Held at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Fla. from January 16-20, this year’s BICSI Winter meeting allowed information technology industry (ITS) professionals and guests to review topics that assist in the design, installation, and maintenance of cabling systems. Because fiber-optic cabling installations for data centers and other applications are growing so rapidly, the need to understand the variety of termination systems and tools was a hot topic for attendees.

Through exhibits as well as educational seminars, attendees explored how factory pre-terminated, modular, multimode assemblies are particularly useful in data center applications, due to the high connection densities, superior optical performance of a factory-prepared connection (low loss characteristics), and the simplicity of a modular installation. Other advantages that go hand in hand with this approach include a reduction in labor costs, less congestion in cable pathways and space, and faster installation times with less security risk. One vendor showed a pre-terminated fiber system with 24-fiber MPT connectors designed to accommodate the 100 Gb Ethernet networks of the future.

Lean construction principles and green concepts, such as convection cooling, as well as fiber-optic cabling systems and building information modeling (BIM), also proved to be important areas of discussion at this year’s events, as was evidenced in some of the many sessions offered in the comprehensive educational track.

In a presentation titled, “The NxtGEN Mission,” past BICSI president Vic Phillips of Florence, S.C., described the steps underway to broaden the appeal of BICSI membership and the ITS credentialing program to a wider range of industry occupations and stakeholders. Because there is a desire to convey information effectively and to account for the practical knowledge that people gain in the industry, the new programs and exams have a mix of knowledge and application-based questions. The specialties include: electronic safety and security, network transport design, wireless design, and outside plant. Announced at this meeting was the first holder of a new credential for sales, education, and management professionals called the Registered Information Technology Professional (RITP).

In “Addressing E-911 Compliance with VoIP Systems,” Herb Congdon and Gene Malone of Tyco Electronics in Greensboro, N.C., described the evolution of the telephone-based emergency response system and the laws governing its operation. When this service was first initiated in 1968, a physical address was associated with the calling party’s telephone, and the call was routed to the most appropriate PSAP for that address. A caller’s telephone number and location information was part of a basically static data base. However, with the growing use of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), this simple process is no longer applicable. Because a VoIP adapter can be plugged into any broadband Internet connector, a caller can be miles away from the applicable billing address in an emergency.

In 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued requirements for IP-enabled service providers, and further legislation in 2008 removed obstacles to full 911 interconnection. Looking ahead, the next generation of 911 services will permit emergency calls to be made from non-phone devices, such as security cameras, alarms, and consumer electronics in automobiles. Understandably, VoIP phones and systems create challenges for emergency services, and legislation continues to evolve regarding IP asset management.

In “Bend, Bandwidth or Both: Making the Right Choice for Enterprise Networks,” Ravi Yekual of Corning Optical Fiber in Corning, N.Y., illustrated the performance of OM3 and OM4 optical fibers in 40/100 G and 16 G systems. He noted that multimode optical fiber remains the choice for most networks, considering the applications and the speeds that will be selected in the future. TIA-942, “Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers,” recommends the use of a 50 micron fiber backbone because of its capacity to support high network speeds over longer distances, while being more cost effective to implement than single-mode fiber. The new generation of 50 micron, bend-insensitive multimode fiber (BIMMF) OM-4 has important applications, because it’s fully compliant with OM2, OM3, and OM4 standards for laser optimized fibers and backward compatible with the installed base of 50 micron multimode fibers. BIMMF has a core design that uses a graded-index core profile combined with a specially engineered optical trench, which confines the higher-order mode groups that propagate within the fiber core. Therefore, attenuation due to small radius bends is minimized.

In “To Splice-On, Field Polish or Pre-Terminate?” Jonathan Bertucci of Sumitomo Electric Lightwave in Research Triangle Park, N.C., explained the development of field-installable splice-on connectors, which adds to the choices for fiber-optic cable connectivity in data centers and networks. An in-depth study, based on actual testing and installation data, offered valuable comparative information for product selection. Many vendors of factory preterminated assemblies allow customized ordering, regarding length, fiber type, fiber count, connector style, and other characteristics.

In “Noncompliant Cabling Products — How Big is the Problem and What Can be Done?” Todd Harpel of Berk-Tek in New Holland, Penn., cautioned session attendees that the mark of a recognized testing lab on a cable or connectivity product box may be falsified. An industry organization formed in 2007, the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA), has uncovered both safety and performance issues after the testing of bulk data communications cable from overseas. More recently, the CCCA undertook electrical performance testing of Cat. 6 copper patch cords. Results showed that 322 of the 379 offshore cords failed to meet the performance specifications of TIA-568-C.2. Thus, there was an 85% failure rate in patch cords produced offshore by companies largely unknown in North America. The high failure rate stems from the use of lower-grade components, poor assembly methods, and poor quality control. In an effort to combat the shipment of non-compliant cable into the North American market, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) now requires manufacturers of communications cabling bearing the UL mark to use holographic labels on the smallest unit container carrying the cable.

In “Collision Detection — What is it Good For?” John Lewis of DataCom Design Group in Dallas, described the application of Building Information Modeling (BIM) for generating and managing building data. For cabling and networking professionals, BIM places detailed product information, quantities, and properties into the model, allowing a user to logically link a cable run from a patch panel port within a rack in telecommunications room out to a port in a wallplate at the work area, effectively creating a physical-layer management tool and enhancing asset tagging procedures. An AIA reference, called Document E202, permits agreement on the degree of detail in the BIM model. The document details the Level of Development (LOD) required by the architect/engineer at respective phases of a project.

In “The BIM Impact on Data Center Design — A Consultant’s Perspective,” David Well and Dwayne Miller of JBA in Las Vegas, noted that because BIM provides a 3-D spatial model, it is particularly beneficial in laying out electrical, mechanical, and cabling pathways in a data center. For example, a change in the underfloor cabling layout could affect the mechanical contractor’s equipment placement. 3-D modeling minimizes spatial conflicts and provides a detailed visual perspective.

The added information provided by BIM software has the potential for improving design/build and other approaches. Consider that in the 1980s, a server rack in a data center consumed about 4kW of electrical power. Today, the power requirement is 25kW for a similar rack. While heat has always been an issue in data centers, density makes it a critical concern today. Proper cable management and routing are essential, as they have an impact on cooling and thermal management.