it.” www.colemancable.com


Copper Trunk Cable Assemblies

Leviton is pleased to introduce pre-terminated, factory-tested Copper Trunk cable assemblies; the ideal solution for fast, simplified Data Center installations.

Leviton Copper Trunks are custom-configured in pre-engineered lengths using connectors to meet the specific needs of each application. By shifting much of the assembly work to the factory, pre-terminated copper trunks offer significantly reduced installation time.

Leviton Copper Trunks utilize standard QuickPort® jacks which are compatible with Leviton's full line of QuickPort panels. Use of standardized panels allows trunks to be installed alongside individual cable runs or other media types.

Leviton Copper Trunks are offered in both UTP and Shielded versions of CAT 6A, CAT 6, and CAT 5e performance. All UTP jacks utilize Leviton's patented Retention Force Technology™ (RFT) for consistent long-term connections. Plug terminations feature Leviton's SlimLine plug with "snagless" strain relief boot.

Each trunk assembly receives a unique serial number, and individual cables are numbered relative to that serial number. A braided sleeve bundles individual cables into an aesthetic and cohesive trunk assembly while the included pulling eye protects terminations during shipment and installation.

Pre-terminated cable assemblies are 100% factory tested, and are eligible for the Leviton Lifetime Product and System Performance Warranty without any additional on-site field-testing.

For more information on this or other Leviton products, log onto www.leviton.com  


Corning Cable Systems Grants License to Preformed Line Products

PLP to use Corning’s OptiTap Connector technology in optical terminal designs

Corning Cable Systems, part of Corning Incorporated’s (NYSE: GLW) Telecommunications segment, and Preformed Line Products Company (NASDAQ:PLPC) announce the signing of a license agreement, the terms of which provide PLP with a non-exclusive license to certain optical fiber terminal patents.

The industry leader in preconnectorized FTTx solutions, Corning Cable Systems is licensing the optical terminal patents to Preformed Line Products (PLP). Corning will also be supplying PLP with its OptiTap Connectors, the ideal solution for factory-terminated, environmentally sealed and hardened connectors for use in drop cable deployments in optical access networks. The hardened connector significantly reduces the terminal and drop cable installation time for subscriber connection, thereby reducing the total installed cost of deployment.

“PLP is pleased to be able to address the growing market demand for preconnectorized optical terminals,” said John Hofstetter, director of marketing and sales for PLP. “PLP’s innovative COYOTE® Closure designs, coupled with Corning’s OptiTap Connector technology, can advance the use of cost-effective preconnectorized products in FTTx deployments.”

“This agreement will enable Corning and PLP to further promote and participate in global FTTx applications,” said Dr. Bernhard Deutsch, director of marketing and market development for Corning Cable Systems public networks. “Customers will benefit from having an additional source for preconnectorized terminals to make deployments faster, easier, more reliable and less costly.”

Through its Evolant® Solutions for Access Networks, Corning Cable Systems offers specialized portfolios of innovative products and services that enable customers to cost-effectively deploy fiber in the last mile. For additional information on Corning Cable Systems, contact a customer service representative at 1-800-743-2675, toll free in the United States, or (+1) 828-901-5000, international, or visit www.corning.com/cablesystems.


SCA Offers Free Cabling Training Curriculum For Schools

Includes 200+ PowerPoint Slides And Instructor Guide

The Structured Cabling Association, Inc., the professional society of structured cabling, has created a free PowerPoint presentation for schools wanting to offer training in structured cabling installation for communications and security systems. The free SCA program was created to allow schools to include cabling in their telecommunications or information technology curriculum as early as high school to encourage students to consider this lucrative profession.

Teaching communications cabling needs to be included in technical programs as early as the high school level.” says Tom Collins, Professor at Gateway Community & Technical College in Cincinnati, a founder of the SCA and a contributor to the curriculum. “Many schools have communications programs but lack the materials to teach a cabling course, essential to the overall understanding of communications technology. Developing such a course is not easy for most instructors. The SCA, true to its non-profit professional society outlook, created this program to distribute free to instructors to facilitate teaching cabling and particularly to encourage younger students to consider a career in cabling, where jobs currently are readily available.”

The four-part series includes over 200 PowerPoint slides keyed to the SCA textbook, Data, Voice and Video Cabling published by Delmar Learning. Topics include introduction to communications cabling, introduction to structured cabling, structured wiring and wiring practices and fiber optics in structured cabling. The PowerPoint slides are editable to allow instructors to adapt the presentations to their classes and add other relevant materials to the slides. The materials are easily integrated into  in a telecommunications or information technology curriculum. With the current interest in residential cabling to support broadband connections like fiber to the home, the material is also appropriate for many electrical training programs and apprenticeships.

Schools may download the presentations from the SCA website. Access to the program is available to SCA-approved schools offering SCA certification programs and SCA-registered schools who wish to teach an introductory cabling course without the complete SCA certification curriculum.

The Structured Cabling Association, Inc. is a non-profit professional society founded in 2006 to promote education and certification of those working with structured cabling. SCA offers online tutorials on “What Is Cabling” and "The Tech Home" at http://www.scausa.org


HELLERMANNTYTON Launches New Corporate Website

HellermannTyton North America launches a new corporate website featuring greatly enhanced product information and advanced search capabilities. The new website, found at www.hellermann.tyton.com, makes it easy for users to locate the precise product they need - by using the search function or by browsing the product selection to find the required solution.  The product directory, featuring the company's cable management, identification, and network connectivity products, can be drilled down so that representative photos, drawings, and product specification information of each part number can be quickly viewed online.  The website also highlights the company's key markets and product sets associated with each.  Samples and literature can be ordered online as well as guidance on where to buy HellermannTyton products.  Links to HellermannTyton companies around the globe are also provided.

Highlighted on the home page of the website are the company's latest press releases and a "what's new" section for featured products and announcements.

The company's new SwiftMark automatic label printer and applicator, RapidNet pre-terminated network cabling system, and the latest Engineered Fastening Solutions catalog are just some of the featured items on the site - demonstrating the company's activity in the wire harnessing, voice and data, and automotive markets.

Follow this link to download a high-resolution, printable screen shot of the HellermannTyton Corporate Home Page (~1Mb):

http://www.hellermanntyton.us/uploadedImages/Corporate_Site/Email/ht_website


FOA Creates Web Site To Assist Users In Planning & Installing Fiber Optic Communications Systems

The FOA has filled a void in the information available about fiber optics, creating a web site devoted to information useful to the end user who is considering using fiber optics in their communications systems or planning and installing a network. The end user, who owns and uses communications systems, often finds it hard to get information about fiber optics aimed specifically at them. Industry standards are written by and for manufacturers. Most training material is written to train installation techs, the group the FOA focuses on with its certification programs.

The FOA has created a special section of its website where end users can find answers to their questions on fiber optics or even find out what questions to ask. In addition, it includes step-by-step recommendations for making a decision whether fiber is the best choice for them, planning the system, choosing components, communications system equipment and even a contractor to install everything.

As a non-profit professional society chartered to promote fiber optics, the FOA offers an unique, unbiased perspective on this process that can assist users in making the best choices for their needs.  Besides basic information needed by users, the web site has links to many technical references and standards they will find helpful. The web site is http://www.thefoa.org/user/


Green Technology World Conference

The Green Technology World Conference is the premier event focused on educating you about technologies, essential issues, and trends that enable companies to operate more efficiently, thereby creating a positive impact
on both your businesses and the environment. The event will be held September 11th-12th at the Los Angeles
Convention Center.

And now you can register to attend this groundbreaking event for FREE. You get to attend the breakout sessions, keynote presentations, roundtable discussions, networking receptions, and the exhibit hall filled with companies demonstrating the latest “clean and environmentally friendly” technologies for no cost when you register in advance.

You can register for your free pass here

CUTTING EDGE CONFERENCE PROGRAM:

We recently released the complete conference program for the Green Technology World Conference. These sessions were carefully created to offer the most useful, relevant information possible, focusing on providing real-world examples from leading companies using green technologies. And each of the sessions and roundtable discussions will be led by speakers selected from hundreds of applicants, representing some of most innovative companies utilizing clean and green technologies, including Cisco, Toyota, AMD, Ericsson, and many more. 

Below is a list of the sessions being offered over the two-day Green Technology World Conference:

  • Top Ten Ways to be GREEN through Better Networking
  • Maximizing Benefits of a Virtual Workforce
  • Empowering Teleworking with IP Telephony and Web Services
  • Virtual Meetings: A Faster Path to Lowered Emissions
  • Alleviating the Carbon Footprint of Corporate Travel though Conferencing, Collaboration and Video Conferencing
  • Green Case Study: Pat Lobb Toyota
  • The Greening of the Data Center – A Roundtable Discussion
  • Paving the Way for a Greener Approach to Deploying Telecom Networks
  • Advanced TCA — Green Conferencing in Data Centers
  • Truly Green Application Specific Computer Design
  • The Future of Green Technology – A Roundtable Discussion

You can read full descriptions of these sessions, along with learn more about the speakers presenting at the event here.

UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY OFFERS REAL SOLUTIONS:

Again, you can attend this unique, groundbreaking event for FREE if you register in advance. This is an outstanding opportunity for you to not only benefit your company but also have a positive impact on the environment and the world

as a whole. Come and learn more about these new green technologies, network with others in a similar position to learn of their successes or failures in previous efforts, and perhaps most importantly meet with leading vendors of these

technologies ready to offer you real solutions for your company to implement your own green program.

I hope you will participate in the Green Technology World Conference, and I look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles.

Regards,

The Green Technology World Conference Team


CommScope and Axis Communications Form Alliance

CommScope, Inc. (NYSE: CTV), a global leader in infrastructure solutions for communications networks, in support of the delivery of intelligent building solutions to its customers, has announced an alliance with Axis Communications, the global leader in the network video market.

Today, one of the more pervasive trends in the security industry is convergence, according to Mark Peterson, senior vice president, Global Marketing, Enterprise, CommScope. "In order to be more diligent and efficient with security programs, many companies are merging physical security departments with IT departments," he said. "In addition, many organizations are planning to add more intelligence to buildings, where data, building automation and safety and surveillance systems all converge on a single infrastructure platform. With this alliance, CommScope and Axis help bring the intelligent building to their customers.

"In order to allow our customers to deploy a high quality, top performing, and seamless network for all IP devices, CommScope is combining our strengths in the physical infrastructure space with the strength of companies that have their own unique expertise," said Peterson. "In the security space, Axis has the clear leadership and expertise in IP-based video surveillance. We believe that the alliance represents a great way to help our customers receive exceptional intelligent building solutions."

As part of CommScope's Alliance program, the relationship with Axis Communications should open opportunities for CommScope to promote the idea of an intelligent building infrastructure to customers around the world by linking them to an expert in converged surveillance operations.

Both CommScope and Alliance plan to engage in cross-training programs with their sales force. "We believe the training will assist with the delivery of prompt responses to customers' needs," said Peterson. "In addition, this alliance may cultivate the need for more education within the consulting community about convergence - recognizing the potential benefits from the collaborative designs of surveillance systems and IT network infrastructures."

"CommScope is helping us communicate more effectively to our customers the importance and benefits of an intelligent building network system where all applications, from servers to video surveillance system, are converged onto one infrastructure platform," said Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications. "We are thrilled to have an opportunity to build upon CommScope's expertise while delivering the latest converged video security solutions to our customers."  http://www.axis.com.  http://www.commscope.com


Colleges, Universities Are Improving Emergency Communications Systems

Driven by concern over recent high-profile crimes and natural disasters on campus, colleges and universities are aggressively upgrading their emergency communications systems, according to the latest survey of members by ACUTA, the Association for Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

In a survey done at the recent ACUTA annual conference, attended by more than 400 ACUTA members from institutions all over the U.S. and Canada, 81 percent of those surveyed either have upgrades in progress or will begin them within the next 12 months. Asked if these upgrades are in response to high-profile events – such as the shootings at Virginia Tech University earlier this year – 89 percent said there was a connection.

Sixty-three percent of respondents at the schools planning or implementing upgrades said their upgrades are in progress, while 20 percent expect the upgrades within a year, and the remainder are still in the discussion stage.

The areas where most colleges and universities are focusing their attention are in e-mail and text alerts, voice alerts, alarms and sirens, and emergency annunciator systems. Other frequently cited areas are video surveillance, 911 and E911 systems, call boxes, electronic signage, and safety personnel.

While 71 percent of survey respondents said their school is well prepared or adequately prepared for a natural disaster – with 29 percent judging themselves poorly prepared – when it comes to a major crime on campus, that percentage dropped to 57 percent judging themselves well or adequately prepared, with 43 percent considering themselves poorly prepared.

“Clearly, ACUTA member colleges and universities are responding to the concerns of students, faculty, staff, and the public by working to improve their emergency notification and response,” said Jeri Semer, executive director of ACUTA. “As another school year begins, we all hope that these improvements will help keep campuses safer.”

Asked how important the various elements of campus emergency notifications are to them, the ACUTA survey respondents emphasized 911 and E911 systems as most important, followed by e-mail and text alerts, safety personnel, voice alerts, call boxes, alarms and sirens, and video surveillance.

Finally, asked who has been the primary driver for upgraded emergency notification systems, 55 percent said their school’s senior administration, while 23 percent said it was the telecommunications and IT departments driving the changes.

ACUTA is the only national association dedicated to serving the needs of higher education communications technology professionals, representing some 2,000 individuals at 770 institutions. www.acuta.org


SMP Data Communications Connects with Dubai Palm Project

SMP Data Communications, a leading developer and manufacturer of high-speed cross-connect products for communication networks, is pleased to announce the completion of The Palm Jumeriah’s Shoreline Apartment project in Dubai, UAE in conjunction with Superior Technologies, SMP’s Dubai representation.  The Dubai Palm Project has become famous as one of the world’s largest land reclamation projects and is fast becoming known as a celebrated landmark and international attraction for the Middle East.

The Palm Jumeriah, known as the eighth wonder of the modern world, is the first phase in the Palm Trilogy, a solution to Dubai’s shrinking Gulf front real estate.  Designed, created and engineered by Nakheel, Dubai’s premier developer, The Shoreline Apartments is the first multi-dwelling project on the manufactured island.  Nearly 25,000 SMP Category 6 outlet solutions were deployed in the Shoreline project of 1,242 luxury apartments and 5 clubhouses.  First residents have already moved in and additional phases are currently being planned.

 Superior Technologies supplies SMP connectivity products to some of the most prestigious developers in Dubai, including Nakheel and EMAAR properties, and has accomplished completion of more than 350 medium to large project in and around the Middle East.  “SMP is pleased to be a part of such a prominent international project and we are proud to be the connectivity choice of Nakheel for this phase. We look forward to working with Superior Technologies and Nakheel on future endeavors for The Palm Jumeriah.” Stated Bill Reynolds, V.P and General Manager of SMP Data Communications

SMP Data Communications, headquartered in Swannanoa, North Carolina, is internationally recognized for its role in establishing the world’s data/communications standards, through its innovative-patented technologies. SMP, founded in 1990, manufactures and develops copper and fiber passive connectivity hardware components for use in commercial and residential applications.  The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Preformed Line Products (PLPC) of Cleveland, Ohio.  For more information about SMP’s complete product line visit our website at www.smpdata.com


Componexx Takes Its Cables Very Seriously

Componexx cables are custom made by the order. The Componexx factory operates a state-of-the-art ZUMBACH Extrusion System. This machine is fully computer controlled and is truly what is needed in today’s High Definition world to ensure consistency at all points of the extrusion process.

With its Multi-Sensor Data Acquisition, Control and Display System all the manufacturing phases are monitored closely. From critically important shielding to protect against EMI and RFI and Nitrogen Injected dielectrics, jacket extrusion, CV-lines, in jacketing and coating processes, etc. - ZUMBACH systems result in a considerable higher quality product overall.  

Touch a Componexx cable and feel the consistency and smoothness of the outer jackets. This helps during installations causing less snags of the cable. The universal multi-tasking systems (USYS) from ZUMBACH allow the connection of many in- line sensors for diameter, wall thickness, eccentricity, capacitance, and spark testing. Nothing is worse than a cable that doesn’t perform well.

Componexx inspects and test each and every cable to ensure consistent performance and also the look and feel. Componexx uses high purity Oxygen Free Copper in each of the three new cable lines and ensures all of its cables are ROHS (Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances) compliant. All are environmentally friendly and offers a life-time guarantee on every cable. Composite, Component, S-Video, Subwoofer, Digital Audio, Toslink Optical, HMDI™, DVI, MP3/4 Player and adaptors.

Componexx offers a solution to every professional home theater installers needs. Visit us at Booth 3802, Ballroom Level. www.componexx.com


Robert Kenny Joins General Cable As Vice President And General Manager, Datacom Cables

General Cable announced today that Robert D. Kenny will join General Cable as Vice President and General Manager, Datacom Cables.  He will have responsibility for the Company’s premise, fiber optic and central office cable businesses.  Kenny will report to Gregory Lampert, Senior, Vice President and General Manager of Cable and Datacom Products.

Bob is a well recognized technology and commercial leader in the communications industry, and we look forward to having him accelerate the outstanding progress we have made in the Datacom business over the past few years,” said Lampert.  “He has driven profitable growth through technology in each of his senior level general management positions.  Bob was also instrumental in creating several key premise cabling patents.”

Kenny holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Ohio Northern University.

Over the past 20 years, he has held senior level management positions in technology, marketing and general management with Belden and ADC/Krone.  Most recently, Bob was Global Business and Technology Manager for DuPont's Cabling Solutions segment.   www.GeneralCable.com


CABA’s Intelligent Buildings Roadmap I Now Available To The Public

You can purchase this report by entering the CABA eStore, selecting http://www.caba.org/images/cart.gifPurchase CABA Products and then selecting Reports. The item is listed as CABA Intelligent Buildings Roadmap.

The CABA Intelligent Buildings Roadmap is a collaborative industry-funded research project that explores the opportunities offered by emerging intelligent building technologies.

The Roadmap’s primary objective is to identify strategies for developing intelligent buildings that have the greatest potential to drive broad acceptance. The report examines the challenges facing intelligent building implementation within North America and identifies the market developments and industry initiatives needed to support the wider adoption of these technologies.

For more information about the report, please read the Executive Summary, available at: http://www.caba.org/ibrm/CABA_IB_ExecutiveSummary_web.pdf and contact Fred Bryson, CABA’s Business Development Manager at bryson@caba.org, or by phone: 888.798.2222; 613.686.1814 x226.


Berk-Tek Launches New Line of Micro Data Center Plenum (MDP) Fiber Optic Cables

Designed specifically for data centers and storage area networks, Berk-Tek delivers best-in-class micro-cabling technology with new and innovative MDP (patent pending) cable design, the perfect balance of performance and cable size.

Berk-Tek, a Nexans Company, a leading copper and fiber optic cabling manufacturer, announces a new fiber optic cable design, Micro Data Center Plenum (MDP), specifically targeting the data center/storage area network (DC/SAN) market.

The new MDP cable design incorporates Berk-Tek’s patented dry loose-tube technology in a smaller O.D. and adapted specifically for the indoor-only DC/SAN and building backbone environment. The new patent-pending construction provides a 50% smaller cross sectional area than equivalent fiber count indoor cables. In DC/SAN applications, the new MDP cables can help prevent cabinet and pathway congestion, considerably enhancing airflow, and facilitating more efficient cooling.    When compared to traditional ribbon interconnect, premises distribution, and indoor/outdoor loose tube cables, this new breed of cables offers improved density, ease of installation, termination, and sub-unit handling, presenting exceptional value in the DC/SAN space as well as intra-building backbone infrastructure.

The new line of MDP cables is available with plenum ratings up to 72 fibers, and allows for significant cost reduction over traditional indoor cable design options. These cables are also offered with aluminum or steel interlocking armor, as well as pre-terminated cable assemblies with multi-fiber MTP/MPO connectors or single-fiber type connectors such as SC, ST, or LC.

“When combined with the Ortonics 12 or 24-fiber MPO low-loss cassettes and cable management systems, a far superior offering to the DC/SAN system designer has now been made available” states Beni Blell, RCDD, Fiber Optic Product Business manager at Berk-Tek.  “The MDP product boasts a size and weight that is half that of competing cable designs, and has made possible specific enhancements to system performance, reliability, modularity, and flexibility in the NetClear solutions for high-density data centers and storage area networks.” Blell added.

The new cables will be available starting in August and are offered in multimode and single-mode fiber constructions including GIGALiteÔ, GIGALiteÔ-10, and GIGALiteÔ-10XB, the industry’s highest performing laser-optimized 50 micron fiber.

www.berktek.com   www.nexans.com.  


First NAED HR & Training Conference Offers Innovative,
Electrical Industry-Specific Talent Solutions, Oct. 8-10

New Conference Offers Key Recruitment, Professional Development and Management Methods

The National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) announces its first Human Resources & Training Conference, featuring "Talent Solutions for Your Company," at the Sheraton Westport Chalet in St. Louis, Oct. 8-10. The new event, established by the NAED Education & Research Foundation, will help human resources and training professionals throughout the industry to enhance their existing staff recruitment, development and retention strategies.

NAED has invited three nationally renowned experts to keynote the conference's daily general sessions:

  • Clint Swindall, president/CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., will open with "Generation X in a Baby Boomer World & Employee Disengagement," on Mon., Oct. 8. The session will explore the realities and rewards of the multi-generational workforce in today's business world.
  • Richard Hadden, leading management consultant and syndicated columnist, will follow on Tues., Oct. 9. His presentation, "Contented Cows Give Better Milk – Your People...Your Profits,", will examine how employee relations affect a company's bottom line, as outlined in his popular book, "Contented Cows Give Better Milk."
  • Dr. Barbara Carnes, business trainer, speaker and writer, will conclude on Oct. 10 with "Making Training Stick," based on her book by the same title. Carnes is also facilitating two educational workshops at the conference: "How's it Working for You: Evaluating Your Training Success" and "Calculating Your Training ROI."

In addition, participants will have the opportunity to collaborate on topics specific to human resources and training in the distribution channel through a series of roundtables. These sessions will highlight current best practices in recruitment, retention, motivation, training diverse groups, and other areas.

Conference attendees will also benefit from the inside industry knowledge of Dr. Susan Levering, who has served the channel as a HR specialist for 18 years. Levering is leading two sessions: "Strategic Partnering: the Role of the Electrical Distribution Professional" and "Training: What's in it for You?"   www.naed.org.


Preformed Line Products Announces Financial Results For The Second Quarter & First Six Months Of 2007

Preformed Line Products Company (Nasdaq: PLPC - News) today reported financial results for the second quarter and the first six months of 2007.

Net income for the quarter ended June 30, 2007 increased 7% to $3,816,000, or $.70 per diluted share, compared to $3,551,000, or $.62 per diluted share, for the comparable period in 2006. Net sales in the second quarter 2007 were $63,753,000, an increase of 14% from last year's $56,098,000.

Net income for the six months ended June 30, 2007 increased 25% to $7,534,000, or $1.39 per diluted share, compared to the prior year's $6,050,000, or $1.05 per diluted share. Net sales increased 11% to $120,284,000 for the first six months of 2007 compared to $108,733,000 in 2006.

Rob Ruhlman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Currency favorably impacted sales by $3.2 million for the year and $2.2 million for the quarter, but had little impact on net income. The improvement in sales was driven by a strong domestic energy market. The increased volume enabled us to leverage our manufacturing expenses and improve profitability despite continued rising material costs."

The Company is delaying the filing of its Form 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the second quarter of 2007 until it completes a new assessment of its reportable segments. It's possible that the number of the Company's reportable segments may increase. This increase would be shown in the Company's second quarter Form 10-Q. If the number of segments increases, the Company will file an amendment to the Company's first quarter Form 10-Q to include the additional reportable segments. Any conclusion regarding the Company's reportable segments and related disclosure will have no impact on the consolidated balance sheets or on the statements of consolidated income and cash flow.

Founded in 1947, Preformed Line Products is an international designer and manufacturer of products and systems employed in the construction and maintenance of overhead and underground networks for energy, communications and broadband network companies.

Preformed's world headquarters are in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Company operates four domestic manufacturing centers located in Rogers, Arkansas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Albemarle, North Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina. The Company serves its worldwide market through international operations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, England, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Thailand.

This news release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 regarding the Company, including those statements regarding the Company's and management's beliefs and expectations concerning the Company's future performance or anticipated financial results, among others. Except for historical information, the matters discussed in this release are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties which may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in those statements. Among other things, factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in such forward-looking statements include the strength of the economy and demand for the Company's products, increases in raw material prices, the Company's ability to identify, complete and integrate acquisitions for profitable growth, and other factors described under the heading "Forward-Looking Statements" in the Company's Form 10-K filed with the SEC on March 15, 2007. The Form 10-K and the Company's other filings with the SEC can be found on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov. The Company assumes no obligation to update or supplement forward-looking statements that become untrue because of subsequent events.


Lonmark International Supports CABA's Building Intelligence Quotient

The Continental Automated Buildings Association is pleased to announce that LonMark International has become the first supporting organization for CABA's online Building Intelligence Quotient (BiQ) tool.

The BiQ is a ranking tool, available at www.caba.org/biq, which addresses the technology and automation components of a building. It is accessible to building owners, operators, managers and designers. The tool and its enhanced verification, training and award programs are designed to increase the market penetrability of intelligent building technologies and provide guidance to property managers.

As an official supporter, LonMark International will actively promote and encourage the use of the BiQ tool amongst the industry in general and its membership in particular. LonMark International is a non-profit trade association that advances the business of efficient and effective
integration of open, multi-vendor control systems, including those focused on building automation, utilizing ANSI/CEA 709.1 and related standards.

"Interest has been expressed in the concept of a building ranking system that evaluates and measures the intrinsic value of intelligent building performance," states Ron Bernstein, Executive Director of LonMark International. "We are proponents of this concept since we see it as broadening the range of specialized services and advice, specifically tailored to those interested in offering seamlessly connected building infrastructure."

LonMark International expects the ranking system to provide its membership with an objective means to evaluate and measure building performance and provide a design guide for the integration of building intelligence in new building projects and retrofits. LonMark International members will also benefit from an expanded marketplace.

"CABA is proud that LonMark International is supporting the BiQ tool," states Ronald J. Zimmer, CABA President & CEO. "We feel that the advanced methodology we employ to rank building intelligence will result in higher building value, improved comfort, security, flexibility and reliability while reducing costs and increasing productivity. This can only benefit LonMark International members by expanding the market for their products and services."

LonMark International members include manufacturers, integrators and users of control systems in a variety of industries, including building automation, security, lighting, home/white goods, elevators, mass transit, semiconductor manufacturing equipment, consumer appliances, sun blinds, energy metering, construction, commercial real estate, and industrial automation.

About CABA
CABA is the only industry association to offer industry intelligence to stakeholders in all areas of home & building automation. CABA's resources cover areas such as HVAC, lighting, security, A/V, communications technologies, energy management and controls. A number of resources are available through the association including iHomes & Buildings magazine, research, CABA's forums, CABA's monthly eBulletin, Information Series reports, Event Reports and the CABA web site. Please visit www.caba.org for further information.

About LonMark International
Since its inception in 1994, LonMark International has become a driving force in the establishment of interoperable guidelines for building, industrial, transportation and residential/utility automation. LonMark International is committed to educating the market on the value of open, interoperable systems and providing tools, resources, and support for its members. With over 500 members, LonMark affiliates span the globe with local presence in the Americas, Asia, and Europe. LonMark membership is open to any manufacturer, distributor, engineer, system integrator, or end-user interested in the development, specification, and use of open, interoperable products utilizing ANSI/CEA 709.1 and related standards.

Products that have been verified to conform to the LonMark interoperability guidelines are eligible to carry the LonMark logo. More information can be found at www.lonmark.org.


SMP Custom Design Group Has New Web Page

SMP Custom Design Group (CDG) is pleased to announce the completion of its new webpage located at www.smpdata.com/smp/CDG .  This new location details the capabilities of the CDG by specific areas of expertise.  Within these pages, you will find design and manufacturing capabilities for Copper Connectivity, Sheet Metal, Plastics, PCBs, Cable Assemblies and Fiber Optics.

The new Custom Design Group will be a highlight for SMP at BICSI in Las Vegas this month.  "This new initiative has already become the default resource for manufacturers needing to get products to market faster and more efficiently.  Known as the industry gathering place, BICSI provides the perfect forum for identifying the product and partnership opportunities that are the centerpiece for CDG."  - Bill Reynolds, V.P. and General Manager of SMP Data Communications

To schedule a meeting with a Custom Design Group Representative, please contact Brad Everette at 800-880-7674 x123 or e-mail your request to customdesigngroup@smpdata.com.

We look forward to seeing you in Vegas! Booth # 406


Para Systems Expands its Product Line

Unique Demonstration Rack with “Busy Box” shown at BICSI

Para Systems, Inc., a leader in power technology with its line of Minuteman® Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems, will exhibit several new lines of products at BICSI in Las Vegas, September 10-13 at the MGM Grand Hotel. Para Systems/Minuteman UPS will be in Booth 504, near the main entry to the BICSI show.

Visitors to Para Systems’ Minuteman booth will be able to see an active demonstration of a number of Minuteman UPS, power distribution, KVM , power management and software products under a variety of power conditions all installed in a rack.

The product introductions include:

·              A line of 10 Minuteman Surge Suppressors

The Minuteman surge suppressors can be categorized into four classifications. Below is a breakdown by classification:

§         Rotating receptacles - To alleviate the issue of plugging a number of multiple transformers “blocks” into a power strip without covering other outlets, four of the new Minuteman surge suppressors have rotating outlets which allow a user to rotate the outlet 90 degrees to the left or right to accommodate additional transformer blocks.

·              6-Rotating outlet surge suppressor with coax and phone line protection.   [MMS760RCT]

·              8-Outlet/6-rotating outlet surge suppressor [MMS780R]

·              10-Outlet/5-rotating outlet surge suppressor with phone line protection [MMS7100RT]

·              12-Outlet/8-rotating outlet surge suppressor with coax and phone line protection [MMS7120RCT]

§         Child safety” surge suppressors - avoid shock from accidental contact with electrical power.  Two of the new products feature outlets that require the sliding of a safety cover before a plug can be inserted into the surge suppressor.  This reduces the possibility of a child inserting an object into an outlet, resulting in harm to the individual. These surge suppressors are ideal for schools, child care facilities and homes with small children.  One of the units (model MMS370T) also has a connection to provide protection to a telephone line. The units are:

·              7-Outlet surge suppressor with “child safety” covers [MMS370]

·              7-Outlet surge suppressor with “child safety” covers and phone line protection [MMS370T]

§         Ruggedized surge suppressors - ideal for harsh environments

·              Ruggedized 7-outlet surge suppressor [MMS570]

§         Other

·              Single outlet wall tap surge suppressor [MMS110]

·              3-Outlet wall tap surge suppressor with coax protection [MMS130C]

·              6-Outlet surge suppressor “twin pack”[MMS362P]

·              Entrust™ Line Interactive UPS Systems are designed to support desktop/laptop workstations, small business phone systems, VoIP handsets, DVRs, cameras and network devices.

Cost-conscious users can now get the full features of larger, more expensive uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) with the compact, feature rich, Minuteman Entrust™ Line Interactive series. It has the features necessary to fully protect valuable and [power-sensitive equipment and provides voltage regulation, spike and surge protection and battery backup.

Packed with features typically found only in higher-priced UPS products, the Entrust Line Interactive UPS series is available in four sizes:

1.       ETR500 UPS rated at 500 VA/300Watts – 8 Amps

2.       ETR700 UPS rated at 700 VA/420Watts – 10 Amps

3.       ETR1000 UPS rated at 1000 VA/600Watts – 12 Amps

4.       ETR1500 UPS rated at 1500 VA/900Watts – 12 Amps

Each unit has four outlets that provide backup battery support along with spike and surge protection. There are an additional four spike and surge protected outlets for accessory devices that don’t require battery support. In addition, two of the outlets are specifically spaced to support equipment with transformer blocks.

·              EnterprisePlus™ Line Interactive UPS Systemsa rackmount line of interactive UPS available in 750VA – to 3000VA (Both 120V and 208V models available)

The Minuteman EnterprisePlus™ Series UPS is an exciting new UPS line that provides users all the features, usually available in higher-priced UPS products, to protect valuable equipment, offering voltage regulation, spike and surge protection and battery backup.

Ideal for small and medium sized business, voice over the Internet (VoIP), telephone switches as well as enterprise networks and servers, the EnterprisePlus™ Line Interactive UPS systems expands and improves on the foundation of the earlier Enterprise UPS product line.

The EnterprisePlus Line Interactive UPS series has five 120VAC models and two 208VAC models:

·              E750RM2U UPS rated at 750 VA/600Watts – 120VAC – 6 UPS outlets

·              E1000RM2U UPS rated at 1000 VA/800Watts - 120VAC– 6 UPS outlets

·              E1500RM2U UPS rated at 1500 VA/1200Watts – both 120VAC and 208VAC– 6 UPS outlets

·              E2000RM2U UPS rated at 2000 VA/1760Watts - 120VAC– 7 UPS outlets

·              E3000RM2U UPS rated at 3000 VA/2560Watts - both 120VAC and 208VAC– 7 UPS outlets

The Minuteman® EnterprisePlus™ line interactive uninterruptible power supply (UPS) combines line interactive technology with industry-leading features in a versatile case design that allows the units to be installed in many different formats and environments. It occupies on 2U in a traditional 17-inch rack. 

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For over 25 years, Para Systems, Inc. has provided quality power products with excellent personalized service and direct human response to all service and support calls.  Minuteman products pass extensive quality control testing before being shipped to customers.

Major Features of the new surge suppressors include:

·              UL 1449 certified -

·              Wall mountable – all of the new surge suppressors are wall mountable, thus

·              Telephone/Fax/Modem Line Protection – Several of the new surge suppressors provide protection for coax, phone lines, fax lines and modem lines.

·              RoHS Compliant – Recognizing the need to promote environmental responsibility, Minuteman surge suppression products are manufactured in accordance with RoHS guidelines. 

·              Minuteman Support - Para Systems includes full end-user support that includes toll-free technical service from our headquarters in Carrollton, Texas.

·              Warranty - The UPS is covered by three-year parts and labor warranty and a $50,000 Minuteman Platinum Protection Plan® for connected equipment (U.S.A. and Canada only). The battery is covered by a two-year warranty.

Low costs and unique features makes the Minuteman® surge suppressors a value leader in the UPS industry, with end-user pricing between $7.00 and $60.00. The Minuteman® surge suppressors are in stock and ready for immediate delivery.

[Photos of the new surge suppressors are available at our website: www.minutemanups.com/media or contact Bob Martin at 972.446.7363 ext. 240 or bmartin@minutemanups.com]

Background.

Para Systems, Inc. is a leading provider of power technologies including the Minuteman® Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) for mission-critical equipment protection such as computers, telecommunications systems, security systems and internet devices.  Minuteman® UPS products range from 325VA standby units to true sine wave, line interactive, and on-line models rated up to 10kVA.  

Para Systems provides SentryPlus™ remote power and network management controller software for all popular operating systems including Microsoft® Windows®, Novell, Unix, and Linux. Para Systems also sells power distribution units (PDU), power management software, keyboard-video-mouse (KVM) systems and surge suppressors.

Additional corporate and product information is available at the Company’s website www.minutemanups.com. A free UPS sizing and selection tool is available at www.sizemyups.com that can determine which Minuteman® UPS units can best meet your application's power protection needs and www.comparemyups.com can compare features to competitive products.

Minuteman® UPS and Minuteman Platinum Protection Plan are registered trademarks and EnSpire and SentryPlus are trademarks of Para Systems, Inc. Other trademarks are registered by their respective companies.


NJATC 18th Annual National Training Institute Focuses On Future Of Electrical Industry

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) for the Electrical Industry opened its annual National Training Institute (NTI) on August 2, 2007, in Knoxville TN.   A joint partnership between the NJATC, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the University of Tennessee, the NTI provides instructor training for the more than 4,000 men and women teaching in 285 training centers throughout North America.

Courses during the week-long NTI focus on advancing the knowledge of the instructional staff that trains both apprentice and journey-level electrical workers at the various NJATC centers.  Currently, the NJATC has more than 41,000 apprentices in the United States and Canada who are preparing to become journey-level workers.

Says Dr. Gerald Cheek, Director of Professional Education for the NTI,  “The Institute provides instructors not only with theoretical training on how adults learn but the practical classroom skills they need to plan, develop, present and evaluate training effectiveness.”  Faculty from more than 45 universities across the United States conduct NTI professional education courses that cover a broad range of topics, from lesson plan development to the use of multimedia tools in classroom presentations.

In addition, the NTI provides instructors with up-to-the-minute technical training on a variety of subjects critical to the electrical industry.  This year’s NTI encompassed more than 30 courses covering such topics as Fiber Optic Cable Installation, AutoCad, Fire Alarm Systems, Installing Grid-Connected Photovoltaic Systems and more.

In addition, the NTI features a Trade Show with more than 100 NJATC training partners showcasing the latest products and services for the electrical industry.  Among the leading companies participating in this year’s show were Klein Tools, Cooper Bussmann, Underwriters Laboratories, Salisbury, Ideal Industries, Fluke and Westex.

ABOUT IBEW, NECA and NJATC
Through their joint marketing organization – the National Labor-Management Cooperation Committee (NLMCC) of the organized electrical construction industry – NECA and IBEW together work to:

  • Reach customers with accurate information about the industry; and


  • Achieve better internal communication between labor and management

With 725,000 members who work in a wide variety of fields – including construction, utilities, telecommunications and manufacturing – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is among the largest member unions in the AFL-CIO. The IBEW was founded in 1891. For more information, visit www.ibew.org.

Voice of the $100 billion industry responsible for bringing lighting, power and communications to buildings and communities across the United States, the National Electrical Contractors Association was founded in 1901.  NECA’s national office and 119 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research and standards development. For more information, visit www.necanet.org.

The mission of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) is to develop and standardize training to educate the members of the IBEW and NECA, ensuring and providing the electrical construction industry with the most highly trained and highly skilled workforce possible.  For more information, visit www.njatc.org.


Graybar Continues To Improve Profitability In First Half of 2007 With Increased Supply Chain & Enterprise Efficiencies

Graybar, one of the nation’s leading distributors of electrical and communications products and related supply chain management and logistics services, reported $2.56 billion net sales in the first six months of 2007, an increase of 5.1 percent over the same period in 2006. 

Net sales improved along with moderate growth in the electrical and communications/data markets. In comparison to the first half of 2006, income from operations grew 25.5 percent and net income rose 37.4 percent during the first six months of 2007 to $76.4 million and $39.7 million, respectively.

“Our efforts to work more efficiently are producing positive results, and we continue to leverage our investment in technology,” said Robert A. Reynolds Jr., chairman, president and chief executive officer of Graybar. “Our employee-owners continue to find more ways to use our Enterprise Resource Planning system to deliver more advantages to our customers.”

Reynolds said Graybar’s commitment to organic growth, continuous improvement and the advanced use of technology will help the company build on its success through the rest of 2007. http://graybar.com/


Wind Power Sailing Toward Another Record Year

With help from the federal renewable energy tax credit, as well as state regulations favoring the industry, wind power continues to set new records for installed capacity. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), 2007 could be the industry’s biggest year so far in terms of new installations. Last year, new wind farms accounted for nearly 2,500 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity, bringing the nation’s installed capacity to more than 11,603 MW and making the industry the second largest source of new power generation in the country behind only natural gas.

Although only 124 MW of new wind power was commissioned in the first quarter of this year, the AWEA reports more than 4,500 MW of wind power projects are in the process of being built for completion this year and early next year.

The industry group attributes much of the steady growth to the extension of the federal renewable energy production tax credit, which has provided the financial incentive for new development on a consistent basis for several years. Renewable portfolio standards and other state regulations also have contributed to the favorable climate for wind power.

According to the AWEA, a number of states have major projects in the works. Texas, the nation’s wind power leader, currently has 4,000 MW of capacity under construction. Nearby, Colorado and Oklahoma are projected to add as much as 1,000 MW and 215 MW of capacity, respectively, by the end of the year.

In the Midwest, Minnesota is adding 400 MW of capacity, and more than 300 MW is being built in nearby Iowa. Illinois currently has several projects under construction totaling more than 400 MW of capacity.

In the Northwest, Oregon, Washington and Montana all have projects being developed. Oregon and Washington each could have more than 300 MW of new capacity online when their projects are completed.

Another 300 MW of new wind power capacity could come online at the end of the year on the East Coast. New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia each have projects underway ranging in size from 20 MW to 164 MW of capacity.    EC

—Rick Laezman

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Care And Feeding Of Fiber Optics

Here is one word of advice I offer to anyone asking about maintenance of fiber optic networks: DON’T! Some people have suggested fiber optic networks need periodic inspection of connectors, mating adapters and even testing or taking optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) traces. That advice is misguided. It could hurt the network or cause you to be sued by an irate owner whose network you bring down or cable plant you damage.

Do you think the telcos have crews out checking fiber networks to see if the connectors and splices are OK? How about the military on tactical systems in Iraq? Is there a Captain Nemo aboard the Nautilus checking submarine cables? Of course not.

Fiber systems are designed to be installed and never touched unless something damages them—e.g., the infamous “backhoe fade” of buried outside plant cables.

In the early days of fiber optics, some network owners tried building automatic monitoring systems to keep tabs on the loss of the cable plant. That idea faded when fiber proved to be more reliable than copper cabling and the network communications manufacturers built into their equipment monitors for data transmission, a better indicator of problems.

Let me give you some reasons why you do not want to try to perform maintenance on any fiber optic network.

Most inspection procedures require bringing the network down, unacceptable in almost every instance. Telcos have backup links running alongside operational links, and the equipment will switch over to the backup if it senses high errors on the main link. Do you know any premises networks set up like that? Want to bring down a gigabit LAN backbone fast? Unplug a fiber optic connector to inspect it with a microscope. See how long it takes the network manager to find you.

Most harm to installed fiber optic systems (and copper also) is done by unskilled or clumsy personnel during handling. I heard of one network that crashed when a company executive disconnected a fiber connector to show it to a visitor being escorted around the facility. I know of workers accidentally backing into patch panels and breaking cables at the junction to the connector. I have seen connectors dropped on the floor, breaking the ceramic ferrule. I have helped troubleshoot broken fibers in splice closures caused during repairs of other fibers.

It is easy to get dirt into mating adapters or on connectors whenever they are exposed to the air. Fiber technicians are taught to keep connections clean after termination, cover connector ferrules and mating adapters with dust caps and clean the ferrule end whenever it is opened to the air. If dirt is such a big problem (and airborne dirt is the size of the core of single-mode fiber), why risk contaminating operating connectors by exposing them to the air to see if they are dirty?

Mating and unmating may wear the connector interfaces, affecting optical performance. Ferrule end faces rubbing against the mating connector and the outside of the ferrule scraping materials off the alignment sleeve in the mating adapter—especially with adapters using cheap plastic alignment bushings, which are good for only a few mating cycles—can cause higher loss.

Links operating at gigabit and higher speeds generally use 850 nm VCSELs, which are relatively high-power lasers at a wavelength near the high end of human eye sensitivity, still visible to some people. Using a high-power microscope, such as a 400×, concentrates the light into the eye, increasing the risk of eye damage, especially if you are not able to see this wavelength. If a link being inspected is “hot,” the consequences could be bad. Anyway, a 400× microscope is overkill—it’s the maximum magnification you would use to inspect single-mode connectors during termination; 100–200× generally is considered the maximum for connector inspection.

The fiber link loss may be different when a link is reassembled after inspection, especially with connectors that have spring-loaded ferrules like STs. Inspecting a connection could lead to higher loss than initially measured and potentially affect data transfer on systems such as gigabit Ethernet and 10G Ethernet where loss margins are very low.

As for testing with an OTDR for maintenance inspection, well, some telcos do that automatically on spare fibers in outside plant cables that run tens or hundreds of kilometers through desolate regions. An OTDR is inappropriate for most premises systems under any circumstances (as I have discussed in several columns this year) and often causes more problems than it solves.

Finally, if you have a problem with dust in a telecom closet, room or data center, you have a poorly designed facility that should be fixed with proper sealing, filtration and air conditioning. You should not try to fix it with a feather duster.

One more time: What periodic maintenance should be done on fiber optic networks? All together now: NONE!           EC

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

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Design/Build Teamwork Sharpens Winning Edge

As Today’s growing project-delivery method, much is said about design/build’s inherent advantages. However, its success rests on the shoulders of a winning team. While it is the coach’s responsibility to recruit and manage the team, members have to roll up their sleeves, play their position and perform to a certain set of expectations. Nobody builds a bridge alone.

“If teamwork is so important on Sunday afternoon, why isn’t it important on Monday morning? It’s every bit as important on the job site as it is on the football field,” said Lee Evey, president of the Design-Build Institute of America and self-professed football fan.

Electrical contractors are suiting up to join design/build teams in large numbers. According 2006 Electrical Contractor Design/Build Survey, about eight in 10 electrical contracting firms worked on a design/build or design/assist basis. On average, design/build work accounts for 82 percent of revenue for electrical contractors who work primarily on a design/build basis, and it comprises 43 percent of an electrical contractor’s revenue overall.

Full team ahead

Teaming is becoming a very important aspect of design/build work, and the list of benefits of developing a focused team approach is long and growing:

 Improved quality

 Upfront design input

 Cost and time savings

 Better risk management

 Pooling of resources and expertise

 Larger projects and expanded markets

 Opportunities for better coordination and communication

 Potential for reduced administrative burden during construction and claims reduction

While there are a variety of ways electrical contractors become involved with a design/build project, the most likely scenario is contracting power, communications or control services with a general contractor who acts as the design/builder or “coach” of the project.

According to Jim Whitaker, vice president and architect at New Jersey-based Skanska USA Building Inc., general contractors are increasingly interested in teamed arrangements for a number of reasons, especially with design/build projects.

“First, the parties absolutely must have a mutual understanding of business philosophies and practices, which on some level, could be considered more important to a successful relationship than the project-specific performance requirements. Two, a collaborative relationship helps the parties reasonably attribute risk to the party best apt to properly manage it, such as scope of work, insurance, bonding and design requirements,” Whitaker said. Third, teams have a commonality and combined strength of purpose when they all focus on the same goals.

“The team and project function better. Also, individuals and firms who have teamed before are immediately more effective than those that are new to one another,” he said.

Teaming’s new playbook

In most cases, the desire to participate in a team goes both ways, said Dr. Thomas E. Glavinich, Electrical Contractor contributing editor and electrical engineer who teaches power engineering and construction management at the University of Kansas.

“Contractors are becoming more aware of the need for a team on a design/build project, and the team and how it is structured is becoming an increasingly important consideration for specialty contractors,” Glavinich said.

Compared to the traditional design/bid/build processes, there are a few more people involved. Generally, the players taking a seat at the table include architects, consultants, engineers, information technology representatives, electrical contractors and mechanical contractors. Even if the roster doesn’t seem much different from other methods, what has changed are the expectations.

Like other design/build or design/assist subcontractors, electrical contractors are not only expected to add value to the overall project and contribute any expertise that will make the team structure flatter and faster, but there is more focus on delivering greater impact much earlier in the process.

“The electrical contractor should be engaged and consulting with the design/build team and design engineer-of-record, in particular, for every decision, starting with the primary service and connection to the public utility through what devices to use as switches and outlets,” Whitaker said. “The electrical contractor must provide constructability commentary in concert with other trades, design recommendations based upon experience, product availability, engineer’s criteria and immediate marketplace pricing for materials and labor.”

According to Dave Hearn, president of Baker Electric, Des Moines, Iowa, the convergence of a design/build culture with the advent of design software has expanded the opportunity for design input from electrical contractors. Typically, Hearn’s internal team interfaces most closely with architects and mechanical contractors, but he has identified a collaborative design trend that is gaining popularity and is having a dynamic impact on electrical contractors.

The collaborative design process begins with the owner, architect, consultant and engineering firm, creating a concept with a general narrative. The concept is then provided to the general contractor to finish the design and complete construction. Unlike earlier design/build processes, a collaborative design allows consultants and engineering firms to step back into the equation.

“The difference is you have both entities involved because of their ability to do a conceptual engineering thought. This gives the owner a greater comfort level on the front end to at least get the roots and trunk under their auspices before turning it over to contractors to facilitate the remaining designs and construction. It allows the job to progress faster as well,” Hearn said.

Although electrical contractors play a much more integral role in the design process, some experts point out the need for cautious participation with agreements depending upon capabilities.

William Ferguson Jr., a partner in the law firm of McCarter & English LLP and instructor of the “Design Build: Strategies, Risks, and Rewards” course for the NECA Management Education Institute, noted that under the traditional design/bid/build approach, there is an increasing trend of owners and design professionals to attempt to shift design responsibility to the electrical contractor.

Ferguson said risk-shifting provisions found in various contracts have resulted in an effort to transfer design responsibility to the general contractor or subcontractor.

Team dynamics

Teaming makes a measurable difference in a project’s level of success; however, it is important to remember a team is only as strong as its members. Understanding relationships, specifically how personality types differ between architects and contractors over the years, gives insight into the teaming now required on projects, said Benjamin Wilking, AIA, vice president and director of design/build for Lantz-Boggio Architects Corporate Services, Englewood, Colo.

Those relationships have not always been the best, said Wilking, but understanding personalities and processes involved can make a difference. Building a relationship takes time, but once established, a level of trust evolves that can create confidence.

“Teaming and subsequent interdependency is the one feature of design/build that sets it apart from any other delivery method. For example, teaming means the architect understands the contractor’s desire to be profitable, and the contractor understands the architect’s desire to maintain the highest level of design on each project,” Wilking said.

Team communication is further enhanced in the design/build process through e-mail, electronic design sharing and regular meetings that bring everyone, including key field personnel, together in one room to discuss design changes.

“Once the design is off and running, the project manager takes over. In a lot of cases, that’s the same person for us, so there’s a certain continuity on the team from beginning to the end,” Hearn said.

Teaming, however, is like any relationship. There always is a chance that personalities could conflict or something else could go wrong.

“When you’re selected to perform this service, it’s an honor, so everybody comes into the team with their shiniest shoes and their best personality. Everybody tries to get along and impress the customer, because we all want future work. In the end, if you burn too many bridges, you run out of ways to get across the river,” Hearn said.             EC

McClung, owner of Woodland Communications, is a construction writer from Iowa. She can be reached at mcclung@lisco.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August  issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Gaining Respect with Specs: Specifying gives ECs both responsibility and risk

No one understands products, brands and manufacturers better Than the professionals responsible for installing products on the job site. As electrical contractors, your experience—and the experience of your trusted electricians and cable technicians—tells you which products, brands and manufacturers deliver and which ones fall short.

In years past, you had to deal with whatever was specified by someone up the food chain, even if you knew the product was junk. Today, your opinion about products, once an afterthought when something went wrong, is valued like never before.

As an electrical contractor, when you work in a design/build or design/assist capacity, the general contractors (GCs), owners, engineers and architects who hire you increasingly trust you to specify the products and brands you will ultimately install. The notion of the electrical contractor being nothing more than an “installer” is antiquated and quickly fading from the construction psyche with each successful project.

A nationwide trend reinforces that change in mindset. Increasingly, electrical contractors carry more weight when it comes to deciding brands and manufacturers. Perhaps that is because GCs and owners have been burdened with callbacks and change orders in the past. Perhaps it is a way to shift responsibility to the people closest to the installation. 

Owners and GCs are handing off specs in design/build partnerships with electrical contractors, in part, because the liability lies with you. In a design/build contract, the electrical contractor takes on more liability if something goes wrong. Therefore, you should not be asked to install inferior products and still shoulder that burden. Increasingly, you might have more responsibility when it comes to specifying products, but that responsibility comes with a risk. You must specify products from brands and manufacturers on which you can stake your reputation.

Recent design/build and design/assist research points to an increased role of electrical contractors in the specification of products and brands. According to a 2005 survey conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), design/build work in nonresidential design and construction in the United States is racing toward a monumental collision in 2010. The institute’s research indicates traditional design/bid/build work will account for 45 percent of projects while design/build will account for an equal percentage, marking the first time the two construction methods will be on equal footing. The remaining 10 percent will be done in a construction management method.

When you look at historical data beginning in 1985, it is easy to see the significance of 2010. In 1985, about 80 percent of all construction was conducted on a design/bid/build basis. The budding design/build contract method accounted for a mere 5 percent at the time. Ten years later, the gap had closed, with 65 percent of the work done the traditional way and design/build work accounting for 25 percent.

The DBIA’s projections indicate that 50 percent of nonresidential design and construction in the United States will be done on a design/build basis by 2015. Juxtaposed with that trend, design/bid/build work, which stood at 50 percent of the market in 2005, will shrink to 40 percent in market share. In other words, the two types of construction methods will have effectively switched places—with design/build taking over the majority of jobs.

If this trend continues—and there is no indication that it will not—by 2020, it will be a 60-30 split with design/build dominating market share. This is the direct opposite of the market-share breakdown circa 1997. Crystal balls aside, we clearly can follow the trend and see more design/build work for electrical contractors moving forward. One of the leading fuels for this design/build trend is profitability. 

According to ZweigWhite’s 2004 Design/Build Survey of Design & Construction Firms, 70 percent of firms surveyed believe design/build projects are more profitable than traditional projects. That profitability factored into 80 percent of the respondents predicting an increase in design/build construction over the next five years. Simply put, higher margins through design/build feed the bottom line better than traditional design/bid/build work.

According to recent original research conducted by Renaissance Research & Consulting for ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine, 43 percent of electrical contractors’ revenue came under either a design/build or design/assist banner. The vast majority came from design/build work rather than design/assist.

The overall trend that shows an upturn in design/build activity also lends credence to electrical contractors’ expanding their role as specifier. Your reputation and qualifications to work in a design/build capacity are critical in an owner’s selection process. Your design/build success, therefore, will land you more design/build jobs. Your ability to specify the right products that deliver the desired result can make the difference between success and litigation. Through ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR surveys, we are able to drill down into this trend to determine how much influence ECs have on specifications.

Completeness of plans and specs

In 2006, this magazine commissioned research to explore the evolving role in design/build and design/assist projects among electrical contractors. The results speak volumes. For each of the building types—single family, multifamily and commercial/industrial and institutional (CII)—ECs who work on a design/build or design/assist basis are significantly more likely to say the plans and specs they now receive are less complete compared with what they received five years ago. This information confirms the integral role ECs who provide design services play in today’s construction projects.

In comparison, electrical contractors who do not provide design services are more likely to say plans and specs for single-family and for CII projects have not changed in the past five years. Note that neither group is significantly different from the other on plans and specs that are more complete.

More than 20 percent of electrical contractors who work on residential projects say the plans and specs they receive are less complete than what they received five years ago. More than half say there is no difference, and 20 percent say the plans and specs are more complete. Among those who work in this area, 30 percent say CII plans and specs are less complete than they were five years ago, while 40 percent say they are no different. Less than 20 percent say those CII plans are more complete.

On average, a single brand is specified only 20 percent of the time. In all other cases, other factors come into play. It is also worth noting that a single brand specification is far more common among firms with fewer than 10 employees than among larger firms.

Electrical contractors increasingly have discretion when it comes to specifying brands. Survey respondents said they are able to make brand substitutions about 70 percent of the time, which translates into GCs and owners trusting their electrical contractor partners to make the right decision on substitutions. Seventy percent is a very substantial number when you look back in time to when design/build was such a small part of the overall construction market.

Brand and manufacturer when configuring

When working on or designing systems where a multiple, equal to, or performance specification is indicated, how often do electrical contractors try to stay within a single brand or single manufacturer? The 2006 Profile of the Electrical Contractor survey asked that question. Regardless of company size, 45 percent of the respondents said it depends on the situation.

The remaining 55 percent differs by company size; smaller firms are significantly more likely than their larger counterparts to try to stay within a single brand. Companies with 10 or more employees are more likely to say they try to stay within a single manufacturer.

Original selection and substitution

Availability and price are the top reasons for “original” brand selection, according to the research. Seventy percent of electrical contractors selected each of those two categories as either their first, second or third reason for initially selecting a brand. Ease of installation, prior experience, durability and manufacturer reputation form a second tier of reasoning (each was chosen by 40 percent or more as a top reason for initial brand selection).

Availability and price also are the top reasons for brand substitution. However, in this case, availability eclipses price. Availability and price are more important as reasons for substituting a brand than for its initial specification. Conversely, ease of installation, prior experience, and durability and manufacturer reputation assume higher importance. Time considerations play less of a role in the original brand selection than they do in substitution, for obvious reasons. Specific features assume more importance when making a substitution than in the original specification.

These findings underscore the significance that product, brand and manufacturer play among electrical contractors in the design/build arena. ECs are very loyal to the products, brands and manufacturers that have served them over the years in their businesses. If a manufacturer delivers a product that contractors have grown to use and trust, that brand and manufacturer likely will get the nod the next time the contractor has to make a decision.

What also is clear in all this data is that electrical contractors are more critical to overall design/build success than ever before. With design/build work becoming a majority of the overall market in the foreseeable future, electrical contractors will be counted on to specify the right products and, therefore, make design/build projects move more smoothly to completion. It is both a challenge and an opportunity. Are you ready to capitalize on it?     EC

KELLY, former editor of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, is a Baltimore-based freelance writer. Reach him at writerjmk44@comcast.net.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Growing Green By Giant Leaps

In an attempt to make amends with the environment, the U.S. government may be attempting too much of a leap.

Bills pending before the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s legislative houses would mandate a 1,250 percent increase over the next 15 years in the solar requirements to be provided by electric utilities. The price tag for this additional requirement for power distribution companies could conservatively increase generation costs by $172 million and as much as $426 million.

A study by the Energy Association of Pennsylvania found using the current price for solar in New Jersey, which is 22 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), would increase generation rates by an additional $172 million. And, using the figure often used by solar advocates of 50 cents per kWh, the solar generation legislative mandate could yield increased electric consumer rates of up to $426 million over the next 15 years.

“While we laud the legislature and governor for looking at greener energy solutions, unfortunately, right now, their efforts are very costly to today’s rate payers,” said Michael Love, president of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, a trade group representing the Commonwealth’s PUC-regulated electric companies.

The cost of solar energy and other renewable energies is known to be high. While the benefits are long term, the concern is this may be too dramatic of an upfront cost. According to Love, Senate Bill 715 and House Bill 1203 would increase electric rates without helping create a market for solar power to thrive. In addition, a Carnegie Mellon study released in the spring of 2007 concluded that solar energy has costs five to 10 times higher than costs of other low-carbon technologies, such as wind.

Love proposed a solution: “If our government wishes to increase the solar energy generation resources, then the government must commit to greater utilization of solar in its own facilities to help grow this emerging technology.”

So far, we have seen some of that solution, such as the Senate’s intended greening of the Capitol building.   EC

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


In The Drivers Seat; Residential Automation Is profitable For Electrical Contractors

By Russ Munyan

Electrical contractors at the forefront of their industry understand the need to keep abreast of new trends and technologies. Research demonstrates there are profitable opportunities for contractors who offer electrical services that builders and project owners need, but that are outside the realm of traditional work.

Consider residential automation. The 2006 Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) State of the Builder Technology Market Survey reports that, in 2006, homebuilders significantly increased their offerings in the areas of home automation, automated lighting controls and energy management, all of which can be provided by either electrical contractors or specialty contractors. Despite a sharp reduction in new housing starts in 2006 (down 14 percent from 2005), overall adoption of installed home technology continued to increase, with more builders offering more home technologies (such as residential automation) than ever before.

While the National Association of Home Builders projects the new housing market to decrease another 11 percent in 2007, growth is predicted to continue in the consumer electronics industry in 2007 by 6.5 percent. Discerning electrical contractors may determine this is a place to reclaim revenue lost in the soft building market. Builders may be building fewer houses, but technologies like residential automation can allow ECs on the cutting edge to make more money on each project, especially as homeowners turn to remodels and retrofits to make their current homes more up to date.

Types of automation

Many technologies and devices fit under the umbrella title of “residential automation.” Perhaps the oldest and most established of these integrated technologies is whole-house lighting systems, which dim and/or turn lights on or off or control lights in groups; both ambiance and energy savings are the attractive elements of this feature. Residential automation also includes video and audio distribution systems, with which homeowners may select incoming or stored videos or music for distribution at varying locations and volumes.

On the purely functional side, residential automation also can include security and surveillance systems, through which homeowners can check security zones from anywhere at any time, arm and disarm the system, bypass zones, and send panic messages in an emergency. Similarly, an interfaced camera system can supply views of a person at the front door or pool area as well as monitor a nursery or an elderly parent’s sitting room from anywhere in (or away from) the house.

The modern energy economy and the desire to be more green make the climate control option of residential automation attractive. It allows a user to check the weather forecast and current temperature (indoor and out), then manage thermostat settings and schedule temperature adjustments accordingly. It can manage daylighting and shading devices, as well, such as automatically closing blinds to block direct afternoon sunlight in the summer, and then reopen them to maximize lighting in the morning.

Perhaps the best analogy for the potential of home automation is to compare it to the automation that we all expect in a quality automobile. From the driver’s seat, a user is within an arm’s reach of seamless integrated access to individualized climate zones, a complete distributed and customizable audio system, headlights that come on and off automatically in response to the environment, GPS systems, and remotely controlled locks and windows. In fact, these conveniences no longer impress us; it is only their absence that draws our attention—and irritation. Residential automation firms boast that they can provide that level of convenience, control and security to homeowners.

Delivery systems

There are three types of delivery systems for residential automation: powerline carrier systems, wireless and those hardwired with communications cable.

There are multiple powerline carrier systems, including established technologies such as X10 and Universal Powerline Bus (UPB). X10 signals involve short radio frequency (RF) bursts over power lines, which represent digital information. The UPB method transmits digitally encoded information as a series of electrical pulses (called UPB pulses) that are superimposed on top of the normal AC power waveform (sine wave). Both of these systems—but not all powerline carrier systems—are nonproprietary, each with hundreds of compatible devices on the market from multiple manufacturers.

Wireless systems include Z-Wave, an interoperable wireless communication protocol that uses RF wireless transmissions and was developed by the Danish company Zensys. The Z-Wave Alliance is a consortium of more than 125 independent manufacturers who have agreed to build wireless home control products based on the Z-Wave open standard for all types of devices.

Hardwired systems (with structured communications cables) that do not use wireless technology certainly can exist in theory, but in reality, it is hardwired/IP wireless hybrid systems that will dominate in our increasingly Wi-Fi/cell phone/ZigBee-driven world. IP-based systems currently are playing catchup to other pre-existing systems (X10 was developed in 1975), but who doubts that IP/wireless technology is the wave of the future in many areas of life, despite its comparatively recent arrival? IP-based systems include manufacturers and products such as Lifeware, Control4 and Crestron.

Tying it all together

Simple automation (such as devices that require individual dedicated remotes and/or keypads) and automation systems of years past tend to lack sophistication due to insufficient integration. PC-based platforms with graphic interfaces have changed that, making modern automation systems highly integrated, visual and easy to use.

For example, some IP-based systems use Windows Media Center Edition (MCE), which comes preinstalled on a Microsoft Windows Media Center personal computer. It functions out of the box as an all-in-one PC and entertainment center for an entire home. The Windows Media Center offers all of the computing power of Windows (including Windows-based programs, Internet browsing, e-mail access, etc.), while also enabling home digital entertainment on a PC (such as watching DVDs, recording TV, listening to music, sharing digital photos and the like). Using the Media Center Edition, systems such as Lifeware interconnect electronic devices throughout a home to a single brain that users can control from devices, such as a TV screen, an office PC or laptop, PDA, touchpanel or an Xbox 360.

Whatever platform an automation system uses, the quality of its graphics makes all the difference in its appeal and acceptance by users/homeowners.

“The graphic user interface is critical,” said Kerry Moyer, senior director of strategic relationships with the Consumer Electronics Association.

Money on the table

The continuing computer revolution, the Internet boom and the wireless boom have changed the entire landscape for residential automation in recent years. What used to be an exclusive creature comfort for the affluent now is affordable for much of the middle class.

But, few electrical contractors have demonstrated much interest in residential automation systems. That leaves Ralph Peragine, director of technical service with the Long Island-based Smart Home Systems, shaking his head: “[Electrical contractors] need to realize that it is all just low-voltage electrical work.”

“This is an open-ended market,” he said. “Standard installations of our systems easily range from $5,000–$30,000 for materials alone, with many installs costing more than that. Why would an EC want to do all the work of putting in the electrical and low-voltage cable that will service an automation system and then leave the profits of providing the actual system to another contractor?” The 2006 CEA State of the Builder Technology Market Survey reports that the average home automation installation costs more than $7,000.

Similarly, documentation from Lifeware reads, “Other than the building contractor, the electrician is one of the first contractors consulted during the planning of a new home or remodel of an existing one. For this reason, the ability [of the electrical contractor] to upsell its role in the building process to include installation of lighting, distributed audio or even an entire connected home network makes each project more profitable and provides a valuable stream of revenue ... . It’s simply a matter of asking homeowners if they are interested in upgrading [to a home automation system].”

“We would love to work with more electrical contractors,” Peragine said. 

“[However,] the systems that we sell are designed to be understandable by entry-level installers. They are accessible, understandable and profitable. And they are not going away, so someone is going to make money off of them,” he said.

Peragine is not alone in his passion. Most residential automation manufacturers and distributors are eager to add additional certified installers. They recognize electrical contractors are an untapped resource, and they believe their industry offers mutually beneficial opportunities to ECs. Training times for certification vary, depending on the manufacturer.

Research supports them in that position. Referring again to the 2006 CEA State of the Builder Technology Market Survey, it is contractors—not builders—who are marketing home technologies to new homebuyers. Statistically speaking, there are simply no builders (0 percent) who proactively market new home technologies, and very few (6 percent) even provide information on home automation to homebuyers upon request. Instead, they rely exclusively on the installation contractors to market and sell home technologies to new homebuyers.

Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of those same builders (84 percent) say home technologies are important in marketing new homes and that they are having a positive impact on builders’ revenues. More than 40 percent believe home technology offerings increased their revenues, and most agree home technologies have become an indispensable tool for marketing new homes and a necessity for competing in the marketplace.

Though electrical contractors will need to decide for themselves if residential automation is an industry they should pursue, there is profit-making opportunity there. Contractors that need or are seeking additional revenue sources may do well to consider this growing field.     EC

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.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


NECA Convention To Light Up San Francisco

From Oct. 5 to 8, 2007, if there is an electrical problem in San Francisco, there will be plenty of electricians on hand to help. Those are the dates of this year’s National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) convention and trade show, and if you have not registered already, there still is time to be a part of what may be one of the biggest shows of the year. NECA has planned some exciting events, many taking place for the first time ever in direct response to attendee demand.

NECA is devoting a full day to the alternative energy and sustainable building trend. “Think Green” day on Sunday, Oct 7 will offer technical workshops on alternative energy topics. Also, the “Green Alley” section of the show floor will showcase the latest innovations and products. And, it is appropriate that California is playing host for this “Think Green” day, as it has been the United States’ biggest proponent of green building and alternative energy thus far.

For the first time, NECA will host a Labor Relations Town Hall meeting, where attendees will have an opportunity to hear directly from NECA and IBEW leaders on current and critical issues. The hosts also will invite those in the audience to share concerns and opinions.

The NECA show also will feature some big names. NASCAR driver Alli Owens will step on the brakes long enough to visit the NECA trade show floor, sign autographs and meet with the leaders of the industry she is helping to promote. As a spokesperson for ElectrifyingCareers.com, a Web site devoted to getting young people interested in electrical careers, she is helping to keep the electrical work force up in numbers. Her No. 22 race car will be parked on the show floor at booth No. 939.

National Football League Hall-of-Famer Steve Young will kick off the opening general session of the NECA convention and trade show on Sat., Oct. 6. Young will speak on how to create a championship team. With three Super Bowl rings, Young knows the keys to winning in a very competitive environment. Whether you are a 49ers fan or not, attendees will benefit from what Young has to say.

On the final day, Nando Parrado will speak about teamwork, determination and leadership. You may not recognize the name, but you know the story. Thirty years ago, a plane transporting the Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes Mountains. More than two months passed until their rescue. This story became a best-selling book and motion picture titled “Alive.” Parrado, who published his own memoir last year, will speak on doing what it takes, even the previously unthinkable, to defeat even the most competitive opponents—death. In your case—financial failure.

When all of the business of learning and networking is over, the many personalities of popular comedian Dana Carvey will take the stage in the Masonic Auditorium at the closing celebration on Oct. 8. Carvey is best known for the six years he worked on “Saturday Night Live,” playing such notable characters as the Church Lady; Hans, the Austrian body builder; Garth Algar of Wayne’s World; and even the 41st president of the United States, George H. W. Bush. His appearance is sure to be something special that will certainly “pump you up.” No way, you say? Way.

This year’s NECA convention and trade show certainly is not to be missed. To register or get more information, visit www.necaconvention.org.            EC

 Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


On The Edge Of Greatness: Technology Fuels Home & Office Integration

By Deborah L. O’Mara

The hottest thing out there this summer is not the weather but the highly anticipated iPhone from Apple Inc. At a starting cost of $500 and another $60 to $100 per month in service from AT&T (the iPhone’s exclusive provider), it’s not cheap. It has a built-in audience: those who know and love Apple-brand products. But how is the iPhone different from a typical mobile communicator? It’s a device that combines the iPod and the mobile phone and integrates Internet access and other connectivity in one of the largest portable- screen formats ever released.

By some analysts’ decree, the device may change the landscape of mobility and convenience. The access to e-mail and the Internet are where most users see the greatest benefit of the iPhone. The device, though one of a kind, is among many other technologies that have emerged this year designed to add mobility and remote control to how we work and live. There also is Microsoft’s Surface and a host of accessories and wireless, hardwired and other systems that provide more remote capabilities and functions that continue to erode the technological divide between home and office (see “Explosion of Integrated Products” on page 138).

Always at work

With the iPhone, we are moving into an era of convenience in which the boundaries between home and office are barely visible, and telecommuters and extended office hours at the place of residence or on the road are the norm. Home offices are used for telecommuting, for working from home at night and on weekends or, by some, as their primary business space. Often, home offices must accommodate the varying needs of dual-income couples, which increases even further the demand for phone lines, shared Internet access, laser printers and fax machines.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 21.5 million people are working from their homes. The Consumer Electronics Association projects this number will continue to increase over the next several years.

The connection to work will be virtual as more people telecommute and do not depend on transportation. And today, according to Marian Salzman, co-author of “Next Now: Trends for the Future,” the home is not just a home, but instead, it’s the “kids’ school, your office, the incubator for your entrepreneurial ideas, the psychic origin of so many other things other than family and personal life.” Homes are moving, she added, to fully equipped compounds that offer both comfort and entertainment.

Virtual and real

“The office definitely integrates and is part of the home,” said Bill Schoonover, manager of Application Engineering, Technical Support and Warranty Service, Leviton Manufacturing Co. Inc., Little Neck, N.Y. “But it’s not just that people have home offices and are telecommuting. They are working longer hours and at home, so technology and mobility helps them better integrate family and business.”

There are other factors in the continued move to a technology-driven society. A large, increasing percentage of the U.S. population now has been exposed to computers all their lives. The Internet, the home office, playing games and other computer-based activities are woven into everyday lives, and entertainment systems now often reach each room in the home. By far, the technology that has the greatest impact on home offices is high-speed Internet access, with more than 40 million connections for DSL, cable modems, satellites and fiber to the home. The top features supported are high-speed Internet access, e-mail, file downloads, home networking, video teleconferencing, accessing corporate networks and sophisticated telephone systems.

Schoonover said there is no such thing as an overwired home. He advised deploying a minimum of the following at the home for current and future technology needs:

■ At each location desired for connectivity, two Category 5e terminations and two RG6 quad coaxial with four connections—two for voice and two for video (coaxial or satellite)

■ In an office, one such above configuration on each wall (follow Telecommunications Industry Association/Electronic Industries Alliance 570-B Residential Telecommunications Cabling Standard or the latest current structured wiring document.)

■ Large enough structured media centers, boxes and enclosures to handle capacity required for connections and power (especially as fiber comes to the home and as media converters are necessary for their deployment)

For what Schoonover referred to as “super users,” the customers may run fiber to each wall plate and “leave it in the dark” until the telephone service provider brings fiber to the area. Video also will drive the use of fiber in the home, especially for users who want Internet protocol (IP) television, he said.

Do not underestimate what is going to be available in technology in the future, Schoonover said.

“For those contractors who prewire, it represents an opportunity for them to come back and perhaps upsell in the future. If they’ve put in the backbone, the customer already knows of their company, and they can approach them at a later date.”

There are many drivers of integration, and people who work part or full time from home expect the same or similar levels of connectivity that they have at the office as well as an environment that is pleasing, said Phil Scheetz, home systems marketing manager, Lutron Electronics Co. Inc., Coopersburg, Pa. That means security, home controls, lighting and many other applications in one space.

Make it work and play

The home office is different, Scheetz said, so the space has to function for the way the family lives. “Wireless technologies have really opened up the ability to retrofit the home with lighting controls,” he said. “There’s a convenience aspect there, too, and the ability to introduce a more conducive work environment with lighting controls and automation. You can automate a portion of the lighting at a specific part of the home as well to illuminate signage or a pathway for visiting customers like a commercial setting.”

Home and office integration is probably one of the fastest growing trends we will witness, and at the base of it is connectivity, especially selecting the right cabling and other hardwired and wireless solutions to make the two work transparently and effectively.         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.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


President’s Desk: NECA Show Progressively Better Every Year

News about the events and learning opportunities planned for NECA 2007 San Francisco are featured in both the Industry Watch and NECA Notes sections of the magazine this month. This double exposure indicates that excitement is heating up. Now is the time for all industry participants who are interested in becoming more productive, competitive and profitable to register.

I have attended quite a few NECA conventions and trade shows and have invariably learned something at each of them that could be applied to improving my business. I can assure you that they get better every year.

Let me explain with a few words about the NECA Show. If I discussed all the innovations on tap for NECA’s convention, it would require several pages in addition to the one reserved for this column. It also would not be as relevant to readers who are not NECA-member contractors, however, our show is open to everyone involved with electrical contracting—company owners, managers, journeyman and apprentice electrical workers—all those, in fact, who support our industry in any way.

With about 280 of the leading manufacturers, suppliers and industry service-providers already signed on as exhibitors, NECA 2007 San Francisco will undoubtedly be the greatest electrical industry showcase of the year. But, is it progressive? You bet!

What you will see there will be each exhibitor’s best and most recent product and service offerings. These products range from the 2007–2008 versions of equipment for installation and staple items that electrical contractors use on the job—from alarm systems, backup generators and ballasts all the way down the alphabet to wiring devices and z-axis drivers. You’ll also see merchandise that contractors will use increasingly as they break into new technology-driven markets, including state-of-the-art solar cells, telecommunication devices, and voice-data systems. Obviously, the emphasis on the “latest and greatest” is even more intense in the New and Featured Products Room.

That’s why smart showgoers spend time talking with exhibitors to learn all they can about their products and services. An overwhelming majority of past attendees (76 percent) rate face-to-face interaction with potential vendors or suppliers as very or extremely important. In fact, the average length of time spent exploring the show floor is seven hours, and more than 50 percent of attendees visit the NECA Show during all three days.

Of course, taking full advantage of the NECA Show also means attending your choice of the technical workshops that are included in the price of admission (a mere $75). As explained in last month’s issue, these are 50-minute interactive sessions presented by exhibitors to give attendees the opportunity to learn more about installation techniques and the capabilities of electrical products, software and business services.

“Progressive” certainly applies to the workshops offered in San Francisco. In addition to sessions on lighting and power technologies, there will be a whole track devoted to integrated building systems and programs providing solar technical education. And, on “Think Green” day (Sunday, Oct. 7), there will be a number of programs addressing renewable energy solutions, so you will be able to see the latest solar, wind and other energy-efficient technologies in the “Green Alley” at the NECA Show. You will also be able to attend workshops to learn about how green building pertains to new design and installation opportunities.

So, I advise you to get over to www.necashow.org as soon as possible to register. Our trade show in San Francisco this fall will be the best electrical industry exposition you’ve ever experienced—at least until NECA 2008 Chicago!

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Solar Power Surge

A limited supply of silicon used to make solar panels and a deluge of homeowners rushing to install solar power before state rebates are reduced have made it difficult for installation companies to meet demand.

These factors have helped boost the cost of solar panels in recent years, but some of the price increase may be tied to consumers offering to pay more to position themselves at the head of the line. Bargaining to move to the front of the pack is not illegal, but experts say it might not be wise to pay more if the homeowners’ states do not yet offer rebates on solar installation.

Richard King of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technology Program anticipates substantial price declines soon. However, it will be a few years before new silicon plants are up and running.

In California—where 33 percent of installation costs are rebated—the average price of solar panels surged 14 percent to $37,752 during the year-over-year period ending in April, reports the state Energy Commission.        EC

Fiber Optics

By Jim Hayes

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August  issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Step Right Up

Safety
By Joe O’Connor

Ladders are both essential and potentially dangerous

Ladders, like wire cutters and electrical tape,are important to the electrical contractor. However, their use tends to carry with it many hazards. When used properly, the hazards can be controlled. The safety rules that apply to ladders are a combination of OSHA regulations and proven common-sense practices.

The first step is to choose the right ladder for the job. It is important to be sure the ladder has the proper duty rating to carry the combined weight of the user and any material being installed. The duty rating gives you the ladder’s maximum weight capacity.

There are four categories of duty ratings established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI):

1. Type IA: These ladders have a duty rating of 300 pounds. Type IA ladders are recommended for extra-heavy-duty industrial use.

2. Type I: These ladders have a duty rating of 250 pounds. Type I ladders are manufactured for heavy-duty use.

3. Type II: These ladders have a duty rating of 225 pounds. Type II ladders are approved for medium-duty use.

4. Type III: These ladders have a duty rating of 200 pounds. Type III ladders are rated for light-duty use.

OSHA regulations refer to ANSI and state that Type IA and Type I are the only ladders permitted on a construction job site. Because it is impossible to determine which of the four types a ladder is just by looking, ANSI requires a permanent duty-rating sticker be placed on the side rail.

Other factors in selecting the appropriate ladder are style and material from which the ladder is constructed. For example, an extension ladder is placed against a surface to access a higher level. A stepladder should not be used for this purpose. Ladders constructed of metal (e.g., aluminum) must not be used when performing electrical work.

Once the ladder is chosen, the work can begin. Like all other equipment, ladders should be inspected before use. Wooden ladders need to be checked for cracks or splits in the wood. A ladder made of fiberglass or steel should be checked for bends or cracks. If a ladder is found to be damaged in any way it must be tagged “defective” and removed from service.

When placing a ladder for use, be sure the feet are on a firm, level, dry setting. If it is necessary to use a ladder on uneven footing, the surface should be built up with firm material until the ladder is level. Ladders not on a stable or level surface must be secured to prevent accidental displacement. If it is necessary to put a ladder in a doorway, the door should be locked or at least blocked to prevent entry. During the daily inspection, the steps should be cleaned of any grease, oil, mud, snow or any other slippery material that could interfere with your footing.

When climbing a ladder, the worker should face it using both hands to hold on to the side rails. Feet should be placed at the middle of the steps to keep the worker’s weight balanced. When you find it necessary to get tools or materials up a ladder, never carry them by hand. This shifts the body weight and doesn’t allow for the use of both hands while climbing. The safe way to get equipment up to the work site is to either hoist them into position or use a tool belt/vest.

Never overreach from a ladder or lean too far to the side. Overreaching is one of the most common causes of falls from ladders. A good basic rule is to always keep your belt buckle inside the rails of the ladder. Work as far as you can reach comfortably, then move the ladder to a new position. When moving a ladder, always get down. Never try to move it by rocking, jogging or pushing it away from a supporting wall.

Some other sensible points are to never use a ladder under the influence of alcohol, drugs or when feeling sick or dizzy, and when using tools, never leave them on top of a ladder. If the tools fall, they can hit you or a co-worker. Also, a ladder should be used by only one person at a time, unless it is specifically designed for use by two people.

Ladders are both essential and potentially dangerous pieces of equipment. However, the dangers can be minimized easily by using these simple, common-sense practices. The work of an electrician could not be accomplished without ladders. We just need to be very careful to use them correctly.       EC

O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or joconnor@intecweb.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


The Secret Source Of The Contractor Of Choice

By Mike Dandridge

Like most every new contractor sets out to become the best in town. Few achieve that distinction. Often it is due to well-intentioned but misguided efforts. Slashing prices to perform the same work as everyone else does not cut it. Saying your firm offers fast, friendly, fair service is not impressive when every business owner makes the same promise. Customers do not listen to what you say. They watch what you do. To become the contractor of choice, it takes more than a low price and a clichéd promise. It requires a customized business model, one that offers individual solutions to individual clients.

The growth of the design/build market would seem to lend itself to separating an electrical contracting firm from the rest of the fray. Some contractors see design/build as an opportunity to enter a market in which they have more control over profits and projects. That may not always be the case.

Positioning an electrical contracting firm as having design/build capabilities without the professional expertise to back it up can lead to irrecoverable loss of money and reputation. With customers able to communicate to thousands of other potential customers through the Internet, it is crucial to have a reputation of integrity.

As one industry expert advised, “A firm needs to ascertain if it has the technical chops to deliver a design/build project. You can’t afford to oversimplify it. Where’s the engineer fit in? Unless someone on staff is a PE, it is going to be necessary to hire an engineering consultant. Then, if you really want to grow into this business, it’s going to require an investment in a CAD workstation as well as professional marketing.”

And no one walks alone

References abound to the team concept involved in the design/build project delivery. In her article, “Teaching Teamwork Skills,” (Electrical Contractor, February 2007), Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas wrote, “Electrical contractors are critical team members and need to be cognizant of the specialized role they can play in the successful pursuit of work by the team.” This team typically includes the general contractor, the subcontractors, project manager and architect/engineer.

Electrical contractors have access to another player who is a well-kept secret. Unusual, considering the contributions this potential player can bring to the design/build table. Impatiently waiting in the background, hand outstretched and waving like a 6-year-old trying to get the teacher’s attention, this prospective team member shouts out, “Pick me, pick me!” The contractor passes by daily and does not notice the abundance available from this valuable resource—the electrical distributor.

“Electrical contracting firms don’t always realize how much value electrical distributors can provide,” wrote Dr. Thomas E. Glavinich in his article, “Understanding Distributors’ Value” (Electrical Contractor, March 2002). “Electrical distributors provide the firm with access to products, inventory management, logistical support, short-term financing through trade credit, technical expertise and information, training and much more.”

Right you are, Dr. Glavinich. And here is an overview of some of the services distributors offer. Most of these services would cost thousands of dollars if outsourced, but most distributors offer them for free, simply for an opportunity to be part of the design/build project delivery team. Visit www.ecmag.com for the full text of Glavinich’s article. Simply type the headline into the search box.

Here is an overview of a few of the services available from most electrical wholesalers.

■ Thinking outside the branch or vendor-managed inventory: Most distributors expand their reach by finding ways to take inventory outside the warehouse. An on-site job trailer with consigned material is not exactly a new idea, but this form of inventory management is ideally suited for the design/build project. Materials sell at predetermined prices only when the contractor uses them. The distributor maintains the inventory on the premises, saving the contractor time and money by keeping workers on the job site. When the project ends, the contractor does not have to worry about leftover materials or restocking charges. In a design/build project, most of the time, the contractor knows early on what material the job requires. This enables the distributor to preorder items with long lead times so they will be available when the job is underway.

■ Have parts, will travel: Another means of getting material to a job site so the contractor can keep workers on task is the “Mobile Branch.” For example, Rexel Inc. converted a 30-foot-long truck into a mini supply house on wheels. According to Mike Williams, area manager for Rexel Inc., Miami, the goal of the Rexel Mobile Branch (RMB) is to “get the right material in the right place at the right time. If we can eliminate the delay and expense it costs one of our customers to get a product to a job, then we’ve taken a step closer to that goal.” The flexibility of the RMB makes it the perfect solution for design/build projects that require inventory specific to the job.

■ Back to school: Contracting firms that want to secure their future in design/build know the importance of training. According to a survey prepared by Renaissance Research & Consulting Inc. for Electrical Contractor, the most requested types of training relate to National Electrical Code (NEC) changes, sustainable or green technology, and LEED certification. Again, drawing from their powerful network of resources, distributors can arrange training for electricians and, in some cases, bring it straight to the job. According to Tim Gleeson, Southeast Division marketing manager for Rexel, future plans for the RMB include possibly using it as a classroom on wheels, providing on-site education for in-field electrical professionals and keeping workers on the premises. The goal would be to collaborate with manufacturers, bring in new and improved products and show customers how to profit from them.

■ Connect to the network: “Can you imagine undertaking a project where your firm has to deal with the hundreds of manufacturers that supply everything from simple everyday materials like raceway and wire to sophisticated equipment like a UPS? It would be impossible unless your firm actually developed all of the contacts and capabilities that a typical electrical distributor has,” Glavinich said. Distributors have a collective of professionals eager to make available their expertise and services to electrical contractors. Most of these services are free of charge. Drawings and spec sheets are readily available to the project engineer to use in the design phase of the design/build project. Makers of distribution and control, lighting and communications products are just a few of the manufacturers who have professional engineers on staff that can provide design assistance to contractors.

■ A few dollars more: Some distributors are making longer-term financial arrangements beyond the traditional 30-day trade account.

■ A lease is a terrible thing to waste: There are plenty of high-tech tools available that make a contractor’s job easier and more productive. However, for a small- to medium-size contractor, some of the products can be expensive (sort of like copper wire). That is when an electrical distributor can step in with an affordable leasing program. Leasing or leasing to buy equipment for a design/build project allows contractors to reduce costs and improve cash flow, and it enables them to use the latest technology without a large investment. (Now, if someone would come up with lease-to-buy program for copper wire … .)

■ It’s who you know: Positive word-of-mouth is vital in this market. One professional engineer who owns his own electrical contracting firm tells of a time when he received a referral from the local supply houses. The owners of a new manufacturing plant were moving to town and went to the electrical wholesalers to ask about electrical contracting firms with design/build capabilities. Two of the suppliers gave them the name of the engineer’s company. The new owners contacted him and decided his firm was the right one for the job. That is another reason it pays to stay on good terms with your local supply houses. It is not uncommon for new businesses to turn to the distributors for referrals when seeking an electrical contractor.

■ Manage this: Some distributors have the systems in place to keep track of design/build projects. For example, Graybar’s Project Manager provides the contractor with order acknowledgement, product lead times, order release dates and project drawing status from first submittal to final approval. The program can customize data in the appropriate format for project delivery.

Support your local supply house

Any one of the above services would be an expense to the electrical contractor if not for the distributor willing to provide most of them for free. The technical, financial and marketing resources available through most distributors clearly place them as a “value-add” in the design/build project delivery basket.

One contractor said his design/build projects came as the result of long-term relationships with owners of supply houses.

“We have a history of work inside their buildings. We know the plant, the people, the processes. We know what the owner expects.” He said he understands the value of the “no-fee” services offered by electrical distributors. Like most design/build contractors, he does not charge a professional fee for his services in the design phase of the project.

The increased pace of commerce is at least partially responsible for the accelerated growth of the design/build project delivery method. For instance, in the case of a manufacturer constructing a new plant or adding a process to an existing factory, the sooner the project is operational, the sooner the company is making money. The fast-track, overlapping design/construction phases of the design/build project delivery ensure optimum profitability. It is not that the physical construction takes place any faster on a design/build. It’s that, instead of the linear approach of design/bid/build, some of the phases of the design/build project delivery overlap or occur simultaneously.

“All of this is not to say that design/build is better than the traditional design/bid/build method,” the contractor said. “Some industries have special criteria that must be met in addition to and outside of the Code. Healthcare, for instance, has its own set of specs and regulations. In those instances, certified professional engineers specialize in the design and construction of particular institutions. So, design/build isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Each situation is unique.”

Survey says ...

Maybe it is not for everyone, but a survey sponsored by Electri International—the Foundation for Electrical Construction—revealed eight out of 10 contracting firms stated that they would “develop the full capabilities necessary to provide [design/build] services” within the next year. The fact that contractors are “chosen” to be part of a team in the design/build project delivery method gives a completely new meaning to the phrase “contractor of choice.” To win, you’ll need an edge, an ally, a secret weapon. That is where the electrical wholesalers come in. They are in business to serve you. Look for the one that has the services compatible with the demands of the design/build project delivery and the temperament compatible with your team. Look for the one with the enthusiasm of a 6-year-old, hand waving, shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!”      EC

Dandridge is a professional speaker and writer with more than 20 years of experience in the electrical industry. He can be reached at md@mikedandridge.com or www.highvoltageservice.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


There’s No ‘Me’ in a Design/Build Project

By Claire Swedberg

Finding design/build work depends on team building

The good news is there is more help for contractors entering this teamwork project delivery area than ever before, more design/build projects and, of course, more competition. Design/build is a different approach, and just being awarded a project does not guarantee success, which Walker “Lee” Evey, president of the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) pointed out. “It’s a process, not a panacea,” he said. “You need to be familiar with design/build.”

Design/build development

By now, the more progressive electrical contractors have gone to the design/build process, which is in fact an older building practice, used in ancient Greece as well as modern construction and throughout much of human history.

For those still coming into it, the advantages are more resources and more acceptance by architects, developers, general contractors and engineers. The DBIA for example, now has local chapters in most large cities that offer numerous training opportunities.

Relationships with general contractors who specialize in design/build projects may be the best way to have a permanent foothold in this part of the industry. There are more general contractors now than even several years ago, and they not only undertake design/build projects, they specialize in them. Forrester Construction Co., Rockville, Md., is one example. Forrester has been providing design/build services for 18 years and in the past eight years has made it a focus of its diversified construction practice.

“Forrester seeks opportunities to be a proactive participant in the entire process of designing and constructing better buildings,” said Victor J. Bonardi, Forrester’s DBIA design/build director. This concept includes early involvement of the construction team, he said, for a more comprehensive, fully integrated project team.

“The larger government and institutional organizations have long recognized the distinct disadvantages associated with awarding multimillion dollar constructs on the basis of low bid,” Bonardi said. The answer has been the ever-increasing use of design/build contracts and selection of teams based on the best value. This allows the contract award to be based on past performance, relevant experience and proven record of accomplishment for quality projects, rather than a low bid. Price is no longer the only condition for award.

“The most qualified teams may be selected with the realization that their qualifications make the added cost a better value to the client. This approach helps to ensure better facilities,” Bonardi said.

As the design/build trend gained momentum in the mid-1990s, Forrester began a more proactive participation in this project delivery system, and it has become part of the company’s growth with projects for federal government agencies, state agencies, colleges, universities and private schools.

“We believe that design/build produces better buildings, at lower overall costs and within shorter schedules than any other project delivery system. It allows us as a company to form trusting, long-term relationships with key clients, which generates repeat work,” Bonardi said.

A good relationship with subcontractors is in fact as important to the general contractor as it is to the electrical contractor. For the design/build delivery system to work, there needs to be true teaming, Bonardi said, and for good reason.

“Crucial subcontractors, like electrical contractors, are almost always a part of project success,” he said.

Forrester always seeks subcontractors who can embrace this new concept for conducting business and can participate in an integrated project team. The challenge is overcoming decades of suspicion and misinformation that generally exists within the construction industry. All parties engaged in a design/build project must be able to think as part of a complete team with support and cooperation for all other parties, through all phases of work.

“Electrical work is clearly one of the critical elements to a successful project,” Bonardi said, pointing to the increase in power demands, telecommunications and data transmission criteria, fire alarm and emergency notification systems, energy-efficient lighting, and the essential need for reliability in all these systems. “[It] makes the electrical contractor an important part of every successful project,” he said. “The challenge for all contractors, especially electrical contractors, is to understand the nature of pursuing design/build work and how it differs from design/bid/build.”

Since most design/build contracts require a price prior to completing design documents, contractors need to read between the lines to develop a complete, accurate and competitive price package. They must price what they know to be required and not necessarily what is shown on early pricing documents, Bonardi said.

“Team only with design/builders that have a proven track record of success. Not all general contractors are qualified design/builders,” Bonardi said. Look for recently completed relevant projects, he said, as well as the GC’s capacity to bond design/build contracts and its certification by the DBIA.

Electrical contractor Rosendin Electric, Mesa, Ariz., has been involved in design/build projects for about 25 years, said Tom K. Sorley, Rosendin president and CEO.

“We made a strategic objective to pursue more design/build work, and as a result, design/build has grown to represent about 35 percent of our business,” he said. Rosendin has been part of design/build’s adoption.

“Suffice it to say that design/build has grown very quickly and now commands over 40 percent of the market,” Sorley said.

The business development of design/build work in many ways is no different than finding other work.

“[However,] your reputation for performance and collaboration may play a more significant role in being chosen to join a design/build team,” Sorley said. He added that whether public or private work, the design/build team wants contractors that look for solutions, not problems, and have a reputation for performance.

Rosendin has had several decades to build strong relationships with contractors, architects and clients, but it’s not always enough. 

“Having a past relationship is not paramount to being involved in design/build,” Sorley said. “To gain access to a design/build team, the specialty contractor must demonstrate a competency in the type of project being built.” This competency must span design and constructability. “In the relationship that follows, trust is built based on the degree in which the contractor works in partnership with other members of the design/build team finding solutions that help exceed the expectations of the owner.”

Military matters

The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), now is making design/build their strategy for the majority of their military projects and seeks contractors that are competent in the strategy. In some cases, there are mandates that a majority percentage of USACE projects be design/build, said Paul Parsoneault, acting team leader for construction management section of the USACE Military Programs Branch. For the Army, for example, if a facility plans to have a private-sector equivalent, it needs to be design/build. That includes Army barracks, which can be likened to hotels.

“The idea is to go more for design/build to specify requirements in performance terms, not prescriptive terms,” Parsoneault said. “We want the creativity of the marketplace with a team that can come up with cost-effective and creative solutions,” he said.

The military is in fact ahead of many civilian markets in design/build implementation. However, even markets that at one time rejected the design/build format, such as New Orleans in the previously design/build-free state of Louisiana, now are undergoing a transformation with large design/build construction projects.

“Does the industry have the interest and capability to make this transition?” Parsoneault asked. “That’s the question. So far, we are finding they can.” Even as the military’s interest in design/build grows, the construction industry is meeting their needs. Contractors seeking design/build projects need to prepare by teaming with general contractors.

“Often times, the general contractor will sub the electrical design responsibilities to the trade subs,” Parsoneault said. “It’s a culture change, and it’s been successful. Some states are proponents of design/build, and some are not. But we haven’t found that to be a problem at all.” Thus far, they have found the qualified contractors they needed throughout the country.

Learning to design/build

Some years back, it was difficult to become a design/build contractor. Today, the process is simpler, as it is far easier to gain the knowledge needed for success.

“I moved into design/build as an owner,” said the DBIA’s Evey. In 1997, he said, “we stepped off the cliff and learned to fly on the way down. There wasn’t nearly the information available that there is today.”

Since then, the DBIA has offered training educational opportunities.

“What some people fail to understand is they think they’ll step into design/build and something magical will happen,” Evey said.With an annual membership, contractors can keep themselves from making the mistakes that inexperience can cause. 

In addition, the USACE offers classes to help those within its ranks to learn more about the process, how to make the right procurement decisions and what other unique features and roles they must learn.

Once you have the knowledge, you need to find jobs to apply it. The process for finding opportunities in design/build projects is similar to any other project—the listings are available through advertising, state agencies and www.fedbizopps.com.

For those new to design/build, often the smaller projects are a great learning opportunity.

“It’s not scary; I would like to believe it’s the opposite of scary,” Evey said, adding that design/build is based on people, teamwork and cooperation that has been done for ages.

“We are a throwback to an earlier age, not exactly the new kids of the block,” he said, citing ancient projects such as the Great Wall of China.

Why join the team?

Once a contractor begins design/build projects, it will find quickly how many are out there. Evey likened it to buying a Volkswagen Beetle in 1969, which he believed at the time to be unique.

“I thought I was the only driving one, and then I noticed everyone had one,” he said. Design/build is the same, though it holds a bigger business consequence.

“As use of design/build increases,” Evey said, “those contractors who don’t do it will begin seeing their opportunities diminishing.”

In contrast, those in design/build find increased opportunity to contribute to the job planning, compared with the EC’s traditional building role. With design/build, electrical contractors benefit from an enhanced position—one in which the EC can weigh in on the project’s development early on. In fact, design/build electrical contractors need to communicate their goals, challenges, problems, constraints and budget with the other team members, Evey said.

To do that, the construction team must be brought together much earlier in the project.

“We say, if you want to do it right, you have to form the team very early. You’ll have a fundamentally different relationship with the prime contractor,” Evey said.

Some steps must be taken before launching into a design/build project. “Assess your personnel to ensure that they have the competency and the characteristics to pursue an integrated delivery model,” Rosendin’s Sorley said. “For some, this may mean forming an alliance with an engineering firm your team can work with.”

The give and take between trades on a design/build job is meant to enhance the quality and performance of the team and the project that is collectively delivered to the owner. “Once you are confident, starting small might be in order,” he said.

Ultimately, Evey said, “It’s tough. It’s hard work, no question. But of all the ways to do construction out there, this is the best way.”    EC

SWEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington. She can be reached at claire_swedberg@msn.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August  issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


USGBC Adds Requirements To LEED

The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) membership has passed a vote for all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified projects to achieve at least two “Optimize Energy Performance” points within LEED, which will improve the energy performance of all LEED-certified green buildings by 14 percent for new construction and 7 percent for existing buildings.

Buildings are an important and often overlooked solution to climate change: They are responsible for nearly 40 percent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States due to energy use, water consumption and other operational issues. And, CO2 has increased 18 percent since 1990 due to the rise in energy consumption.

“Improving energy performance will immediately increase the LEED Green Building Rating System’s impact in reducing building energy-related greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tom Hicks, vice president, LEED, U.S. Green Building Council.

All newly registered commercial LEED projects will be required to achieve the two “Optimize Energy Performance” points within LEED. To help projects achieve the new energy-reduction requirements, a prescriptive compliance path currently  is under development as an alternative to energy modeling. The two mandatory points will count toward a project’s LEED certification.

Last November, USGBC’s Board of Directors passed an eight-point agenda to address climate change and buildings.

“Each of the eight specific actions will have an immediate and measurable impact on C02 reduction,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair. “When implemented in concert, they comprise a powerful leadership initiative that sets a high bar for the building industry.”

The points are as follows:

1.The 50 percent CO2 reduction goal—All new commercial LEED projects are required to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent when compared to current emission levels.

2.Increased energy reduction prerequisites in LEED—All LEED projects must achieve at least two energy and optimization credits.

3.A carbon dioxide offset program must be implemented.

4.Continuous process improvement incentives—All LEED for new construction and core and shell buildings that reach certification will automatically (at no cost) be registered for LEED for Existing Buildings.

5.Pushing the envelope on performance—Certification fees rebates exist for platinum-rated buildings.

6.A Carbon-neutral USGBC—By the end of 2007, USGBC, as an organization, will be 100 percent carbon neutral.

7.Portfolio Performance Program—The long-term goal of this program is to recognize companies for high environmental performance across their portfolios.

8.Carbon Reduction Education and a Challenge to the Industry—USGBC will be launching an important new educational program designed specifically to help industry professionals gain the knowledge they need to apply design and construction practices that are energy efficient and have immediate and measurable impact on CO2 emissions. In addition, by 2010, there will be 100,000 LEED-certified commercial buildings and one million certified homes.

By 2020, there will be 1 million LEED-certified commercial buildings and 10 million certified homes.  EC

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Using Unauthorized Products Could Create Liabilities

The Gray Market

By Darlene Bremer

To succeed in a competitive marketplace, electrical contractors must build lasting partnerships with their customers by supplying quality, dependable electrical products that they can stand behind. Using “gray-market” products places contractors in a risky legal position that could leave them solely responsible for any defects or problems with those products.

The gray market is defined as the unauthorized sale of new, branded products that have been diverted from authorized distribution channels or imported into a country for sale without the consent or knowledge of the original trademark-holding manufacturer.

“Generally, the gray market refers to products manufactured by the trademark owner [or authorized to be manufactured by the trademark owner], but that have been diverted from intended and authorized channels of distribution to another … unauthorized and frequently undesired channel of distribution,” said Curtis Krechevsky, partner and chair of the trademark and copyright department of Cantor Colburn, LLP, Bloomfield, Conn.

These diversions can be referred to as leaks out of the authorized chain and can occur at any point from the authorized manufacturer to the freight forwarder, exporter, shipping company, importer, wholesaler or, ultimately, the retailer. However, according to Krechevsky, if the authorized manufacturer that has purchase orders from the trademark owner runs a number of units over the stated quantities and sells them, those products technically are considered counterfeit because they are not authorized.

“These products are commonly known as overrun products and are treated differently by the law, as they were never authorized to be placed into commerce by the trademark owner,” Krechevsky said.

Excess inventory or dated goods can be another source of gray-market products, according to Clark Silcox, counsel for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va.

“It is also useful to understand that gray-market products can move through multiple tiers of distribution before it reaches the contractor. Products that move through authorized channels, however, offer less of an opportunity for damage to the product, product tampering, or repackaging or relabeling of the product,” he said.

The reasons the gray market exists in the first place, according to Krechevsky, are pricing advantages, currency fluctuations, supply and demand fluctuations, market gluts, and careless control of manufacturing and distribution processes. The gray market also is facilitated by the reduction of trade barriers, free trade agreements, and the ease and relative cheapness of shipping goods.

“It’s just a fact that gray-market prices can be significantly lower than the prices charged by authorized distributors or retailers,” Krechevsky said.

“Liability from the use of gray-market products can arise when something goes wrong that leads to a claim for personal injury, property damage or breach of warranty,” Silcox said.

With some manufacturers, unauthorized distribution voids the manufacturer’s warranty and leaves the consumer disappointed and the reputation of the supply channel, including the electrical contractor, damaged.

“If a gray-market product has been tampered with or relabeled along the way, the manufacturer may avoid liability completely, leaving the contractor, and perhaps others in the distribution channel, answering for the product liability claim,” he said.

In addition to not being able to make a claim under a manufacturer’s warranty for a defective gray-market product, the contractor might not be able to get products serviced, maintained or repaired.

“If the warranty is not honored by the manufacturer because the product came from the gray market, the customer will still demand that the electrical contractor fix the problem and won’t care how they have to do it,” Krechevsky said. And, if the contractor does not or cannot honor that request for redress, it certainly will lose future business from that customer and very possibly damage its reputation.

A real concern for electrical contractors using gray-market products is that they may not be purchasing what they think they are. Gray-market products may be promoted as excess inventory that needs to be liquidated at extraordinarily low prices but are, in fact, counterfeit.

“It is documented,” Silcox said, “that the gray-market channel opens the doors for the infiltration of counterfeit and substandard products.” Since the trademark-owning manufacturer is not liable for the defective or substandard counterfeit product that causes harm or fails, the contractor and others in the distribution channel will have to answer for any product liability claim.

“If the failure of defective product produces property damage or personal injury, the contractor may not only be faced with a huge potential financial liability, but with fines or penalties imposed by governmental regulatory agencies for using products from unreliable sources,” Krechevsky said.

In fact, the entire supply chain can face product liability claims for negligence in supporting gray-market diversions involving counterfeit products.

“The argument here is that the supply channel fails to exercise reasonable care when it knows that defective counterfeit goods are entering the supply channel and purchasers mistakenly buy the counterfeit product in the belief that it is genuine,” Silcox said.

Recognizing and avoiding gray-market products

There are a number of ways a contractor can recognize gray-market products, including physical signs of mistreatment, mishandling or repackaging; previous use; recycling or refurbishment; and wear and tear.

“Gray-market products can also be avoided if the contractor ensures that the product complies with standard marking and labeling requirements,” Krechevsky said.

 “Performing due diligence is required to avoid gray-market products and the liabilities that arise when someone not previously known to be an authorized distributor claims they have access to genuine product from an authorized source. This ruse has been used to sell counterfeit products as well,” Silcox said.

There always is the possibility, regardless of how careful the contractor might be, that a gray-market, or even counterfeit, product is purchased and used in a project and for which the contractor would be liable if it was defective or failed. In that case, the contractor could possibly mitigate its legal exposure in several ways.

“If a product is identified as having come from the gray market, the contractor can return to the supplier to seek replacement with a clearly authorized product,” Krechevsky said. Or, if the contractor has the capability, it can test another component from the same lot and satisfy itself that the product will perform as specified. “If it turns out that there is a quality issue, the contractor is better off voluntarily replacing the product with a legitimate, authorized product and then attempt to seek redress from the supplier,” he said.

It’s important to note that counterfeiters often will pass off products as gray-market goods, and the penalties for possessing and dealing with counterfeit products are more severe, including criminal charges.

Partnering with others

To avoid issues with gray-market products, it is recommended to communicate with the owner of the brand when any suspicious products appear from the contractor’s supply chain.

“It is advised that the contractor get written confirmation from its immediate supplier that the product did originate with the brand owner and that it comes with the full warranty and service commitment,” Krechevsky said. And, according to Silcox, a key problem for electrical contractors with gray-market products is that they do not know the distribution history of the product, nor can they verify the answers they receive if they ask.

“When one does not really know the distribution history of a gray-market product, one cannot confirm that it is genuine, that it has not been tampered with, repackaged or relabeled, or whether it has been stored and handled in a manner consistent with the original manufacturer’s quality control processes. But when dealing only with the authorized distribution channel, those problems no longer exist,” Krechevsky said.

In confronting this issue, each individual manufacturer has to address how it deals with the unauthorized distribution of its product. This may involve enforcing its contract rights or even re-evaluating its contract terms or channel partners. For the contractor, the resolution is simply to buy genuine goods from known, authorized sources.

“To become involved in addressing these issues, contractors can take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by industry associations concerning gray-market and counterfeit products, and join trade association programs that monitor government regulations and that lobby for laws against gray-market distribution,” Krechevsky said.   EC

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor Magazine – August  issue 2007 www.ecmag.com


Electrical Contractor Upcoming Issue

October 2007: Training and Education

The October issue of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR will include the following:

2007 Safety Training - What’s old is new, What’s new is old!
By Joe O’Connor

Changes to NFPA 70E
By Claire Swedberg
 
Electrical Contractors Taking the LEED
By Chuck Ross
 
Online Training Opportunities
By Darlene Bremer

Government Gives Green Light to Traffic Signal Conversions
By Debbie McClung

Significant Changes for the 2008 NEC-Part II
By Mark C. Ode, James G. Stallcup and James W. Stallcup

Whole Building Automation—Opportunity or Nightmare?
By Wayne D. Moore

Where Industrial Automation Is Today
By Marilyn Michelson

FIBER OPTICS
Training: A “Give And Take” Proposition
By Jim Hayes

QUIZ
Using Copper For More Than Signals
By Jim Hayes

Reprinted with full permission of Electrical Contractor  www.ecmag.com


Analytics Add Intelligence To IP Surveillance Systems

The relatively new technology is one of several factors users must consider when choosing a system.

Patrick McLaughlin is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

End-user organizations that are planning to include video surveillance among the operations that function over their information technology (IT) networks face a myriad of questions and possibilities before they can begin deployment. Surveillance systems running over Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks have been around for more than a decade, but their takeup has increased dramatically of late. That takeup rate and the promise of a booming network-surveillance market has flooded the market with brands, and a network manager entering the market today faces a tall task weeding through many of them.

“Today more than 200 different brands of network cameras are available,” notes Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications (www.axis.com). “As an end user, that makes it difficult to choose.” Nilsson also points out that unlike analog cameras, network cameras can vary greatly from one to the next because a significant amount of functionality typically is built into the device.

“The most common mistake is simply to look at price,” he continues. “In the analog-camera space, that may work, but it will not with network cameras. Additionally, don’t evaluate a camera on its own, but rather look at the whole system.” A significant consideration there, he says, is whether to adopt an open system with products from multiple vendors, or a closed/proprietary system. Nilsson promotes open systems. “They usually yield the best results, while closed systems will be slower to adapt to newer needs.”

When evaluating the actual camera, exclusive of the system, Nilsson advises to focus on functionality. “For an IT manager, network function is at least as important as camera function,” he says. “There is a lot more to network devices than having an IP address.” In other words, avoid cameras than can have deleterious effects on the network’s performance.

One of the latest technological developments among network cameras is the incorporation of “intelligence,” or analytics, into surveillance systems. The inclusion of analytics software into an IP surveillance system gives that system the intelligence to analyze its data (images). Proponents say the benefits of analytics are enormous.

“Video has terrific modularity and is becoming ubiquitous and inexpensive,” says Alan Lipton, chief technology officer at ObjectVideo (www.objectvideo), a maker of analytics software programs. “Video gives you all these eyeballs, but with no brains behind them. At best, video cameras are being used as forensic tools after the fact. At worst, they are strictly a deterrent.” Video with analytics, he points out, comes in two varieties. “First is security focused, with alerting capabilities. And second is data gathering, storage, and mining. Retailers, for example, use analytics to detect patterns of movement and shopper behavior. What they both have in common is that they are turning data into information.”

Often, analytics manifest as a visual alert to camera observers that an unexpected event is taking place. Often it takes the form of a graphic that highlights or follows a moving object in the video image.

Many of the 200-plus network camera manufacturers, including Axis, are incorporating analytics into some of their product lines. Earlier this year, ioimage (www.ioimage.com) released the ioicam mmp100dn, a 3-mexapixel intelligent video camera that also has picture-in-picture capabilities, which the company says allows synchronized analytics visualization. The camera has pan/tilt/zoom functionality, day/night capabilities, and can operate under harsh conditions. It is like many of today’s intelligent cameras in that it provides the most important functionality of IP cameras, and adds analytics to the mix.

“The mmp100dn represents ioimage’s approach to intelligent video in bringing the high-resolution imaging trend to practical applications,” said Roni Kass, ioimage’s chief executive officer. “By synthesizing video analytics with multi-mexapixel imaging in a self-enclosed unit designed and packaged for simplicity, ioimage has successfully introduced a host of innovative intelligent video uses to a wider market.”

ioimage also recently introduced the xptz100dn, an intelligent video camera with built-in analytics that also has the ability to automatically detect and track intruders, vehicles, and other threats. “The xptz100dn eliminates the traditionally high expenses of security automation and tracking,” commented Kass.

Bosch  Security Systems (www.boschsecurity.us) incorporates its Intelligent Video Motion Detection (IVMD) technology into the VIP X series of cameras, including VIP X1, VIP X2, VIP 1600, and Dinion IP cameras. As Bosch points out, the falling cost of IP cameras has resulted in a proliferation of cameras for many users. “This growth in cameras has … increased the amount of visual data that must be monitored by security professionals, expanded bandwidth and storage requirements, and accelerated operator fatigure,” Bosch states. “This challenge demands a real-time, automated video solution for intelligent surveillance.” The IVDM system acts as a virtual operator, Bosch says, analyzing incoming video and automatically detecting and notifying appropriate personnel of abnormal events or potentially threatening situations.

Whether analytics software should be considered an “emerging” technology or an already “emerged” technology remains open for debate. “We have been doing this commercially for five to six years,” says ObjectVideo’s Lipton, adding that the technology has seen mass adoption. “Some say it is not ready, but in our experience, the challenges have had everything to do with how people work it.

“Video analytics can only see what the camera sees,” he states. “Analytics does not sleep; it looks for events in all weather. The mainstream market is picking it up. Within three to four years, you won’t be able to buy a piece of video equipment without some type of analytics.”

Axis’s Nilsson offers more tempered thoughts. “Because of the built-in processes, analytics will become important in the overall selection of a camera and system,” he explains. Among the important criteria to consider, he says, is image quality, stating that the data being analyzed is actually an image; therefore, the quality of that image is paramount.

Additionally, he says the algorithms used in analytics software are still under development. “The algorithms do many good things well enough—say with 90 to 95% accuracy,” he says. “They will provide tremendous value.

“However, remember facial recognition? That is still a promise of the future, because it requires 99.5% accuracy rather than 90 to 95%. It takes about a tenfold effort to bring accuracy from 90 to 95%, and another tenfold effort to get from 95 to 99.5%. Today, basic analytics are here and are useful.”

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – August issue 2007 www.cable-install.com 


Impending Fibre Channel Standard Puts More Copper In The SAN

The INCITS is on the verge of approving a standard for transmission over twisted-pair cabling systems.

Patrick McLaughlin is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

For years Category 6 has been criticized as the cabling system without a protocol. In the early stages of the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) development of Category 6, a group within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE; www.ieee.org)—the organization that produces Ethernet standards among many others—entertained the idea of creating a protocol that would send Gigabit Ethernet traffic over two pairs of Category 6. That idea was short-lived, as the IEEE abandoned the proposal. Despite that setback, the TIA continued its path to standardization, Category 6 became a bona fide cabling system, and by all accounts it has achieved a healthy level of market acceptance.

Many users of Category 6 cabling systems have cited its increased bandwidth capability (it is tested to 200 MHz as opposed to Category 5e’s 100 MHz) as well as its performance headroom over Category 5e (greater performance characteristics than 5e across the board at 100 MHz) as logical reasons for choosing the performance level. Yet it has continued to carry the stigma of being a twisted-pair cabling category without a designated protocol to run over it.

A new standard

That stigma might soon be shed, as part of a standards initiative from the world of data centers. The InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) has for the past two years been working on specifications for transmitting one of its protocols—Fibre Channel—over twisted-pair copper cabling. Today the standard is in the approval process, and publication is not far away.

To a great extend, Fibre Channel is to the storage area network (SAN) what Ethernet is to the local area network (LAN). That is to say, it is the protocol of choice. Originally published in 1988 and approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI; www.ansi.org) several years later, Fibre Channel dominates the SAN marketplace. Data centers typically contain a LAN and a SAN, and in most cases the different networks employ different protocols.

The two networks types have functional differences, points out John Schmidt, senior product manager, business development with ADC. The SAN contains primarily stored data, and huge amounts of it. Multi-terabyte storage capability is quite normal for even medium-sized companies today, and larger organizations can have significantly more storage capacity in their SANs. By comparison, the LAN tends to deal with more dynamic data, which is accessed frequently as in the case of a server hosting a Web site.

Concerning LANs and SANs, Schmidt points out, “The protocols, those protocols’ speeds, and the media used also differ.” While the LAN’s Ethernet protocol has increased tenfold in transmission speed, from 10 to 100 Mbits, then to 1 and 10 Gbits, the SAN’s Fibre Channel protocol has followed a different upgrade path that has included 1, 2, and 4 Gbits/sec. Currently an 8-Gbit/sec protocol exists for infrastructure such as storage disk-to-disk connection. That 8-Gbit standard is part of the FCBase2 set of specifications, a set whose speeds have doubled from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 Gbits/sec, with a roadmap calling for continued twofold increases to 16, 32, 64, and 128 Gbits/sec.

The set of specifications that will call for Fibre Channel to run on twisted-pair category copper cable, referred to as the BaseT set, is being developed by the INCITS’s Technical Committee T11, which produces all the standards body’s Fibre Channel specifications. That group’s roadmap calls for 1-, 2-, 4-, 8- and 10-Gbit/sec versions of Fibre Channel to run over twisted-pair cabling, which does represent a departure from the norm for the protocol. “The SAN model typically looks at fiber-intensive installations,” commented Gregg LaFontaine, senior product manager with Ortronics/Legrand (www.ortronics.com) during a recent Web-based seminar on the topic of data-center cabling media. “Seventy to eighty percent of SAN cabling is fiber media. Much of the SAN has been built around the Fibre Channel model.” And although Fibre Channel has supported copper-based transmission for quite some time, fiber has remained the overwhelming medium of choice—and still may even with the soon-to-be-published standard.

The call for copper

In August 2005, when the FC-BaseT set of specifications was proposed within T11, the proposal included a section called “Existing practice and the need for a standard.” That section read: “Today deployments of Fibre Channel Fabrics are usually based on optical cabling for external connectivity (i.e. for connectivity outside a storage enclosure.) However optical components are perceived expensive by several customers. To improve the Fibre Channel competitiveness in low cost environments a new physical level that enables Fibre Channel to leverage and use the existing Category 5e and 6 copper cabling technology is required. A standard is needed to define this new physical level.”

That proposal also called for 1- and 2-Gbit/sec Fibre Channel (1GFC-BaseT and 2GFC-Base-T) to run over Category 5e or better cabling, 4GFC-BaseT to run over Category 6 or better cabling, and as deemed necessary, additional speeds over Category 6A or better cabling. The most recent draft of the standard calls for 1GFC-BaseT to transmit up to 100 meters on Category 5e, 6, or 6A cabling; 2GFC-BaseT to transmit up to 60 meters on Category 5e, 70 meters on Category 6; and 100 meters on Category 6A; and 4GFC-BaseT to run on 40 meters of Category 6 and 100 meters of Category 6A. The draft standard calls for 4GFC-BaseT transmission over 30 meters of Category 5e, but that is only an “expected performance,” because the protocol transmits at a higher frequency than that for which Category 5e cabling is rated (100 MHz).

Why not just switch protocols altogether and run Ethernet in the SAN? ADC’s Schmidt states, “Ultimately the decision comes down to the network engineer, and which application is best suited for what they are running. The primary reason that SANs have not gone to Ethernet is because of latency. Ethernet inherently has a lot of overhead and latency. Fibre Channel networks are very efficient at storing data.”

There is no shortage of forecasts calling for storage requirements to continue growing at a rapid pace. Accordingly, SANs will continue to flourish in the years ahead. If Fibre Channel remains the dominant protocol in the SAN, it will be interesting to see the extent to which the INCITS’s BaseT set of Fibre Channel-over-copper specifications shifts the media choices from optical to copper.

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – August issue 2007 www.cable-install.com 


On The Road To 100-Gbit/sec Transmission

Development of the next generation of Ethernet is well underway.

Andrew Oliviero is senior product manager with OFS (www.ofsoptics.com).

As anyone who is carefully watching can tell, the data communications industry is moving to 100-Gbit/sec transmission speeds. What are the applications and key network points driving the need for 100-Gbits/sec in public networks and private enterprises? Who are the most likely early adopters of this next-generation technology? This article presents answers to these questions, and explains why temporary solutions such as link aggregation are not ideal to fully address these overloaded networks.

We’ll also discuss the current status of the standards process, and what still needs to happen before a standard is written. The final section addresses the transceiver technologies and options being considered to meet 100-Gbit/sec speeds for OM3 multimode and singlemode fiber, and provides some assumptions on likely cost differences between the two.

Drivers for 100-Gbit transmission

As high-speed broadband services offered by fiber-to-the-x (FTTx)-focused telecommunications carriers and cable television companies are becoming more available; consumers are taking advantage of the many novel applications offered to them. Content providers are pushing the bandwidth requirements by developing more new applications and services, so that video-on-demand, HDTV, IPTV, Internet gaming, MySpace, YouTube, and digital-photo transfers, which could only be envisioned in the past, are now a reality.

In short, we are seeing a push by content/service providers and a pull by the consumer. The lesson: Increase the size of the access pipelines and demand will come.

These events have led to continuous and rapid growth of the network and Internet traffic, and this has placed an incredibly high demand on the existing infrastructure. Network carriers, service providers, and Internet exchanges are feeling this load on their networks and are seeking higher-speed solutions in a hurry.

In the private sector, there is also a driver to higher network speeds for local are networks (LANs) and storage area networks (SANs). This demand comes from high-bandwidth applications such as video-based streaming and downloading, videoconferencing, and Voice over IP. Data-center servers will continue to experience a rise in traffic and bandwidth demand, as more information is being generated and stored today than ever before. With recent government data warehousing legislation and recommendations for the medical and financial industries, along with redundancy to protect against catastrophic loss, data centers and SANs are expected to see further upgrading to higher networking speeds. In fact, storage standards such as Fibre Channel and Infiniband have already developed roadmaps for speeds up to 100 Gbits/sec and beyond.

Another key driver for higher networking speeds is the high-performance computing (HPC) market. Supercomputers and HPC networks now under development will require a minimum of 100-Gbit/sec transmission speeds for short links ranging from only a few inches to hundreds of meters. In some cases, these will be used to link major supercomputer clusters between research-and-development departments of universities and medical facilities.

Link aggregation (LAG), an IEEE 802.3ad standard, is being deployed today to address this increased demand with current 10-Gbit/sec server and networking equipment. However, many believe that LAG is just a temporary fix, for several reasons. It can be complex to use, making traffic engineering and management much more challenging. What’s more, capacity expansions and troubleshooting of multiple physical links become much more difficult. This standard’s limitations create inefficient distribution of large flows and ultimately, uneven distribution of traffic. All in all, many within IEEE feel that better solutions are required to address this demand directly.

Where will we see 100-Gig?

Before discussing the standards under development with an eye toward 100 Gbits/sec, let’s review more closely the early adopters and key network points that will use these next-generation speeds.

Not surprisingly, the early adopters will be carrier networks (e.g. Verizon, AT&T), triple-play service providers (e.g. network carriers and cable TV companies), Internet exchange carriers (e.g. Yahoo!) and specific enterprise users with extremely high throughput speeds.

Early deployment of next-generation high speeds will occur in key high-bandwidth switching, routing, and aggregation interconnect points for 1) service-provider backbones supporting the metro, core, and access parts of their networks, 2) Internet exchanges, 3) interconnection links in data center and storage servers of corporate enterprise networks, and 4) interconnects for high-performance supercomputing networks in medical and R&D enterprises.

Deployment within LAN riser backbones (interconnecting LAN workgroup switches to core switches or campus LAN backbones) is not expected for quite some time. Most importantly, these next-generation speeds are not intended for interconnecting desktop computers to LAN workgroup switches, which have historically been the main driver for network equipment and switch port demand.

Therefore, unlike the high volumes of 10/100/1000-Mbit/sec Ethernet port sales over the years, initial volumes for 100-Gbit/sec Ethernet ports are anticipated to be more modest. This does not imply a reduction in the need or value of 100-Gbit Ethernet to address the applications discussed above. 100-Gbit/sec transmission provides a solution for applications that have been demonstrated to need bandwidth beyond existing capabilities.

High Speed Study Group takes action

IEEE 802.3 formed the High Speed Study Group (HSSG) in late 2006 to investigate the need for a next Ethernet speed, and to offer objectives as part of a project authorization request (PAR) should it decide to recommend the creation of a task force to write a standard. The HSSG is an internationally represented group of component, switch, and cabling manufacturers, as well as end users representing private and public networks. Two ad-hoc committees, the Fiber Optic Ad Hoc and Reach Ad Hoc, support the group’s efforts.

In their evaluation of next Ethernet speed proposals, the HSSG followed the five-criteria validation process established by the IEEE.

  1. Broad market potential
  2. Compatibility
  3. Distinct identity
  4. Technical feasibility
  5. Economic feasibility

A considerable number of presentations have been made within the HSSG and the ad-hoc committees to validate the five criteria. During the November 2006 IEEE 802.3 plenary, the HSSG voted to support 100 Gbits/sec as the next Ethernet speed. The following specific objectives have been accepted since that meeting.

    • Support full-duplex operation only
    • Preserve the 802.3/Ethernet frame format at the MAC client service interface
    • Preserve minimum and maximum frame size of current 802.3 standard
    • Support a speed of 100 Gbits/sec at the MAC/PLS service interface
    • Support at least 10 kilometers on singlemode fiber
    • Support at least 40 kilometers on singlemode fiber
    • Support at least 100 meters on OM3 multimode fiber
    • Support at least 10 meters on copper
    • Support a bit error rate better than or equal to 10-12 at the MAC/PLS service interface

The HSSG’s next step is to finalize support, document, and submit the PAR to IEEE in order to initiate writing the standard. When accepted by the IEEE 802.3 committee, the HSSG will be concluded and all efforts will move to specifying the technical details of exactly how to meet the objectives.

However, this has not yet occurred. During this process, there have been many proponents of including in the PAR a 40-Gbit/sec speed requirement, in addition to the 100-Gbit/sec objective, in order to support the server and data center/SAN markets. There have been many debates over the last year as to the economic feasibility and broad market potential for this intermediate speed, and whether or not this would slow down the development of the much-needed 100-Gbit/sec standard. However, strong cases have been made in support of 40-Gbit/sec and the HSSG is now working on a method of satisfying both the 40- and 100-Gbit/sec advocates in a way that does not hinder progress toward a final PAR.

Therefore, the group’s next step is to submit the PAR and obtain approval. After the PAR is accepted, the IEEE will begin writing the next-generation Ethernet standard. The current target is to initiate this work in 2007 and publish it in 2010.

Transceiver and optical-fiber options

Based on the fiber-cabling objectives agreed upon in the HSSG, transceivers will be developed to support singlemode fiber and OM3 multimode fiber (also known as 850-nm laser-optimized 50-µm multimode fiber). Standard 62.5-µm (OM1) and 50-µm fiber (OM2) will not be supported at 100-Gbits/sec. Therefore, OM1 and OM2 are no longer recommended for new data center and storage area installations, or HPC environments, where futureproofing to higher speeds is important.

The Fiber Optic Ad Hoc committee is also evaluating the transceiver options. It is proposing the use of existing transceiver technologies such as parallel optical interfaces (sometimes referred to as space-division multiplexing) and coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) using transceivers with speeds of 10 to 50 Gbits/sec. The soon-to-be-published TIA TSB-172 is highly recommended for a tutorial on the details of these transmission technologies.

For OM3 multimode fiber, the HSSG and Fiber Ad Hoc are evaluating the use of low-cost 850-nm parallel optics transceiver arrays or a combination of parallel optic arrays and CWDM. The former option is the leading candidate. With this approach, twelve 10-Gbit/sec 850-nm optical transmitters and receivers are packaged in an array and attached to OM3 fibers using 12-fiber MPO array connectors. The data is divided equally among the available channels.

For example, twelve OM3 fibers each operating at 10 Gbits/sec at 850 nm can be aggregated into a 100-Gbit/sec system (12 fiber x 10 Gbits/sec parallel array). The type of encoding that is being proposed would limit the channel to 100 Gbits/sec instead of 120 Gbits/sec. Because this is a full-duplex link with 12 fibers running in each direction, a total of 24 fibers would be used for a complete link. This strategy can also be used to support 40-Gbit/sec speeds over OM3 fiber. In this case, 4 or 6 OM3 fibers, each operating at 10 Gbits/sec at 850 nm, can be aggregated to 40 Gbits/sec. A total of 12 fibers would be used in this link, as opposed to 24 fibers in a 100-Gbit/sec link. In general, the parallel solution is relatively simple and low-cost, as it uses the same circuits multiple times.

In order to reduce the cost of the electronics and for the OM3 option, transceiver manufacturers are proposing to loosen the encircled flux and/or spectral width specifications of existing 10GBase-SR transceivers. As a result, the transmittable distance over OM3 fiber would be reduced from 300 meters to as low as 100 meters, depending on the degree of change, despite OM3 fiber’s very high bandwidth. In this case, OM3 fiber’s bandwidth is not the limitation; instead, the desire to reduce the cost of these 12 transceiver arrays is becoming the driver.

However, because these future speeds are intended for data-center environments, 100 to 150 meters should be sufficient. During the standards-development efforts, transceiver and fiber manufacturers will establish the proper balance of specifications to minimize cost and maximize transmittable distance.

The HSSG and Fiber Ad Hoc are evaluating the support of singlemode fiber using CWDM optics in a two-fiber duplex link. In this case, multiple wavelengths would be operating over a single fiber in each direction. An example of this technique is the 10GBase-LX4 transceiver. For 100-Gbit/sec systems, the following are being considered in a 20-nm spacing range around 1310 nm:

  • 10 wavelengths x 10 Gbits/sec;
  • 5 wavelengths x 20 Gbits/sec;
  • 4 wavelengths x 25 Gbitsec; and
  • 2 wavelengths x 50 Gbits/sec.

At this point, the 4 x 25-Gbit/sec transceiver is a leading candidate. Installing low- or zero-water-peak singlemode fiber (ITU G.652D-compliant) provides the most flexibility to deploy any of the proposed singlemode fiber solutions.

Why not use singlemode fiber with a single laser (serial transmission) operating at 100-Gbits/sec? Such a laser simply is not commercially available today, and probably will not be for a long time. It will be quite challenging to develop and produce such a laser cost-effectively. Therefore, despite singlemode fiber’s exceptionally high bandwidth, achieving higher speeds on singlemode fiber will require optics using multiple lasers to drive multiple wavelengths.

Cost factors considered

Several presentations have been made in the HSSG estimating the cost differences between future multimode and singlemode 100-Gbit/sec systems. The advantage for OM3 mutimode fiber systems involves the readily available, even lower-cost 850-nm vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) transceiver. 850-nm transceivers have continued to favor multimode systems for 1- and 10-Gbit/sec systems. The existing manufacturing platform and market volumes for 10GBase-SR ports provides economically favorable conditions for the development of 12-VCSEL arrays.

However, because multiple OM3 fibers must be used in the parallel technique, these systems will be more sensitive to the length of the cabling in the channel than CWDM transmission over singlemode. Therefore, the relative cost benefit of parallel systems has diminishing benefits as the channel length increases.

The singlemode CWDM systems take advantage of low-cost singlemode cable, but at the expense of higher complexity in the transmitter and receiver than with the parallel optical technique. In other words, the same transceiver- and connector-alignment challenges that can drive up the cost of 1310-nm components when used with singlemode fiber are magnified even further as the number of wavelengths is increased. Plus, these transceivers are not presently available and extra R&D will be required to bring these to market.

Because optical port costs typically make up the largest percentage of total system cost, the cost advantages held by 850-nm-based systems are projected to hold true at these higher speeds. In general, OM3 multimode fiber will continue to be the most cost-effective choice for short-reach applications at higher speeds. Zero-water-peak singlemode fiber is best used for long distances.

There is very strong industry support for 100-Gbit/sec and possibly 40-Gbit/sec transmission speeds in public and private networks to support triple-play services, significant amounts of video-based applications, data-center storage increases, and high-performance computing. The IEEE group is addressing these needs and will soon commence writing the next-generation Ethernet standard. OM3 multimode fiber is poised to support short-reach solutions cost-effectively, whereas singlemode fibers will continue their place in outside-plant, long-reach solutions.

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – August issue 2007 www.cable-install.com 


40-Gig Is A Go, And Other Late-Breaking Standards Activities

Two of the articles in this month’s issue, beginning on pages 9 and 17, discuss the progress on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE; www.ieee.org) 802.3 group’s efforts to specify a 100-Gbit/sec Ethernet protocol. Both articles also discuss (and Ed Cady’s article goes into particular detail about) the possibility of a 40-Gbit/sec standard being produced alongside the 100-Gig spec. As this issue of the magazine was going to press, word came from the IEEE’s late-July meeting that in fact, the 40-Gig standard got the go ahead and will follow the same path to standardization as the 100-Gig standard.

As you read the articles that address 100 and 40 Gig, please remember they were written—and in fact were produced and headed off to print—well before the IEEE’s late July meeting. They were done and gone when we at Cabling Installation & Maintenance got word about the thumbs-up vote for 40 Gig. So they “potential” 40 Gig specifications you’ll read about in those articles will come to fruition. My thanks go to the two authors, Andrew Oliviero of OFS and Ed Cady of Meritec, for their thorough reporting on the matter. And in particular, I express my gratitude to Mr. Oliviero for giving me the late word about the 40-Gig standard, so that I could at the very least get the news to you on this page.

Coincidentally, over the past month I have become aware of activities in two other standards-making bodies that I think merit some discussion. You can read more about one of them beginning on page 31 of this issue, so here I’ll just briefly tell you that the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS; www.incits.org) is about to release a set of specifications for the transmission of Fibre Channel signals over Category 5e, 6, and 6A twisted-pair copper cabling in a project called FC-BaseT. Claudio DeSanti, who chairs the INCITS T11 Technical Committee, explained to me, “Most Fibre Channel physical layer modules are packed in the SFP form factor. The FC-BaseT project started with an investigation aimed at verifying if a 1000Base-T PHY could be used to carry Fibre Channel at 1-Gbit/sec speed, and was triggered by the appearance of 1000Base-T SFP modules.”

After discovering some network-level limitations that prohibit a 1000Base-T PHY from carrying Fibre Channel, “A new protocol definition was needed,” DeSanti continued. “The guiding principle of the standard development was to re-use as much as possible the 1000Base-T designs, extending them to run up to the 4-Gbit/sec speed, in order to make possible new implementations to be based on existing designs. Therefore, there has been a strong collaboration with IEEE 802.3, and some liaison also with TR-42.” That commentary from DeSanti, like word of the go-ahead for 40 Gig, arrived here as this issue was going to print.

Finally, I realize these words happen to be on page 6 of this month’s issue, but I don’t want this column to become gossip central. Nonetheless, I heard recently about another bit of standards activity that will require further follow-up. Evidently, there will be a new version of the TIA-606 standard for the administration of telecommunications infrastructures. Currently in its first revision, 606-A, the administration is commonly referred to as the “labeling standard.” It’s the one that tells us the manner in which to document our end-to-end cabling systems for efficient administration. Earlier this year, I believed the TIA TR-42.6 group simply would affirm the 606-A standard, which is one of three options (revising and rescinding being the others) available to them once a standard is five years old. Now, however, it looks like the group will revise the standard in a process that ultimately will produce TIA-606-B.

From what I can tell, at least part of the impetus for the decision to revise was a current project by the group to produce an addendum to 606-A dealing with computer rooms and equipment rooms—i.e. data centers. Here’s my amateur layman’s I’ve-never-stepped-foot-in-a-standards-meeting-but-I-think-I-know-everything take on it. The addendum is meant to reconcile 606-A with the TIA’s 942 data center standard. In short, 606-A did not consider data centers and 942 did not consider administration. The two concepts will get together in Addendum 1 to 606-A. Furthermore, the TR-42.6 group will move ahead with work on 606-B. As the group’s meeting minutes from June of this year state, “The changes will include, but will not be limited to extending the concepts provided in TIA-606-A Addendum 1 into spaces other than computer rooms and equipment rooms.”

So there’s your standards update for now. Please know that we’ll continue to track the goings-on with each of these standards and keep you informed of their progress.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN

Chief Editor

patrick@pennwell.com

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – August issue 2007 www.cable-install.com 


IEEE’s Ethernet Higher Speed Study Group Heading Toward Initial Approval

A big question remaining is whether or not 40-Gig will accompany 100-Gig down the path to standardization.

Ed Cady is market development director with Meritec (www.meritec.com).

In April, in Ottawa Canada, an IEEE 802.3 interim meeting was held in a hotel two blocks away from the Canadian Parliament building. The Ethernet Alliance- and IEEE 802.3 committee-sponsored Higher Speed Study Group (HSSG) met to discuss proposals and vote on optical and copper link objectives. These objectives, with supporting multi-criteria data, were within the Project Authorization Request (PAR) put forth at the July plenary meeting held in San Francisco. (That meeting was held after deadline for this issue.) The IEEE 802.3 plenary body likely will vote and authorize a task group to develop specifications for 100-Gbit/sec Ethernet links.

The multi-criteria include economic, technical, and market feasibility studies as well as backward compatibility. The April meeting included several presentations, which proved that all criteria requirements had been satisfied. After each presentation, attendees took the floor to verbally debate, support, or critique the data shown.

High-level presentations

End-user organizations including Google, Yahoo, and Verizon provided plenty of evidence of their need for 100-Gbit/sec links. Some original equipment manufacturer (OEM) members, still hurting or having painful memories of the telecommunications crash earlier this decade, drilled the network companies on how solid their forecasting really is. However, the many mega-data-center giants received much less grilling due to the booming Internet market reality. Google representatives actually said they could use 100-Gbit/sec links immediately and implored the start of a terabit-speed standard and specification that they would need completed within two years.

Equipment manufacturers, including Alcatel/Lucent, Cisco, and Sun, revealed enough information about their technology and product roadmaps to demonstrate their ability to match most end users’ needs for 100-Gbit/sec links. Their products will support not only traditional local area network (LAN), but also newer clustered data centers, metro Ethernet and carrier Ethernet applications.

Most server-centric OEMs, like Sun, were passionate about having a native 40-Gbit/sec Ethernet specification developed by the same task force and in the same project as 100-Gbits/sec. These evangelists want to take advantage of the serendipity of interconnecting with the 4x10=40 Gbit/sec InfiniBand, Fibre Channel, PCI Express, Synchronous Optical Network (SONET), and other protocols, in a heterogeneous environment. The most network-centric OEMs and end users were passionate about not having the two tied together in any way. These traditionalists expressed concern about spending extra capital for developing both 40-Gbit/sec and 100-Gbit/sec products at the same time and making them work together. They also pointed out that the IEEE 802.3ad Link Aggregation Standard (LAG) is being used for current 40-Gbit implementation and is fine enough. The native 40-Gbit/sec evangelists retorted that LAG is not very efficient or friendly with the other 40-Gbit/sec interfaces.

Component manufacturers like Broadcom and Intel made presentations supporting 100-Gbit/sec and really pushed native 40-Gbit/sec very strongly. LSI’s presentation showed that their serializer/deserializer (serdes) chip technology and developing product will perform at 4x25=100 Gbits/sec. Sarance Technologies’ presentation promoted a much higher lane-count approach based on the InterLaken interface approach used by Cisco and Cortina. Their data showed achievable 24x5=120-Gbit/sec and 20x6.5=125-Gbit/sec implementations, but this approach was not taken seriously by the greater majority of the Ethernet community because it uses an unconventional coding scheme. Other component vendors moderately pushed 10x10=100-Gbit/sec technologies and existing products, but again the reaction was that too many lanes equals more cost and space. Promotions of 5x20=100 Gbits/sec were seen as bowing to InfiniBand and out of sync with the current four-lane Ethernet standards such as CX-4, which is booming in the current market.

The HSSG copper subcommittee presented simulation data proving that data-center short-reach CX-4 style, twinaxial cable assemblies will work for at least 10 meters at 25 Gbits per lane. This data was based on transfer functions used in the recently approved IEEE 802.3ap Ethernet backplane standard and specification, which is for single-lane 10 Gbits/sec. Real measurement data proved that raw cables and CX-4 test boards are currently available for 25-Gbit/sec-per-lane applications. There was a lot of talk about having a new copper backplane standard for 4x25=100-Gbit/sec Ethernet connections.

The HSSG optical subcommittee’s presentation showed that optical transceivers will work at 25-Gbits/sec per lane and at key distances like 2, 10, and 40 kilometers for metro and carrier applications.

Tumultuous voting

Once the presentations ended, straw polls were taken to judge how well real motions and voting would go the following day. For 100-Gbit/sec copper and optical, the polling revealed consensus had been reached. For native 40-Gbits/sec, the polling showed a nearly 50/50 split, which was hardly any improvement from the previous several meetings’ straw polling.

The next day, formal voting for 100-Gbit/sec copper and optical yielded unanimous approval. The 40-Gbit/sec team held back a formal vote, hoping to gather more potential “yes” votes before the July plenary meeting. A 75% yes vote will be needed, but it appears the 40-Gbit/sec evangelists will need to restart their efforts with a new HSSG authorization and effort—which would put them out further in time with a successful conclusion.

After the tumultuous voting, I took a break and walked over to the Canadian Parliament building, and sat in the legislative hall and witnessed another frantic voting effort, this one concerning the country’s railroad network. It ended with some very happy and some very angry members shouting loudly and carrying on in front of several live television cameras. Will future Ethernet voting be broadcast live over the Internet? The answer is yes, when 100-Gbit/sec and 1-Tbit/sec Ethernet networking is in place.

Market movements

A potential Mega Data Center Consortium appeared intent on starting to drive a Terabit standard, with or without the Ethernet committee’s help. The Optical Internet Forum (OIF) 25-Gbit/sec/lane common electrical interface specification is in development phase, and the group’s efforts seem likely to mesh and liaise with the Ethernet specification development work. The Ethernet Alliance, a business and marketing consortium, will continue to help drive the 100-Gbit/sec standard work and interoperability plugfests.

The Convergence Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) Consortium is promoting the merging if InfiniBand, Fibre Channel, and Ethernet into one new standard interface. Some CEE promoters are planning single chips with three cores for each interface as a first implementation. Some Ethernet backplane evangelists are seeking to replace InfiniBand, PCI Express, and SerialRapidIO in the backplane arena. Another group is starting a Fibre Channel over Ethernet standard effort, which is intended to dominate and replace the current iSCSI market and products.

Some 2x50=100-Gbit/sec copper transceiver chips are working in labs, but are currently too expensive for volume production. Evangelists of twisted-pair Ethernet are scratching their heads on how to accomplish 25-Gbit/sec/pair for up to 100-meter links, as they have endured a long journey in recently achieving 2.5-Gbits/sec/pair for the new IEEE 802.3an 10-Gbit standard. They have hope for carving out business in the short data-center link market, but their chips are still more costly and hotter than CX-4 components. This has resulted in them also having to offer CX-4 products. New shielded Category 6A and Category 7 cabling costs have risen close to the cost of CX-4 cabling.

Overall, work on the 4x25-Gbit/sec Ethernet copper standard likely will accelerate the development of a next-generation 20-Gbit/sec/lane InfiniBand specification and related products. A “birds of a feather” group appears to be positioning for a new 100-Gbit/sec Ethernet backplane specification and standard. Most of the Ethernet community wants to use the same copper and optical connectors that are on existing Ethernet standards if possible, such as SFF-8470, LC, and MPO.

Active twinaxial copper cables may be used to achieve longer-length assemblies—40 meters or longer—or the smallest possible wire gauge and outer cable diameter, because of the current high-performance computing and mega-data-center usage. But they likely will not be specified in the new 100-Gbit/sec Ethernet standard. Accumulative cable weight, diameters, and bend radius are significant issues with end users.

There is a huge scramble to partner, acquire, and merge with different companies up and down the food chain, as no one company can do it all developing and producing 100-Gbit/sec-capable products. Highest-end simulation software and measurement equipment is expensive. New testing methodologies need to be defined and standardized. New wire termination, as well as printed circuit board connector termination and transition routing methods, are necessary to make signaling work correctly.

Very few individuals truly understand and can develop solutions that will function correctly through the entire interconnect system. But I, for one, have faith that this fifth major generation of Ethernet development will happen and will end well, as did the previous versions.

Reprinted with full permission of Cabling Installation & Maintenance – August  issue 2007 www.cable-install.com 


Trend Spotting

Joe Salimando

Barry Nelson, vice president of mar­keting for Border States Electric, Far­go, N.D., spoke recently to the NEMA board of governors. His remarks, aimed at convincing electrical manufacturers to jump on the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW2) bandwagon, made headlines. The speech is the subject of a PDF on the Idea Web site (find it at http://tinyurl.com/2559uv).

Here are some excerpts:

“Up-to-date, accurate, and fully certified data will lower total cost, provide more differentiated value, and increase exposure for a manufacturer’s entire catalog of items,” said Nelson. “Manufacturers will also experience fewer errors in product selections and fewer returns, reshipments, credits, and debits.”

Distributors aren’t altruistically asking for this data. “We need it to drive a brand and to better market a line,” Nelson said. “And we need it to better collaborate with customers who are using electronic ordering tools. This is becoming a differentiator between manufacturers for distributors in regards to sourcing criteria.”

Wesco doesn’t use ERP

“Why Wesco Doesn’t Use ERP” was the headline on a May feature appearing on the site of Baseline magazine (find it at http://tinyurl.com/3dsmpn). 

“Wesco chose to take a radically different approach. It has created a de facto ERP system by building applications that tap into a Teradata data warehouse, which has become the centralized repository for most of the company’s business information,” the article reported.

Why did Wesco go its own way? The article noted that the company has 370 branches, eight distribution centers, and distribution center managers with a high degree of autonomy—including the ability to determine inventory, set prices, and negotiate contracts.

The key is that Wesco did not want to mess with what was in place (the WesNet system). “Companies have invested a lot of money in developing applications that run their businesses really well,” John Conte, Wesco’s CIO, said in the article. “Why give that up for the cookie-cutter approach of an ERP system?”

Further, corporate management in Pittsburgh was, according to the Baseline feature, virtually blind. “It couldn’t quickly get to important customer-level information, such as which customers had recorded a dramatic drop in purchases and were perhaps getting their supplies from a competitor,” the article noted.

After a needs analysis, Wesco executives found that the company didn’t need a new ERP system. “What Wesco really needed,” the article claimed, “was a faster way to get at the data that was already being sent in to headquarters.”

Here’s the twist: The company had picked an Oracle data warehouse as the solution, but had a 20-year relationship with NCR—and the NCR rep to Wesco asked to present information on the company’s Teradata system.

“Out of courtesy,” the article continued, “Wesco listened—but the executives felt they were humoring the NCR people. However, their minds were changed after the Teradata system was able to produce a key report in four hours or less—a report that included information Wesco’s headquarters’ employees previously could not see, and one that the Oracle system reportedly took 28 hours to produce.”

The new system cost Wesco $10 mil­lion, instead of the estimated $110 million cost of a transition to an ERP system. In addition to the $100 million savings, the company reports that it gained:

• A one-time margin improvement of $10 million from using the system

• A $4 million savings in the first two years via better management of its discount practices

• Recorded annual savings of $1 million in discounts

• An $8 million one-time gain through inventory reduction and better distribution of inventory among branches

Most distributors don’t match Wesco’s size (the company could top $6 billion in 2007 sales), but the fact that the com­pany listened to a vendor’s alternative solution to a problem and, thanks to that, found a way to cut the estimated investment by a reported 90% is encouraging.

BIM and green

Another brick in the building information modeling (BIM) foundation has been put in place: Use of BIM by everyone in construction can help buildings be greener. The technology is different from previous 3-D design offerings, in that there is intelligence embedded in the model.

An article on BuildingGreen.com (find it at http://tinyurl.com/2r96w6) addresses “How BIM Can Aid Green Design”; the benefits cited include:

• More detailed energy analysis than traditional construction documents have previously permitted

• Reduction in the time needed to set up energy models

• The ability to pass data back and forth from BIM models to standard software now in use 

In terms of use on hundreds of larger construction projects, BIM isn’t there quite yet, but its arrival threatens to upset industries involved in construction—including electrical distribution. A detailed, accurate model of a build­ing allows automated take-offs, material estimates and more direct ordering of materials by someone other than an electrical contractor, and the potential for more jobs in which an electrical contractor can become a labor-only contractor.

      Salimando can be reached online at wordsmith@verizon.net.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August  issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


The Last Word On Cabling Standards

Jim Hayes

A follow-up to the January “Cable” column, which lamented the high cost of obtaining copies of cabling standards that cover the components for voice, data, and video installations.

Since January, I have attended two TIA meetings and have questioned the people running several standards committees. I made proposals to them based on my ideas for making the standards more understandable to a larger audience, and have come to a variety of conclusions about these standards.

First and foremost, I advise distributors and installers to forget about obtaining and using the standards themselves. I have been told by a number of people—including committee chairs—that they are not writing standards for installers or users; they are writing them for the manufacturers of cabling components that participate in the committees. This coincides with the definition of these standards provided by an ex-chairman of the IEEE committee that develops Ethernet standards—he described them as “mutually agreed-upon specifications for product development.”

Let’s examine this for a moment. A standards committee is a group of technical and marketing people, virtually all from manufacturers of relevant products, who cooperate under the auspices of an industry trade association and negotiate product specifications to ensure interoperability. Since the potential for restraint of trade exists, they operate on some tight rules that prevent legal problems. To deal with the advancement of technology, they often create working groups that engage in research into relevant technical issues that affect the products. What results is a definition for products that will guarantee certain levels of performance and interoperability.

For standardized structured cabling, the goal is to produce a predictable minimum performance level for cabling that manufacturers can use for developing communications products. Those products have traditionally been communications products like Ethernet LANs, but also include security systems—both CCTV and alarms—building control sys­tems, audio, and anything that can work over the standardized cabling system. The cabling standards are minimums, so many companies can offer enhanced products that exceed the standards and offer benefits to certain users, as well as provide a competitive advantage.

The manufacturers of network electronics have their own standards meetings where they do similar work—for example, Ethernet in the IEEE 802.3 committees. Liaison between the network and cabling committees ensures that their standards will work together. In fact, the committees often use input from each other to set their agendas and technical targets. Other applications that use structured cabling—such as video over UTP cabling—must rely on these cabling standards during their product development, as they are basically proprietary applications, not covered by industry standards. However, should manufacturers of video products want such a standard, they could initiate a similar process in order to create one.

None of these processes can help me when I get a call from someone wanting to know what the standard says about a specific issue. For example, in January I spent more than a dozen hours on the phone helping a contact understand testing issues for structured cabling. My investigations at the standards meetings provided insight into how to answer the question. Since the manufacturers develop the standards for their own use, they assume the re­spon­sibility for educating their personnel and customers, distributors, or end-users. Every company involved in structured cabling seems to have a section in the back of its catalog and a Web site devoted to explaining the standards. It is here, not in the standards themselves, where the relevant information is to be found.

As an author of several textbooks and training programs that cover cabling and standards, I have struggled with how to cover standards. They change continuously, with the written and approved ver­sions often lagging current product technology. I’m beginning to hedge as to how I refer to standards, covering the scope of the current and expected future versions, but not trying to offer definitive in­formation on them, which would be hopelessly out of date.

So, I’m putting the responsibility on manufacturers’ backs, and advise distributors to do the same. I give the back­ground and overview, but leave it to the manufacturer to provide up-to-date, simple explanations. After all, that’s what they expect—and want—us to do.

—Hayes, of VDV Works, has been active in the VDV cabling business for more than 25 years. Find him at www.JimHayes.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


Private Label Publicity

Adam Fein

The private label trend is proving disruptive and controversial to electrical distribution—but it’s naive to believe it’ll go away, and simplistic to assume that no good can come of it.

Private labels are less common in electrical distribution than in other wholesale distribution industries. According to the new report Fac­ing the Forces of Change: Lead the Way in the Supply Chain, 43% of distributors today sell their own private label prod­ucts, but only 14% of electrical distributors offer a private label. (It is estimated that about one-third of electrical distributors will offer private label products by 2012.)

Barriers exist

Of course, not all electrical distributors support private labels. Last month, Bob Reynolds, chairman, president, and CEO of Graybar Electric, announced that Graybar would not offer private labels.

Contractor preferences are another barrier to the sale of private label products by electrical distributors. Some contractors use premium brands to communicate the quality and reliability of their services to their customers, thereby increasing the importance of carrying high-quality national brands. Product liability issues also limit the willingness of distributors to enter certain categories.

One study found that while contractors will accept any manufacturer’s brand or a distributor’s own brand in product categories such as cable ties, fasteners, chemicals, lubricants, and metal fittings, brand preference is alive and well for mission-critical electrified products such as breakers, switch­gear, and controls.

Private label pros

Distributors in many re­lated industries have recognized the opportunity to provide private label products and help customers with sourcing, rather than simply acting as a sales channel for branded manufacturers.

For example, earlier in the year Stanley Works made the announcement that Home Depot would be replacing its branded padlocks and latches with products from Crown Bolt. (Crown Bolt is a manufacturer that Home Depot acquired last year and is now part of HD Supply.)

And Grainger is moving aggressively into global sourcing of private label products from China and Taiwan. The products obtained through the global sourcing operation include Westward tools, Lumapro lighting products, and Condor safety products.

Private labels can also strengthen channel relationships with suppliers that need assistance in going global. Consider Berlin Packaging, a distributor of containers and closures that set up operations in China five years ago as a way to source low-cost global products for its domestic manufacturing customers in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and personal care industries. The com­pany quickly learned that domestic suppliers were asking for help managing overseas relationships or even finding reliable factories, so it now provides its expertise as a fee-based service for suppliers, too.

Make no mistake—suppliers and their distributors will be battling over private labels. But, for the most part, the trend will continue to grow in categories where the manufacturer’s brand does not add enough value.

—Fein is founder and president of Pem­broke Consulting. He can be reached at 215-523-5700 or online at www.pembrokeconsulting.com.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


Recruit And Retain

According to Cassie Petty, vice presi­dent of human resources and quality assurance at Standard Electric Supply in Milwaukee, “Hir­ing the best people and ensuring the highest quality of service delivery for our customers are tied pretty closely together.”

Larry Stern, president and owner of Standard Electric Supply, agrees, noting that the secret to the company’s success is to start with good people. “Then we give them the resources to perform well and get out of their way,” he said.

Stern says it isn’t unusual for the company to adopt 70 or 80 new ideas in any given year. “And these aren’t minor suggestions that we are considering: These are the great ideas that will improve our business in some way—either directly affecting customer service, improving our internal efficiencies, or helping us achieve the company’s long-term strategic goals.”

It is fitting that Standard Electric Supply be the company profiled in this issue. TED takes a special look at workforce trends and how to get maximum performance out of the people in our industry; learn more about the company and its incentive programs on page 32.

Following that, Michael Martin, TED’s associate publisher and editor, examines Gen Y, the next generation of employees, and what the industry needs to do to get them more involved. As Martin points out, understanding this next generation is important. Sixty-two percent of respondents to a TED reader survey were over 45 years old—and more than half of that group was over 55 years old. A company that hopes to make a smooth transition into the next decades had better start looking for the next generation of leaders. Martin’s article should provide a few ideas to help in the search.

Of course, NAED will be doing its part to help attract new people to the industry as well. Under the guidance of NAED’s Western Regional Council, the association is in the process of building an electrical industry recruitment Web site designed to introduce 17- to 30-year-olds to the electrical distribution channel and direct interested people to participating NAED member companies to learn about job op­portunities. The council, along with NAED staff, has worked with outside recruitment specialists to help us understand the hot buttons for the next generation and how to better communicate with them.

Of course, just building a Web site won’t accomplish what needs to be done. Therefore, at the request of the council, NAED’s Board of Directors has com­mitted the resources to market the site to the right audience. Our goal is to get potential employees to understand the opportunities that this industry offers and get them to make inquiries to your company—after that, it’s up to you to sell them on the benefits of working for you.

More on the Web site will be coming out in the next few months. Until then, take a look at this issue of TED and start thinking about how you can get maximum performance out of the industry’s next generation of employees and leaders.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


Tackling The Talent Crunch

At Border States, we have implemented aggressive growth plans. Our vision to be a $1 billion company is supported by four strategic goals, one of which is to enhance employee-owner development. In order to achieve this, we have identified numerous action items ranging from recruiting to training and development to succession planning. Attracting qualified talent to build teams to support our growth and replace the retiring Baby Boomers is one of our greatest challenges. Currently at Border States, 17% of our workforce is 55 years old or older.

The number of U.S. workers over the age of 40 has increased significantly since 1980, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2010, more than 51% of the workforce is expected to be 40 or older—a 33% increase since 1980—while the portion of the workforce aged 25 to 39 will decline 5.7%. At the same time, the median age of U.S. workers has con­tinued to rise and is expected to in­crease by six years, from 34.6 to 40.6, by 2010. The number of workers aged 55 and older will grow from 13% of the labor force in 2000 to 20% in 2020.

America’s aging workforce creates a challenge for us to hire and retain the best and the brightest in our industry. As re­cruiting top talent becomes increasingly difficult, it is more important than ever to build interest in careers in the channel. To compete for new talent, we must ensure that top candidates entering the work­force find this industry attractive with well-defined career paths.

To tackle this talent crunch, NAED is working on several initiatives to help with recruitment, training, and development. To attract men and women ages 17 to 34 to the industry, the Western Region Council is developing a recruitment marketing campaign for the electrical distribution industry. This is a very exciting project geared to acquaint new workers with the electrical distribution industry and educate them on available career opportunities. The council, with the aid of consultants, researched the lifestyles and expectations of the younger generations within the workplace. Using the results of their research, NAED is developing a Web site and marketing tools to assist members in attracting new talent to the industry and filling positions within their companies.

The Web site will illustrate the options and benefits of a career working in electrical distribution. It will also provide NAED member distributors the opportunity to link visitors to their individual company Web sites. The Web site will include job descriptions and testimonials from industry employees within the target age group, interactive games to encourage visitors to share the Web site with friends, and industry information for parents and school counselors. It will also feature brochures for school counselors and students that can be downloaded, customized, and distributed by electrical distributors to their local high schools, trade schools, and universities.

In addition to the Web site and marketing campaign, NAED is in the very beginning stages of investigating a certification program. The proposed process would require successful completion of a comprehensive examination and a number of years of service in that posi­tion. The exam will include sections on electrical distribution knowledge, prod­uct application knowledge, communication and other soft skills abilities, and sales skills. It will be based upon competencies developed for each position by industry leaders and those who are currently in the positions.

The program specifics are still in design, but the following positions have been established and will be certified:

• Warehouse associate

• Warehouse manager

• Will call

• Counter sales

• Inside sales

• Outside sales

• Branch manager

Along with the certification program, the NAED Learning Center, an Internet-based learning management system, continues to grow in scope and usage by distributors for training and educating their employees. Currently, more than 300 courses are available online.

As we know from research, younger employees want a challenging career with clearly defined career paths, training, and the ability to experience cutting-edge technology. NAED is responding to these needs.

NAED’s recruitment Web site, certification program, and online learning center are designed to meet the needs of younger employees and drive new talent into the electrical distribution industry. There’s never been a time when it has been more needed.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


The Tide Is High

Joe Salimando

Does a rising tide actually lift all boats? According to this month’s stock market assessment of the 10 electrical/datacomm industry companies covered, the answer is a resounding yes.

Emcor Group (EME) issued a mid-second-quarter release to note that it was ratcheting up its guidance for 2007 sales and earnings-per-share, citing a more favorable competitive dynamic surrounding time-sensitive, highly complex projects. The company also set a two-for-one stock split for early July. Surely, its $72.07 price on June 20 was, at least in part, due to those announcements.

The company had closed the year’s first week of trading at $55—a 31% gain. Earlier, it posted a 14.5% reve­nue gain in the first quarter, to $1.32 billion; and its contract backlog rose 36.5% vs. one year earlier (and 19% vs. three months earlier).

Said Frank MacInnis, chairman and CEO: “We believe these favorable conditions will continue, based on the encouraging market indicators we are seeing and our backlog growth.”

The other contractor on this month’s chart, Integrated Electrical Services (IESC), still suffering from its bankruptcy filing last year, was trading for $32.43 when June 20 came to a close. As December ended, the stock was under $20.

• Anixter’s June 20 close was $74.54. The company made a low of $49.28 in the year’s first week—a 51% gain in five-plus months.

“Things are good,” said Robert Grubbs, president and CEO, and all indications are that these trends will continue for the next few quarters.

On other fronts, Anixter ranked No. 454 on the Fortune 500 (last year it was No. 509), purchased Eurofast SAS of France, an aerospace fastener distributor, held an open house to introduce its 4,000-square-foot Infrastructure Solutions Lab, and agreed to participate in IBM’s data center Energy Efficiency Initiative.

On the manufacturing side:

• Acuity Brands (AYI) closed trading on June 20 at $61.09. As recently as the week of March 12, it hit a low of $51.64. That’s nearly a 20% gain in roughly one quarter.

• ADC Telecommunications (ADCT) finished June 20 at $18.76. At the close of this year’s first day of trading the stock was at $14.78. That’s a 27% gain in less than six months.

The company had stronger than expected sales and earnings for the sec­ond quarter (ended May 4), which were accompanied by a dramatic increase in its gross margins—from 32% reported in the first quarter to 34.5%. First-half sales that totaled than $646 million were up just 2.5%. Robert Switz, president and CEO, said he believes that there are significant long-term growth opportunities ahead for the company.

 • At Encore Wire, the $30.62 close of June 20 was a giant leap (actually, 45%) from the first-week 2007 low of $21.10.

According to Daniel Jones, president and CEO: “We are pleased to announce a profitable quarter in the midst of the tough competitive environment that we are cur­rently facing in our industry. The margin compression we experienced in the fourth quarter of 2006 continued into the first quarter of 2007.”

• General Cable (BGC) made a head­line in recent weeks as the leading gainer of the day. At a June 20 close of $75.18, the company’s stock was up 76% from its closing price in January’s first week.

The company’s revenues in the first quarter hit more than $1 billion—up 25% from year-earlier results. Highlights in­cluded a 420-basis-point increase in operating margins (on a metal-adjusted basis). The company sold some debt and bought in high-priced fixed-rate notes (which carried a 9.5% interest rate).

Of further note, North American transmission cable volumes, as measured by metal pounds sold, were up 25% (comparing quarter one 2007 to quarter one 2006).

• Hubbell’s Class A stock (HUB.a) sat at $54.70 on June 20 when trading ended. It hit a low in January trading of $43.50—giving it a gain of better than 25%.

In other news, Hubbell began its effort to wipe out memories of shortfalls in last year’s fourth quarter—what Timothy Powers, chairman, president, and CEO, called the company’s campaign to return Hubbell to its historic levels of market-leading profitability and performance. Sales in the first quarter were up 9%, to nearly $626 million.

“We are focused on three areas,” Powers said, “price realization, productivity, and cost containment. Implementation of selling price increases to counter materials and cost inflation are improving profitability, which resulted in incremental sales of approximately 4% to 5% com­pared to the first quarter of 2006.”

• Rockwell Automation (ROK) closed at $68.48 on June 20. In early April the stock traded in the $57 range (closing at $57.69 in Easter week); the gain in less than 10 weeks was 18.7%.

Rockwell’s revenue rose 8% in the second quarter, as the company hit $1.2 billion in sales. For the first half, sales were $2.35 billion—up 7.4%. U.S. sales were said to be flat compared to the second quarter of 2006. Results were mixed, said Keith Nosbusch, chairman and CEO. “Operating margins were mildly disappointing, primarily due to a very difficult revenue mix and the lagged execution of our productivity plans.”

• Tyco International (TYC) is about to split itself into three, which, in part, led to a June 20 close of $32.62. One year earlier, TYC was at $26.78. While the time span is longer than the others quoted here, it’s still a near 22% gain in one year (not including dividends).

The company’s first-half revenue (second quarter ended March 30) was $21.17 billion—so maybe a split-up is a good idea. Tyco itself will keep the fire and security business and the engineered products piece; the electronics operation, Tyco Electronics, will become a separate company, as will the health­care business, Coviden.

What will happen after the spin-off? CEO Edward Breen said the company will continue to make tuck-in acquisitions of related business, according to a Reuters account. The com­pany will sell off operations that do not fit—including Earth Tech, which is in the water infrastructure business. Tyco In­ternational’s retained businesses reported $18.6 billion in 2006 revenue.

—Salimando is a contributing editor to TED. Reach him at wordsmith@verizon.net.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


Tools For Growth

Dan Carazo

Faster network speeds, increased residential networking, and expanded network service

offerings are spurring the need for new—not more—VDV tools and testing equipment.

According to Jim Carefoot, VDV product manager for Greenlee, a Textron Company, the sales of low-voltage and VDV test equipment, including tools, have grown at rates that are above facility construction levels for a number of years—and this trend is forecasted to continue.

But when asked if the bullish growth seen in the broad data center and com­mercial VDV market caused an increase in the numbers and/or types of tools and measurement equipment needed, Care­foot’s response was a solid “no.”

“The span of tools that are required to handle commercial growth is actually lower,” he said. “Copper media—such as high-performance twisted-pair and coaxial cable—endure as winners in most horizontal applications, and most testers target both. However, various improvements have been made in the value of the equipment sold.” 

According to Dan Wright, public relations manager for Fluke Networks, the company expects to see solid growth in all of its segments—including enterprise network testing (which includes cable installation and certification and portable network troubleshooting), enterprise performance management (the monitoring and analysis of the active network), and communication service providers (which helps telecom carriers migrate to next-generation services).

“There are three market forces that are driving change in the networking world, and this, in turn, is causing changes to network testing and measurement products,” said Wright. “The main drivers are higher network speeds, more networking services built into residences, and communications carriers offering more and different network services to their business customers.

“There is considerable interest in 10Gb networks, particularly 10GBASE-T,” he added. “This creates a need for field-usable test and certification tools that can deal with the high-bandwidth demands of 10Gb traffic.”

“With the ratification of IEEE 802.3an, the application standard for 10GBASE-T, silicon vendors now ship 10GBASE-T chipsets, and we will soon see 10GbE switches available in the marketplace,” said Mike O’Connor, director of technical marketing and services for Hubbell Premise Wiring. “The final standard awaiting approval is TIA’s cabling infrastructure standard, ANSI/TIA/EIA-568B.2-10.

“The biggest challenge with 10GbE transmission over new 6a UTP cabling is ANEXT, or alien near end crosstalk, and testing it,” he added. “End-users who are installing 6a cabling will want to test it, so handheld testers are needed to complete these tests in the shortest possible time.”

Tester selection

According to Wright, residential installers need tools to help them test and document a wider range of cabling types used for more services than ever before, and he noted that the question that most affects tester buying decisions is, Does it help business?

“Some installers look at testing as an expense and would prefer to skip this step altogether,” he said. “But the smart installers recognize that testing and documentation improve the quality of the installation, as well as greatly reduce the chance that costly, unpaid callbacks could occur.” 

Once the decision is made to buy a tester, the next issue is selecting one that provides the right features and functionality. Does the design help eliminate user-induced errors? Is the learning curve as short as possible? Does it address today’s technology?

“A prominent trend in testers is improvement in the user interface, where test selection and results must be easy to reach,” said Carefoot. “This means better displays and user-friendly controls. High-bandwidth media has become so com­mon that it has to be dealt with by many more technicians with lower levels of experience and training.”

Of course, there’s more to the VDV tool market than cable testers.

“Datacomm, security, and commercial VDV are seeing growth,” said Bruce Hartranft, business unit manager for Ideal. “Electricians are entering high-growth areas including security, home theater, and other VDV installations—thus, they need specialized hand tools.”

According to Hartranft, research has shown that 30% or more of electrical contractors are handling access control, CCTV, and motion detection, and more are running data cable for Internet, whole-house audio, and home theater systems. “These areas show excellent business potential for electricians—and their distributors,” he said. 

—Carazo is a marketing consultant specializing in brand development and integrated marketing. He can be reached at dcaraz@optonline.net.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – August issue 2007 www.tedmag.com  


Workforce Report

Michael Martin

There’s a new generation entering the workforce—do you speak their language?

Today’s typical electrical distribution employee is older than Microsoft, the Internet, and the fax machine. Most know what Al Gore did before he became a filmmaker and enlightened the world on the ill effects of global warming. It’s likely that they reminisce about the first time a fax came through, and most remember receiving an e-mail for the first time.

But that’s all about to change. In fact, it already has—ask Baby Boomers where they were when Kennedy died, and they’ll reflect on a November day in 1963 when a presidential motorcade made its way through Dallas. Ask a Gen Y worker (that is, a person born after 1978) and the answer will likely be about a July day in 1999, when a small plane crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

It goes without saying that there will be many such disconnects between generations, and it’s not a matter of who is right and who is wrong. The matter at hand is how those in this youngest generation can be integrated into the workforce before their booming parents retire—64 million of them by the end of this decade, according to the Conference Board.

It is estimated that in the United States alone, 8,000 to 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 60 every day. In addition, for every two experienced workers who leave the workforce, only one inexperienced worker replaces them.

Results from TED’s National Subscriber Profile Survey, conducted in January, reflect that electrical distribution is no different when it comes to the aging population. Sixty-two percent of reader respondents were over 45 years old, and more than half of that group topped age 55. These numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise; it’s no secret that a great number of people are going to retire in the next decade. What is unknown, however, is how companies in the electrical industry are going to secure younger people to fill the shoes of the retiring Baby Boomers.

The generation currently entering the workforce—Gen Y (also known as the Millennial Generation)—is different from any before it. And while “different” is a word that has been used to describe each generation as it came to the work­force, it’s especially descriptive of Gen Y.

The culture in which Gen Yers have matured and the technologies with which they have grown up have created a generation that is more savvy, worldly, and technologically proficient than any other before it. Gen Yers have access to many more communication tools than any previous generation, and companies that hope to recruit the best of them will have to get through to them in their language.

What’s so different about Y?

The offspring of the peace, love, and understanding generation, Gen Y workers typically grew up with both parents working. Both parents likely had a coaching role in their upbringing, as opposed to the dictatorial style of parenting prevalent during Baby Boomers’ childhoods. Also, unlike prior generations, the Y chil­dren were likely involved in making collaborative decisions in their own lives from an early age. From what sports to play to what areas of studies they pursued, Gen Yers’ in­put was sought after, valued, and coached.

This is why, upon entering the workforce, Gen Y workers expect to be involved in decision making and tend not to be shy about sharing their opinions. This parental rela­tionship has also created the not un­common situation where a parent accompanies a Gen Y pros­pect to an inter­view and, reportedly, even to an occasional performance review.

According to Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainmakerThinking, a research firm that studies the working lives of young people, “Parenting, teaching, and counseling became so focused on self-esteem during the mid-1980s that in most cases Gen Y workers feel great about themselves.”

Tulgan also stated that Gen Y work­ers are the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world. “The good news is that they are also going to be the most high performing,” he said. “They have more information in their heads and at their fingertips than anyone else has had on day one of a new job. They have been to an employer’s Web site, they have done research, they have ideas, and they want to make changes immediately. They have high expectations, but they have the highest expectations first and foremost for themselves.”

From a technology standpoint, Gen Y workers were born with a joystick in their hand. Because they’ve been raised with Nintendo, virtual reality, and online interactive games, they come to the work­place equipped with the ability to make decisions quickly, and are highly focused on outcomes.

They also have an amazing ability to multitask—although they’re not always necessarily successful at it. According to a study from Nationwide Mutual Insurance, 35% of Gen Yers reported multitasking while driving—37% send text or instant messages and 73% eat. These figures are much higher than those in older generations, and the practice has significantly increased the number of highway accidents, causing some com­panies to implement cell phone policies—from requiring employees to pull over when using company phones to completely banning the use of company wireless devices while driving.

Processing information is a similar story. According to research from The Centre for Organization Effectiveness, Gen Y workers process information selectively. Due to the abundance of resources at their fingertips, they can’t take it all in, so they don’t—and they bring these be­haviors to work. This is especially true when they act like they “get it” but actually don’t, which sometimes leads to incomplete projects.

What makes Y tick at work

“The ideal workplace for the Generation Y workforce has to be flexible and must fit into their lifestyles,” said Eric Chester, president of Generation Why and author of Employing Generation Why. “Instead of just saying ‘9-to-5 is what we have,’ offer alternatives.”

But flexibility alone won’t attract and retain this group. They also seek an environment that provides autonomy, the opportunity to make decisions, mentoring, and face time.

“Conflict between Gen Y workers and others is common because older workers may see Gen Y workers as young upstarts,” said Chester. Conversely, “Gen Y workers won’t automatically respect older workers or those with seniority. But the they are much more accepting of people who are different from them.”

Gen Y workers are much like their predecessors, Gen Xers, in that both tend to look for jobs that fit within their own personal career aspirations. According to Chester, “Gen Y workers want to work for companies doing good things—they are good corporate citizens and want to do something bigger than themselves.”

And unlike the Baby Boomers, who looked to James Dean and Rebel Without a Cause for tips on how to defy unhip elders; or the antiwar generation of the 1970s, which burned flags and bras in an effort to fight the establishment; or the Gen Xers, who watched parents get laid off during the 1980s and learned to be scrappy survivors, Gen Y comes into the workplace with little desire to rebel.

According to Nancy Alrichs’s book, Manager of Choice: 5 Competen­cies for Cultivating Top Talent, Gen Y workers put personal and family needs ahead of work demands. And rather then rebelling, for Gen Y the effects of 9/11 included a need to be close to family, and a need to volunteer and con­tribute to the world at large.

While not looking to rebel, Gen Yers do come with a sense of entitlement. “Gen Y workers are independent, entrepreneurial thinkers who relish responsibility, demand immediate feedback, and expect a sense of accomplishment on an hourly basis,” said Tulgan. “They will tell you how to fix your team, department, and organization before they’ve completed the orientation program.”

When it comes to mentoring, formal methods don’t appear to work as well as informal conversations for Gen Y. Sources indicate that formal one-on-one sessions are less productive than in­formal opportunities to share moments of learning, wisdom, and praise.

Older managers should also be cautioned not to be defensive of the question, “Why?” In many instances, youthful curiosity is the root cause that brings up the “Why?” question; asking “Why?” may not be an attempt to defy authority. In fact, this generation is one of the least rebellious to come along in ages.

How to recruit Y

Born with a cell phone in one hand and a laptop in the other, turning the head of a Gen Y prospect makes hav­ing top-of-the-line technologies a necessity. While pre­senting defined company goals, providing a sense of corporate community, and offering international work opportunities are hooks that can help capture new talent, the crux of recruitment efforts relies on communication via the latest technologies.

In the good old days, job candidates worked hard to impress potential employers. Today, there’s a fundamental shift afoot: Demand for talent is set to outweigh supply for the foreseeable future, and employers are finding it necessary to do everything possible to be attractive in the marketplace. Old recruitment efforts sim­ply won’t attract the best talent.

Steven Rothberg, president and founder of CollegeRecruiter.com, said even the use of Web sites and e-mail recruitment are becoming passé with Gen Y. “It’s virtually impossible to walk around a college campus these days without seeing students sending or receiving text messages,” said Rothberg. “While e-mail is often regarded by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers as being too fast, Gen Y regards e-mail as too slow and formal.”

“Many Gen Y members believe that if messaging isn’t instant, it isn’t relevant,” he continued. “Recruiters who still rely on newspaper ads are irrelevant to this audience. Only moderately more relevant are recruiters who use the Internet just to post jobs to the big three [Monster, CareerBuilder, and HotJobs] or to search their resume banks,” he continued.

Using text messaging to recruit is difficult, though, because the number of characters that can be used is very limited (145 for most cell phone carriers). If this trend becomes more common, a new recruitment language will come into being, with a focus on short, exact messages, and a call to action for more information will be necessary.

Of course, applicants cannot respond to text messaging with a resume attachment, so an e-mail or link to a Web site to upload a resume will be needed.

Companies should become familiar with social Web sites like Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yahoo! 360. Accord­ing to a survey from the Institute for Corporate Produc­tivity in conjunction with HR.com, 65% of business professionals are logging on to these social networking sites not only to connect with peers, but also to network with colleagues and customers, as well as look for jobs.

According to the survey, which analyzed data from 323 organizations, the most popular site was LinkedIn, which targets business professionals. The survey also revealed that about half of the organizations use social networking sites to connect both internal and remote staff. Just less than half use the networks to connect with potential clients and to showcase their skills, and 35% are currently using the sites as a tool to find jobs.

Another technology trend is for organizations to create and maintain sophisticated Web sites in order to educate, target, and communicate with particular groups that may be more attractive as prospective employees.

Overall, there is both good and bad news here. When it comes to finding talent, distributors who are equipped with the right tools and offer the most pro­fitable opportunities will be most likely to find success. The good news is that there are more ways than ever to search for and attract new talent. The bad news is that electrical distributors must be as good at selling the benefits of working for their company to prospective employees as they are in selling products and ser­vices to their customers.

—Martin is the associate publisher/editor of TED magazine. Reach him at 314-812-5311 or via e-mail at mmartin@naed.org.

Reprinted with full permission of Ted Magazine – June issue 2007 www.tedmag.com 


Cabling Brings Building Up To Speed

Category 6 network provides performance improvements for corporate headquarters

In 1976, the Fort Worth, Texas, skyline changed with the construction of the first of the Tandy Center’s twin 20-story towers. Two years later, the second tower was erected. The buildings were constructed to serve as the headquarters of RadioShack (formerly the Tandy Corp.), but also housed a mall and an indoor ice-skating rink. Over time, the mall began to fall into decline, and RadioShack sold the buildings to move into a new corporate headquarters, leaving the twin towers virtually empty. Today, the towers are being renovated and re-developed as City Place–and Range Resources is the first tenant to move in.

Range Resources is an independent oil and gas company that operates in the Appalachian, Southwestern and Gulf Coast regions of the United States. The company had outgrown its offices at another building in downtown Fort Worth and decided to move its offices to the new City Place office tower, where it now occupies five floors. As with any building project, Range Resources met with a few obstacles, including challenges associated with the design and age of the building.

Because the building had to be completely renovated, Range Resources’ new offices essentially had to be built from scratch. That meant the company would have the opportunity to build its communications infrastructure from the ground up with a new cabling system. Though the new communications infrastructure represented a significant upgrade over what Range Resources had been using in its previous location, installing cabling in the limited space provided by the 30-year-old tower proved to have its challenges. The company looked to KRK Technologies to design and implement a system that would overcome these obstacles.

Limited room, closet and ceiling space, coupled with building code restrictions, required KRK to find alternative pathways for the cabling. Only about two feet of space existed in the ceilings for the wiring associated with a building (e.g., electricity, security, cabling) and the county’s building code specified that cables had to be at least three feet away from the air units–so traditional pathways were limited.

In answer to this challenge, KRK created pathways in the actual offices as opposed to creating them in the hallways. Not an easy task, since the longer lengths of cabling had to be pulled through every office.

Tight cabling spaces

“Since City Place is such an historic building, its construction is rather different from a new build that you’d see today,” says Bob Koethe, vice president for KRK. “The ceiling space between the drop ceiling and the actual top deck is very limited. Typically, you work with about four to five feet of space, but in this building we were working with only two to three feet of space. We had to get very creative with our pathways to get the cable from the closets to the actual workstations.”

KRK, based in Cedar Hill, Texas, provides cabling design and infrastructure installation for voice and data communications. Its services range from design to project management, and moves, adds and changes services. KRK designed and implemented the solution while the building was still under construction, creating some timing challenges for the installation.

“We were working in that building while they were still downstairs with bulldozers and cutting everything out of the building,” Koethe offers.

The installation comprised 120,000 feet of SYSTIMAX GigaSPEED XL 2071 plenum copper cabling in the horizontal and 5,000 feet of GigaSPEED XL 2081 plenum cabling in the backbone. Both types meet the TIA/EIA 568-b2-1 Category 6 and ISO/IEC Category 6 specifications and provide the added performance margin required to support high-bandwidth applications–like Range Resources’ reservoir and 3-D seismic simulations, which can often be 20-30 gigabits.

“Most oil and gas companies need sophisticated cabling infrastructure to support their applications, but Range Resources also wanted to implement voice over IP,” says Mark Guajardo, operations manager for KRK.

voice, data AND video transported

CommScope’s SYSTIMAX GigaSPEED XL solution is a fully integrated structured cabling solution, including a range of cables, cords, outlets and patching hardware. It exceeds Category 6/Class E standards in any channel up to 100 meters with six or fewer connectors.

The GigaSPEED XL 2071 cabling transmits voice, data and video, with quality of service (QoS). The cables feature a patent-pending, bi-sector tape that delivers the performance benefits of more traditional cabling without the stiffness and size associated with fluted center members. The GigaSPEED XL 2081 cabling also transmits voice, data and video with a guaranteed margin of 10 db near-end crosstalk (NEXT) and  power sum NEXT.

The cabling is an unshielded twisted pair that complements the GigaSPEED XL apparatus. GigaSPEED XL supports Range Resources’ 250 Fort Worth employees with network line speeds in excess of 1 Gbps–meaning a 300-gigabit production data project that used to take a week can now be finished typically in just one day.

Range Resources also invested in the PATCHMAX solution, which provides preterminated wire management that its IT personnel can manage directly. This not only saves room in the racks for other systems, but also allows the oil and gas company to add additional equipment as needed.

Range Resources completed its move in early May of 2007, and though the system is still new, the company has not experienced any problems. In fact, many employees have already noted how much faster the new network runs.

“Our existing solution was just pieced together, and I knew it wouldn’t support the applications we were looking to run, specifically VoIP,” explains Joe Hale, IT director for Range Resources. “We knew coming in that Category 6 made the most sense. After KRK took us on the tour of CommScope’s research and development labs and we got to see the technology in action, we knew we’d found the right solution.”

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News – August issue 2007

www.comnews.com


Redefining The Data Center Lifecycle

Blade servers offer the flexibility to upgrade the network without using a forklift approach.

by Mike McNerney

Blade servers have been gaining significant ground in the data center since their introduction about six years ago. As a result, data center managers are benefiting from the improved power, cooling efficiency and serviceability of the blade form factor. They are able to upgrade and repair their data centers by simply exchanging old or defective blades and other components.

Even with the improvements that the blade form factor offers, these systems are built into processes, procedures and lifecycles of the existing rackmount-centric data centers. The full modular potential of blades has yet to be realized.

Data centers and computer resources are typically upgraded in incremental cycles of three to five years or more. This approach causes disruptions in service, but budget constraints, depreciation and data center facility lifecycles make breaking the three-to-five-year rule difficult. All of these limitations are independent and conflict with the simplified upgrade capabilities of a blade architecture.

An alternative to this forklift approach is to develop a methodical way to continually upgrade through constant monitoring and replacement of the minor components of the data center. By creating an ecosystem of constant renewal, IT can successfully develop such an “evergreen” data center.

One benefit of an evergreen data center is higher computing performance. Recent Standard Performance Evaluation Corp. (SPEC) CPU benchmark results show system performance improving with such a data center by roughly 20 to 40 percent annually. If this trend continues over a five-year lifespan, available hardware shows a 150 to 400 percent performance improvement. Companies are thus paying a performance penalty for old gear they have not had the time or budget to replace.

For customers using IT as a competitive weapon, performance is a key differentiator. Better performance means customers can execute the trade, discover the drug or design the product faster. Being the fastest is quickly becoming a requirement, not just an option.

The benefits, however, go beyond the traditional speed geeks. For example, customers in automotive design–who buy software licenses for design automation software–can maintain their data center and upgrade to the latest computer technology, while achieving the same or better results with less hardware and software. One such company projected a $12 million savings in software systems alone, because the improved performance of the latest systems allowed it to buy only 30 licenses instead of 50.

Ride the performance curve

Instead of building 20 to 30 percent more data centers every year, the growing enterprise can ride the performance curve of newer systems. By leveraging the advantages of blades and managing the refresh process, companies can prevent costly data center build-outs.

Data center managers today are experiencing pressure to cut energy costs. With one utility estimating that data centers use 50 times the energy per square foot as an office, organizations are looking at computer facilities as a place to trim energy costs. Since computer power consumption is doubling about every five years, according to industry experts, this challenge is not going to be easy. Fortunately, performance per watt and per square foot of new blades improves over time. For example, today’s dual-core chips require the same power as their single-core predecessors, so users get more computing in the same power and cooling envelope.

Timely improvements ripple through the data center, providing savings in infrastructure costs, such as power and cooling, real estate, additional capacity and software licensing. In order to be ready for these demands, here are some areas to take into consideration in the quest for an evergreen data center:

Chassis and blades. A chassis that can handle the next generation of devices is necessary. Nothing will restrict upgrade plans more than a chassis that cannot grow with the demands. Developments in quad-core and octo-core processors are progressing, while the demand for more memory and the real estate to accommodate it increases. Ultimately, advanced blades save energy because they do more in the same amount of space; however, the power and cooling requirements per chassis can still rise.

Blades should be modular in order to make them incrementally upgradable. Some questions to ask about blades systems: Are all active components, such as I/O, hot pluggable and easily replaceable? Are the modules independent? Can the compute module be upgraded without touching the I/O, or is the I/O landed on the blade, requiring custom management when the blade is changed?

Software infrastructure concerns

Another important consideration for the evergreen data center is the dynamic nature of the software infrastructure. In most advanced grid environments today, adding, removing or replacing nodes is simple. The operating system and application software can be dynamically provisioned to the new structure.

Such a capability is critical for the evergreen data center. With an adequate blades configuration, energy and hardware cost savings can be substantial, totaling almost half the cost of traditional procurement and up to 250 percent more in performance.

Probably nothing is more important than the astute management of the replacement process on an ongoing basis. A clear plan needs to be in place identifying which blades need to be changed out and when, along with a strict adherence to scheduling. This task requires constant vigilance, as new components are created and the software is constantly updated.

In many cases, IT departments may not have the human resources to adequately enact and execute the refresh process. In these situations, IT departments would be better off outsourcing these tasks. The refresh contractors should provide an integrated package of hardware, software and services that starts with a loaded chassis and upgrades the compute modules as improved CPUs and other components become available.

Initial resistance. When talking to IT and data center managers about the evergreen concept, there is usually some initial resistance around upgrade complexities, and budget and depreciation changes. The benefits of an evergreen data center often take time to be realized. Once IT staff realizes they can get 40 percent more work done per year in the same data center, IT and data center managers are more likely to decide to implement the evergreen data center concept.

Mike McNerney is director, blade server product line, at Sun Microsystems, Santa Clara, Calif.

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News – August issue 2007

www.comnews.com


Why VoIP Security Matters

The answer to privacy concerns with VoIP is TLS and SRTP (sorry about those acronyms).

by Christian Stredicke

Converged IT infrastructure is one of the main reasons companies decide to deploy voice over IP (VoIP). VoIP enables unified messaging by incorporating phone traffic, e-mail and file servers on the LAN. While this can increase employee productivity and provide cost savings, it also means that the already existing security threats to the IT infrastructure become threats to the VoIP telephony infrastructure. Moreover, the telephone system can be attacked from workstations within the enterprise on the shared LAN.

There are two major problems with security in the new converged and shared data and voice IT infrastructure. The first is privacy. In the past, in order to listen in or record information about someone else’s phone calls, a person would need personal physical access to the traditional time-division multiplexing circuit-based PBX equipment, the telephone wiring or PBX trunks to the telephone company’s central office.

With the coming of Internet telephony and VoIP protocols, however, a whole new world of hacker capabilities became available. Today, hackers using the latest gear, in combination with their PCs in the LAN, now have the ability to record phone calls and convert them into WAV files for easy retrieval and review. Access to the voice data packets is all today’s hackers need in order to perform such activities. In fact, in many cases, this can be programmed directly from a desktop PC on the company’s site.

The second security issue is denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. A lot of unstable VoIP equipment is in the marketplace, still in early stages of development and deployment. As a result, network manipulation becomes easy for knowledgeable hackers to disable or disrupt the IP PBX.

Hackers can cause activities such as letting the phones in the office ring all the time, rebooting phones or causing other disruptive actions. Writing a shell script that performs these types of tasks takes just a few lines of programming for an IT novice. Hackers that spend a little bit more time learning the technology only need to read about the latest bugs found in an IP PBX, and program it to crash by sending an “invite of death” packet–similar to the “ping of death” created a few years ago.

Most attacks do not come from employees who are willing to risk their jobs to listen to phone calls. The reality is that a modern virus may be released containing code that allows users to listen to enterprise phone calls or completely shuts the PBX server down.

There are numerous vendors entering the market that sell VoIP alarm systems to address security issues. Just like the alarm system for protecting physical access to office premises, these systems watch the network and send an alarm when someone is trying to break in. Instead of calling the police, they call the IT system administrator.

Sometimes DoS is the result of a bad network setup. For example, if the network is not prioritizing voice-over-data packets, as it should, a simple e-mail download could become an “accidental” DoS attack for ongoing phone calls. This occurs as the burst of packets in the downloading e-mail uses all of the available bandwidth, dropping the audio packets in order to download the e-mail.

A virtual LAN (VLAN) is the answer for ensuring that the LAN gives voice traffic higher priority. Almost all modern switches support VLAN with priority tagging, which solves most of the problem. If the Ethernet switch also supports bandwidth limitation on a trunk basis, flooding attacks can be prevented before they get to a device.

While past firewalls were essentially a pain in the neck when it came to session initiation protocol (SIP) and VoIP, modern firewalls can now detect SIP packets, guaranteeing that the voice traffic flows properly through the firewall. Additionally, some firewalls are able to transcode unencrypted SIP and real-time transport protocol (RTP) packets, translating them into transparent LAN service (TLS) and station RTP (SRTP) packets. Double checking the existing firewall capabilities is important, as is upgrading the firewall, if necessary, as some firewalls still may not be able to fully support SIP.

Another security precaution to keep in mind: Installing that “free” soft phone on a PC is a leap of faith. If an application uses a proprietary, encrypted protocol to talk to the outside world, do not be surprised if the firewall blocks it. It might not be a phone call–it might be a competitor uploading confidential memos, or, if network file systems are mounted, the file server with login information.

While session border controllers are becoming a must-have for Internet service providers, companies are also realizing how useful they are on office premises. The “mini-session border controller” manages the voice flow into and out of the office and ensures that the tagging of packets maximizes the voice quality.

A virtual private network (VPN) is one way of solving a lot of the privacy problems. Because many of the popular IP PBXs do not support TLS and SRTP yet, the packets can be tunneled through VPN to the IP PBX. Most businesses today use VPN for remote users, so the equipment and know-how for VPN are already available. A side effect is that remote office users can easily be integrated into the office PBX without those network address translation problems often encountered through home-based routers.

The answer to privacy concerns with VoIP is TLS and SRTP. TLS, known from the Web https scheme, makes sure that the signaling traffic stays private and that there is nobody pretending to be the server (man-in-the-middle attack). SRTP encrypts the voice packets, without having too much overhead that would eat the bandwidth.

Christian Stredicke is the CEO of snom, North Andover, Mass.

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News – August issue 2007

www.comnews.com


Communication News’ New Site Is Live!

Communications News' (www.comnews.com) redesigned and repurposed Web site is now live. Among the new features are Featured White Papers, Featured Products, a white paper library, a blog by editor Ken Anderberg, and another blog featuring updates and insight on upcoming trade shows and conferences.

The new site also has video, initially featuring editor Ken Anderberg, but eventually offering insight on enterprise networking technologies from leading vendors in the market. Future plans call for blogs on various topics important to enterprise end-user IT management and staff, such as network security, wireless and convergence.

Please check out the new site and let us know what you think-and tell us what you would improve or add. (kanderberg@comnews.com)

To create a presence on the new Communications News Web site for your company or a client company, please contact: For the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, Tom Gullette (tgullette@comnews.com), 941-966-9521 x137;

Southeast/Midwest/eastern Canada, Larry Rifkin (lrifkin@comnews.com), 941-966-9521, x188; Western US/Canada, Greg Gallagher (ggallagher@comnews.com), 941-966-9521, x113.


Best Practices For VoIP Security

One technique for a converged network is to virtually separate voice and data traffic.

by Scott VanWart

The ability to converge the view of network and security information is no longer just “nice to have” in the fight against application-layer attacks, worms, hacking, spyware and data theft. These days, situational awareness of internal and external threats is needed to protect an organization’s network completely and continuously. A network and security monitoring strategy that combines flow-based network behavioral analysis and security event correlation to solve security and monitoring issues provides a unique window into monitoring an organization’s voice-over-IP (VoIP) network against threats. VoIP networks illustrate the need for visibility across multiple service layers: the network, the application and the security layers.

One of the most effective and important techniques in engineering a converged network is to structure it to virtually separate VoIP traffic from normal data traffic. This design choice has two key advantages for a VoIP deployment:

      additional security provided by ensuring that VoIP traffic flows through the proper security devices and network paths; and

      using dedicated virtual interfaces and subnets for VoIP traffic ensures that VoIP will get the dedicated bandwidth it needs to deliver high-quality voice.

Equally critical is ensuring that data-intensive applications such as peer-to-peer and gaming traffic do not infringe on VoIP bandwidth and affect voice quality.

From a monitoring perspective, administrators should define VoIP infrastructure as a unique network object so that:

      network administrators have one clear view of VoIP network traffic flows, which helps to detect the origin of the VoIP traffic;

      VoIP policy or security incidents can be prioritized by giving high-value weightings to VoIP-related assets (e.g., IP PBX) and VoIP business objects;

      filtering or searching on VoIP traffic flows or associated security logs aids in troubleshooting VoIP technical or security issues;

      the behavior of VoIP networks can be learned to allow administrators to establish appropriate policies quickly; and

      executive- and operations-level reports can be produced for VoIP security and network usage.

Organizations can monitor and neutralize the two most prevalent VoIP threats by monitoring network traffic. Along with toll fraud, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks can be detected via intelligent monitoring of network traffic behavior. DoS attacks are generally the simplest to perpetrate and thus tend to be the most common attacks faced by data networks. Now, DoS attacks are becoming more common on VoIP networks.

Most DoS attacks on a VoIP network involve bombarding the IP PBX with an extreme volume of simultaneous voice-signaling requests (i.e., session initial protocol, or SIP). When the IP PBX cannot keep up with the request rate, it eventually shuts down access altogether, denying valid users (in this case IP phones) access to VoIP services.

Advanced traffic-analysis logic is needed to identify an abnormal increase in both the number of sessions and hosts attempting to communicate with the IP PBX, and combines them with a sudden increase in events from external firewalls to detect a potential DoS attack. An appropriate solution should be able to respond by either automatically blocking the attacker or by notifying the network and security teams of the threat and the assets involved, so that they can manually respond before significant damage is done.

Creating custom detection rules based on live network events arms the network team to defend the VoIP deployment from toll fraud. These events and alarms come from the security devices that protect the network, as well as the OS and application alerts from the PBX and control server devices themselves.

Monitoring the geographic destination of VoIP traffic is another solution to toll fraud. Sudden changes in the overall geographic distribution of network traffic originating from inside the VoIP network could indicate that unauthorized users are abusing the system to commit toll fraud. They may even be reselling these stolen long-distance services.

A major part of implementing a VoIP deployment is creating corporate polices that govern how the technology will be used. By creating a VoIP-specific business-service object to represent the VoIP network, administrators are able to detect traffic abnormalities such as applications like peer-to-peer that should not be running on a VoIP network.

To maintain high availability and voice quality of across the VoIP network, keeping data applications off the VoIP-designated network architecture is critical. To do this, an application view that provides Layer 7 analysis is needed. This displays what applications are traversing all network segments–including VoIP segments–and how much bandwidth is being consumed.

Another important capability for maintaining the high availability and voice quality is monitoring the number of unique IP phones operating on the VoIP network. When the network is over-subscribed with too many IP phones, voicen quality can suffer from jitter, packet loss delay or dropped calls.

As VoIP technologies continue to develop, one protocol will likely become the recognized standard as the most secure method of transporting VoIP traffic across the network. SIP is quickly becoming dominant due to its IP multicast capabilities.

When using a network security management platform, administrators can quickly identify abnormal protocol usage, such as malformed SIP packets, and investigate policy violations. This ensures that the network is employing the latest in security best practices.

Most employee PCs are connected to the data network, which means the use of soft phones (such as Skype) conflicts with the need to separate voice and data traffic. This conflict, along with the potential for malicious software infecting desktops, results in the average PC being too high a risk for using soft phones on a corporate network.

Even though using software such as Skype typically violates company policies because of the potential vulnerabilities it creates on corporate networks, commercialized soft phones from large VoIP vendors may become approved components of the company’s overall VoIP solution.

Regulatory compliance issues often focus on monitoring authentication data from health and finance information systems. With the convergence of voice into the data network, VoIP IP PBXs and other equipment, such as voice gateways, become subject to information theft. Analyzing and storing these logs is important from a security and troubleshooting perspective, as is ensuring that all log data from VoIP devices is being managed to ensure full compliance.

Scott VanWart is technical product manager for Q1 Labs, Waltham, Mass.

Reprinted with full permission of Communications News – August issue 2007

www.comnews.com


Communications News Upcoming Issue

Company optimizes it’s future with 10 Gig Deployment

A global provider of earth-moving, forestry and material-handling equipment that needed to accommodate its rapidly growing business, as well as its new headquarters facility, decided to install a modern communication and data center. Since this was a new construction, the firm was concerned with future bandwidth growth. The solution came with a high-speed cabling infrastructure.

Network Access for Security and Performance Analysis Solutions

This article  will describe: How the latest generation of network access products can save IT departments money for security, test and measurement budgets; what network architects need to consider for their IT engineering and security counterparts when designing new networks and datacenters; how network access and connectivity with security, test and monitoring solutions can impact visibility and analysis; how network architectures impact network visibility and analysis effectiveness; how regeneration, aggregation and filtering technologies built into the latest generation of tap and access devices can improve the effectiveness of different engineering groups in enterprise IT departments; and what options are available for security, test and measurement connectivity and access.

Cable Retention Techniques

Standard techniques for securing power cables to their receptacles often suffer retention problems under conditions of vibration. Also, normal maintenance operations can compromise cable retention when using either Twistlock or wire bail-clip methods. Twistlock connectors require a physical activity (rotation) to lock, or unlock, the connector and there is no positive securing mechanism. A solution to this problem exists and will be detail in this article, which will also outline some of the other difficulties that can exist with the more familiar plug and wire bail-clip devices.

VoIP - A Vital Component for Small Business Growth

An Internet marketing firm with sales people located nationwide relies heavily on voice communications as a vital component of day-to-day business. The man­agement team knew  the company needed a full-featured, scalable phone system at an affordable price, finally selecting a solution that gives it the power of a full-featured traditional PBX with the cost-effectiveness and scalability of a hosted VoIP solution. The service forwards all calls directly to sales personnel no matter where they are, allowing the firm to operate with a virtual staff, dispersed nationwide.

KVM switches assist e-crime battle

A police electronic crime section set out to source four new dual video servers for each member of the staff. These servers would be used in conjunction with two desktop PCs and two notebook computers. The new requirements called for an 8-port KVM switch solution that was capable of handling dual video and could be mounted in a standard 19-inch rack. An added challenge was the desire to have the racks of equipment in a centralized server room with control at each investigator’s desk. Neither the original project integration team nor the existing KVM switch vendor had a solution that would meet the new requirements. 

 

Distributed KVM for Server Management

A primary administrative challenge continues to be how to cost-effectively deploy, manage, maintain and troubleshoot geographically distributed servers and their applications with limited and centralized IT personnel. This has been addressed in part by the introduction of KVM-over-IP solutions that allow for secure remote control of servers over an IP network. This article will provide readers the considerations to keep in mind when shopping for a KVM solution.

Communications News – October issue 2007  www.comnews.com


ABANDONED CABLE REVISTED WITH SOLUTIONS – Stop The Insanity

Cabling contractors, service providers, managers, tenants and building owners need to work cooperatively to ensure that all parties understand their responsibilities to comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC) provisions on removing or tagging abandoned or unused communications cabling in buildings.

Stop the Insanity!

Cabling without labeling is not just stupid. It is insane.  Consumers spend billions of dollars building their communications infrastructure highways.  These financial commitments are often not treated as an investment in an asset.  Cabling networks are not an expense.  Certain basic practices and policies will prevent this cabling facility asset from becoming a liability.  On the front end of an installation project the contract for materials and service should be retained with floor plans and drawings.  Add to that the performance test results from the certification process for the cable and the absolute requirement for labeling at both ends of the cable as well as the connecting facilities (jacks and patch panels).  Now you have an asset, which may be reused, recycled, or transferred to another user.  This simple process may reduce or eliminate a big ticket for the removal of abandoned cable. 

Value added practices

Michael Shannahan, VP Operations – Communication Planning Corp. (Jacksonville, FL) said “We require our technicians to carry and use the DYMO Industrial Rhino Pro 5000 or 6000 Labeling System to every job. All of our cable installations are tested with the Fluke Networks DTX 1800 & OptiFiber Cable analyzer.“ Shannahan said the results are saved and given to the customer on a CD and a printed version along with cut sheets, material specifications and as built information. This makes administering the facility faster and less expensive.

National Electrical Code

Abandoned cable is defined in the National Electrical Code (NEC) as “ accessible installed communications cable that is not terminated at both ends at a connector or other equipment and not identified “For Future Use” with a tag.”

The NEC establishes the performance issue, but does not assign financial responsibility for removal and disposal of the abandoned cable. The inspector for the AHJ generally will specify what cables have to be removed in order for the job to pass electrical inspection. Failure to get a certificate for occupancy is a nightmare.

The NEC includes rules intended to ensure safety during installation, use and/or disposal of materials, components, fixtures, and systems. The NEC is developed and revised every three years by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the secretariat to the Code. In 2002, a new provision to this code required the removal of abandoned cable. This was the first major change to cabling requirements in the NEC in more than 20 years. Cabling is the only combustible material allowed in the ceiling plenum, thus the changes were made to reduce the fuel, smoke, and toxic gas potential caused by an excess of unused cabling. The 2005 version of the NEC also reflected this provision. No change for this requirement is proposed in the NEC 2008. NEC 2002 Article 770.3(B) for optical fiber and Article 800.52(B) for communications cabling states that all accessible abandoned cable, unless marked for future use, must be removed. Abandoned cable can easily be found in hospitals, schools and office buildings that were built many years ago, and then expanded in recent years. Particularly vulnerable and in need of urgent corrective action is the healthcare industry and the education sector, where abandoned cables abound and safety concerns are a high priority.

The NEC requirements do not have the effect of law; however, the majority of jurisdictions in the United States adopt the NEC by reference into local building and fire codes, which are then enforced by the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). If your jurisdiction adopted the NEC 2002 or 2005, you must be aware of its potential impact on your site and projects.

IMPORTANT NOTE

Any cable that does not meet the permitted use specifications should be removed immediately. For example: cable not rated CMP (for use in return air plenum spaces) that has been installed in the return air plenum is big “no-no”.

New language added to leases

Many building owners are adding additional language to the leases to address the abandoned cable responsibility. BOMA (Building Owners & Managers Association cautions their members: “Your leases should clearly state that tenants must remove any cabling that is abandoned during the term of their tenancy, and/or your license agreements should require service providers to remove all wires upon the termination of the contract. We recommend that you review your leases and license agreements to ascertain exactly who was responsible for the installation and/or abandoning of the cabling and whether you have recourse to recover any of the funds needed to remove the wire. Next, make any amendments necessary if you are not already protected by these agreements.” The National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) is likewise advising its members of the potential problems and risks associated with abandoned cable removal code. Commercial real estate interests are quietly gearing up for this issue as many cities are beginning to enforce the new code on cabling. Numerous municipalities are beginning to address the abandoned cable issue, including Dallas, Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

Waste disposal nightmares

With no code focused on the volume of abandoned cable that is found in a typical office building today, the volume has grown to biblical proportions. According to Dupont in a recent presentation to BICSI, there is “over 60 billion feet of cable installed in plenum spaces” alone in the U.S. workplace. As much as 11 ½ million miles of abandoned cable may be still there.

Computer technology demanded cabling upgrades as transmission speeds continued to soar. Category 3 cabling was followed by Category 4 and 5 cabling, then Category 5e, and now we have Cat 6 and 6A cables. 10 gigabit Ethernet is also pushing the envelope. Until the NEC 2002, there was no rule saying that the old cable needed to be removed, often it was simply left in place.

By the time the codes began catching up to the problem, so much cable was tangled in the average office building's plenum that no one really wanted to address it. Many buildings in localities where the AHJ is still using the 1999 (or early) edition of the National Electrical Code are not required to remove abandoned cable, even if the volume is so great that it may be interrupting the flow of air in HVAC plenum spaces or weighing down suspended ceilings.

During the development cycle of the cables from pre-Category 3 cables until today, there are many different materials used in the construction of cables.  For example, plenum cables (CMP) began with DuPont Teflon® FEP jackets and all Teflon insulation.  Then the insulation migrated to several different fluoropolymers. The jackets evolved to fire resistant PVC as the demand for Teflon exceeded the supply.  Later shortages of FEP (Teflon) resulted in hybrid constructions of 4x0, 3x1, 2x2, and 0x4.  This myriad of cables with different constructions has made the recycling effort into a nightmare.  Labor wise it is not feasible to separate these cables for recycling efforts. However, the copper contained in the cables is a no-brainer because of the sky rocketing value of the metal.  Most of the jacketing and insulating material becomes un-recyclable waste.

Safety Concerns

“The fire is not the only safety problem,” says John Michlovic, manager of technical services and marketing for H.H. Robertson Floor Systems. The plastics used in the insulation and jacketing may also release toxic gasses and smoke in a fire scenario. The fire doesn't necessarily ignite the cabling jackets immediately, but the heat can cause it to release clear or white toxic gases that are highly dangerous. These gases can be blind you or shutdown your respiratory system. Incapacitation of the building occupants is a real problem that is not addressed by the testing or the NEC. 

"Plenum rated cabling may start burning in 35 to 40 seconds to a couple of minutes," says Michlovic. "Currently, there's no toxic gasses-developed criteria for plenum-rated cable, no fuel load standard. Worst of all, there are no toxicity standard and no acid level requirements."

Current industry estimates: 1,000 feet of four-pair unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable weighs about 24 pounds -10 pounds of copper and 14 pounds of plastic jacketing and insulation.

"When cables are installed in a plenum air handling space, exposure to airflow makes the risk from heat or fire generated toxic gasses and smoke especially dangerous for building occupants when fire breaks out," says John Moritz, principal of JMME consulting firm, well-known safety advocate and NFPA/NEC expert.

Fluoropolymer (like DuPont Teflon® FEP) insulated and/or jacketed cabling releases many toxic gases under heat decomposition. Some of the deadly gasses like Hydrogen Fluoride are highly reactive. HF gas, when in contact with any moisture, including humidity, forms hydrofluoric acid. Moritz said, "Hydrofluoric acid is so corrosive that it can destroy most glass and eat away most metals and metal oxides.  The damage potential posed by HF to the human body is immediate and it can affect your eyes, throat, and lungs incapacitating someone on exposure.  Incapacitation can and does lead to many fire related causalities."  Remember: Safety is too important to ignore.

By: Frank Bisbee, President of Communication Planning Corp. (Jacksonville, FL) and Editor of “HOTS – Heard On The Street” monthly column on www.wireville.com

Reprinted with full permission of CBM – August issue 2007 www.cablingbusiness.com


Check out what’s new for Cabling Business Magazine’s October 2007 issue!

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

Features:

Optical Loss Test Sets – the Latest Technology

By Harley B. Lang III, RCDD

IDF Equipment Mounting Challenges

By David Wegricht

Where Have All The Standards Gone?

By Bob Eskew

Fiber Optic Connector 3D Metrology

By Eric Lindmark, Ph.D.

Enhance Productivity and Clean Up That Workspace!

By Paul Holstein

Industry Expert Columns:

  • The Leadership Link By New Commons

§         Reel Time By Berk-Tek, A Nexans Company

  • Testing the Experts By Fluke Networks
  • Engineering and Design Professionals
  • Latest Published TIA Standards

Hot Products:

OTDRs, Fiber Optic Connectors, Cable Ties, Raceway Systems, Power over Ethernet switch product lines, 10G UTP Cabling Systems, Broadband, Wireless, Ethernet Services, latest industry CD-ROMs, training, catalog offerings 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! Be sure not to miss out!


REMEMBER TO RECYCLE, REDUCE AND REUSE

   
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