Cats in the Waiting



There is a lot of hype and confusion over the 10G-over copper
solutions available in the market. Almost every vendor has a 10G or 10G ready
offering. However, the adoption of 10G has not been very enthusiastic. Specially
when hunger for better performance, higher bandwidth and greater speed is on the
rise, the structured cabling industry was expecting better acceptability of 10G
solutions than what it has turned out to be. Instead, network managers have
preferred to wait for the standards to be ratified and the technology to be
proven before investing in these cables.

ADC Krone has seven 10G-over-UTP installations in India,
which is the highest in Asia. Systimax has announced one installation and is
under the process of installing five more. "There have been few
installations of 10G but these are only adopters. The reasons being that there
are plenty of unresolved issues in the ratification of the standard, in testing
of the cables, and absence of active components to support them," says
Ashish Chand, country manager (India) & Regional Manager (SAARC), Belden
CDT.

The ratification of standards of 10G over UTP is expected to
happen in the early 2006 time frame. During the same time component
manufacturers like Cisco, Foundry, Extreme and Solar Flair are expected to come
out with port and switch support for these cables.

So the question that comes up is what is all this excitement
about when only cables are there in this category and the rest of the supporting
matter is absent. The fact is that cable planning is done almost 15 years ahead
and estimates today are drawn keeping in mind future requirement of at least
seven years.

"10G has been more on talk and less on activity. With
standards not there vendors claim to be 10G ready, subject to specified
installation practices. Today, there are products within Cat6 which meet 10G
performance of up to 40 meters. However, in the long run, Cat A6 in the backbone
would be a value proposition," says KK Shetty, country manager, AMP
Netconnect.

10G in the Backbone
With the type of applications available today, the bandwidth
capacity of 10G is not useful for the desktop or what is called the horizontal
cabling within the campus or building. However, on the backbone front,
traditionally, fiber has been the preferred medium. But structured cabling
vendors are optimistic about the price of 10G over copper cables and components
to be almost 60% less than fiber. Sale volumes and basic copper prices would be
a major factor in determining what cost advantage would exist.

"As the volume grows, there would be a reduction in
product prices. For 10G over copper, we expect the demand to pick up once the
relevant IEEE standard (802.3an) is ratified and commercial deployment of active
equipment increases," says SA Mohan, general manager (sales and marketing),
Molex India.

10G
Base T…When?
Market for 10G or CatA6 is
expected to grow after the standard is ratified in July 06

Technologies Available
It would be unfair to think that all action in the structured
cabling market is limited to 10G over copper. Today, one can go and buy cables
in the Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6 (10G ready) and Cat7 categories. The battle of
market share, however, is between Cat 5e and Cat 6. While Cat 5e has the
capability of delivering 1G over the available transmission equipments, Cat6 on
the other hand gives enough head room in terms of electrical parameters like
noise, cross talk, alien cross talk etc in the same bandwidth space.

While Shetty says Cat 5e is sufficient for applications
available today, others like Ashish say it might move the market in favor of
CatA6 and Cat6-which has lot of market support today-and might lose out just
like Cat5 lost to Cat5e.

Adoption of Cat7 is missing from India. The Cat7 standard is
still in draft stages; as a result, the product/performance specs are still
being defined. So customers are also not asking for this product as there are no
specific applications, current or planned, which need a Cat7 system. "Cat7
is also yet to find customer base in India due to its high price and STP
version," says Vikas Pinjarkar, general manager-SCS (Business Developement),
D-Link India.

In fact, globally also the market acceptance of Cat7 has been
very low, with only a 0.4% market share in 2004. It has mostly found limited
applications in power plant or other high electrical noise environments.

Status of Power over Ethernet
Power over Ethernet again has not taken off in India. The
technology allows IP telephones or IP devices, wireless LAN access points and
many other appliances to receive power as well as data over Ethernet. PoE IEEE
802.3 af is a ratified standard and, presently, most heard of. As the wireless
and VoIP market is growing up, the use of PoE technology has started taking
momentum. More than 200 PoE products are available worldwide.

For the cabling infrastructure, it is important to have
components that support the IEEE 802.3af protocol fully. "The mating of
plugs and connectors under electrical load can cause sparks. If they occur in
the contact zone, it will result in a poor contact and inferior reliability. The
connecting modules should ensure that sparks will not affect the contact zone,
thus ensuring optimum performance for the life of the product," says Gaurav
Ahluwalia, country manager (India), Reichle De Massari.

Intelligent Cabling Gaining Ground
Intelligent cabling systems are the hot favorite today. As we
see the emergence of multi-location facilities, large campuses and buildings,
effective management of valuable network resources has become very critical. The
need to troubleshoot remotely has gone up considerably. The latest in structured
cabling systems are the new features that include higher security to the user
and a stronger interoperability platform.

"There is scarcity of network management staff and,
therefore, remote access and management of devices is logical. For this, use of
an intelligent structured cabling system is a must. Besides this, there is a
growing trend towards interoperability and providing higher security to the user
as well," said Rajesh Kumar, country manager, The Siemon Company.

These systems provide for real-time management of the
physical layer which enables immediate troubleshooting of problems, if any,
besides optimum utilization and efficiency. Intelligent structured cabling is
able to track IP-based devices such that the network manager can access, control
and manage from one central location. This is more critical considering the
distributed computing environments that we have today and the acute need to
troubleshoot them remotely.

In a nutshell, the structured cabling industry, though comes
out with products before standards are decided and offers warranty on
performance levels after ratification, almost 90% of customers wait for the
final verdict before putting their money in new technologies. So it would be
better if the industry bodies speed up their ratifications and standard freezing
processes, or else confused customers would continue to buy older products.

Anurag Prasad

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