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Corporate America Implementing New Gigabit Ethernet Strategies.

The network architect had put together an enterprise information and communication infrastructure with plenty of headroom to accommodate corporate requirements to run robust and complex voice, data and video traffic on a single network. She had integrated a broadband wireless network that allows her company's increasingly mobile workforce to access enterprise resources.

She had determined that the enterprise would need to support at least Gigabit Ethernet (Gig E--1,000 Mbps) speeds to keep the network humming. More importantly, she sold it up the line and had the support of Finance. The company would get a return on investment within two years. Everything was going according to plan ... until she was asked to find the least expensive physical network components. She balked. She made her best case for a state-of-the-art passive infrastructure--the cables and connectors that course through data closets, over dropped ceilings and under raised floors. But push came to shove, and yesteryear's technology was deployed. She knew the company would come to regret the decision. And she would be right ...

Enterprises spend millions of dollars designing, purchasing and implementing network technology. A modest portion of this expense is for the cabling that interconnects all equipment, and over which all networked traffic flows.

In a typical new network build, cabling and connectors will account for about 15 percent of the total network hardware and installation, points out Mark Ricca, a vice president with IT and telecommunications consulting firm, InfoTech Consulting, (Parsippany, N.J.). But what too many managers and executives fail to remember is that cabling tends to outlast the hardware that it interconnects--by several multiples.

"When properly specified, cabling typically remains functional for two to three times as long as network equipment," says Ricca.

As with active network devices and computers, cabling obsolescence typically is not a matter of declining performance, but rather a function of new requirements exceeding old capacities. For cabling, that capacity is bandwidth. With cabling--even the twisted-pair cabling used in the last 100 meters of most network connections--currently available products can be purchased with bandwidth ratings in excess of the current requirements.

Though cables look alike to the uninitiated, cabling designs and performances vary markedly. This is true even of cables from different manufacturers that are designed to meet the same industry standard. The governing standards body in this context is the Telecommunications Industries Association/Electronics Industries Association (TIA/EIA), which has published the Category 5e standard for high-speed premises networks. The TINEIA Category 5e standard was developed by TINEIA in harmony with the IEEE 802.3 committee responsible for the 1000BASF-T Ethernet standard. It incorporates several new transmission parameters required to support full duplex, parallel transmission systems. Meanwhile, the TIA/FIA and the International Standards Organization (ISO) are also hard at work developing the next generation standard, Category 6.

How vendors describe their adherence to standards can be confusing. Manufacturers may list the same "typical" or "average" performance values, explains Jeff Craig, national market manager/enterprise market at Graybar (, a St. Louis, Mo.-based international distributor of networking products and cabling. But unless a company buying equipment has some way of knowing how the various components they are implementing will work together, complying with the standards does not guarantee the desired performance.

"Performance must be measured and compared in the context of an installed system," points out Paul Kish, chair of the TINEIA TR-42 engineering committee on user premises telecommunications infrastructure, and director of IBDN systems and standards with Montreal-based cable and connector firm NORDX/CDT ( System testing often will show degradation of rated throughput of cables and connectors, especially if the cable infrastructure includes products that have not been qualified as a channel.
Primary LAN Connection to the Desktop


10 Mbps Ethernet -60%
Token Ring -56%
FDDI -50%
100 Mbps Ethernet +68%
Gigabit Ethernet +1100%


Note: Table made from a bar graph.
10 Gigabit Ethernet Market Size


2001 $67
2002 $700
2003 $1.8
2004 $3.1
2005 $3.9


Note: Table made from a bar graph.

The consequences of not testing can be serious. Failure to test can lead to "premature obsolescence" of the passive infrastructure, which means the enterprise would have to go through an unnecessary replacement that is as disruptive to business operations as it is expensive.

... Gig E in the Enterprise

One of the certainties of enterprise networking today is that bandwidth demand will continue to rise. For local-area networks (LANs), 10 megabits per second (Mbps) once was enough. Then 100 Mbps came on the scene. "When Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) first came out, people were skeptical about its need," says Nick Maynard, an analyst with telecommunications research firm The Yankee Group, Boston, Mass. "But now it has become the standard."

And Gig E is now on deck. Though little used today, Gig E appears poised for an explosive growth spurt. Cahners In-Stat Group, Newton, Mass., has determined that less than one percent of enterprise networks are using Gig E as their primary LAN transport. But in a survey of over 300 IT professionals, nearly one-quarter said they expect to deploy Gig E within two years. All in all, Cahners predicts that the deployment of Gig E will grow by 1,100 percent by 2002.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Ariba Inc., for instance, has deployed Category 5e cabling throughout its new campus to support high-speed Ethernet technologies.

"We have committed to using Fast Ethernet out to our workstations and using Gig E (or multiple Gig)in our core between switches. We have a few--perhaps 10 percent--of our servers connected via Gig E," says Ariba's Steve Cundall, Director of IT Communications.

... MAN/WAN Push, LAN Pull

While bandwidth demands grow in end-user networks, enterprise Gig E also is getting a push from the wide-area networking (WAN) and metropolitan-area network (MAN) markets because of the relatively low cost, scalability and reliability of Ethernet technology.

Expected demand in these network segments is leading to the development of standards and technology for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Ten gigabit services are expected to come on line in 2002, when an IEEE Ethernet standard completes the approval cycle.

With multi-gigabit services coming to the premises from carriers, it will become easier for enterprises to adopt Gig E in their internal networks, explains The Yankee Group's Maynard. "We'll see 10 Gigabit Ethernet roll out into the metro network core, interconnecting co-location facilities. Then we'll see it push out to the edge of MANs and to the user interface--and eventually within enterprises," he says.

For enterprises, the result will be that they can operate end-to-end Ethernet: from LANS, through WANS and MANs.

... Laying the Groundwork for Enterprise Gig E

Organizations need to begin planning now for Gigabit Ethernet, if they have not already done so. This planning must address enterprise needs, legacy hardware and software, new network devices and interconnection infrastructure--cabling and connectors.

Often cabling is an afterthought in the network planning process. As networks move to higher and higher speeds, cabling performance becomes more and more critical. Fortunately, network-interconnection cabling has undergone tremendous improvements as network transmission requirements have increased.

In any event, to be able to reliably run Gig E in a LAN, an organization should, at minimum, have a Category 5e structured cabling system installed to perform beyond the standard. "To maximize Gig E throughput, companies should install Category 6 cable if they are installing a new network or if the current LAN cabling does not comply with Gig E requirements," stresses Kish. "The cost and business disruption of replacing cable later on is something to be avoided."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event
Comment:Enterprises typically spend about 15% of their network building expenditures in cables and connectors.
Author:Cooper, Lane; Moore, Tom
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Previous Article:Cable management.
Next Article:Q & A with Jeff Craig.

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