Attendees at the BICSI Winter Conference, held January 17-21 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Conference Center in Orlando, Fla., recognized that IT budgets may be stagnant, but the recession hasn't slowed the growth of data center storage facilities. Fueled by applications such as Internet protocol (IP) TV, audio file-sharing, Internet gaming, and mobile broadband, the storage capacity of many data centers is rapidly reaching saturation. In fact, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco predicts the volume of IP traffic will quintuple between 2008 and 2013. Faced with this challenge, data center managers are planning solutions that include more bandwidth, more servers, and more storage — all at faster speeds.

Improving economics of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and final ratification of the Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol are important factors in many of these planning strategies. FCoE is simply a transmission method in which the Fiber Channel frame is encapsulated into an Ethernet frame at the server, before the server sends it over the LAN. The server does the reverse when FCoE frames are received. In general, FCoE simplifies the maintenance of the cabling system and allows use of economical Ethernet hardware and OM3 optical fiber for up to 100 Gigabit data rates.

But consider that a 10GbE application requires two fibers, and in the future, running a 40 GbE application will require 20 fibers. Thus, determining the space allocation and routing for this fiber will be an important task for data center managers. To support this trend, many suppliers were displaying modular high-density racking systems in their booths, designed specifically to accommodate high fiber-count installations. These enclosures offer basic and optional components that allow users to configure a system to their specific space and application requirements.

Another key factor to keep in mind is terminating the cable, which is often considered the most difficult part of a project. Because it’s also expensive, manufacturers have developed cable termination products to increase the yield, reduce the insertion loss, and make the task a lot easier. A number of new products in this area were evident on the exhibit floor.

On the conference front, presenters of more than 20 educational sessions covered topics ranging from wireless technologies to fiber-optic cabling to electronics safety and security.

In a pre-conference seminar on Monday, January 8, Herb Congdon, Tyco Electronics, Conover, N.C., described the work of the "1179 Healthcare Facility Cabling Task Force," and some application standards activity, which includes IEEE 802.at — Power over Ethernet Plus and 802.3az — Energy Efficient Ethernet. The 802.3az project is being recognized as an important component in other standards, such as the EPA Energy Star program. The main concept is that telecom equipment should use power only when there is network activity, and it should revert to a low power state when there is no activity. The full benefit of Energy Efficient Ethernet will be seen when 802.3az-compliant equipment is installed in a building network. It is hoped that converged IP networks will be increasingly cost-effective and thus promote the acceptance of communications/control components in an intelligent building, for example.

In "40Gbps Over Twisted-Pair Cabling: Planning for a New Ethernet Application," Valerie Maguire, Siemon, Watertown, Conn., and Todd Harpel, Berk-Tek, New Holland, Pa., made the case for using copper cabling beyond 10 Gbps in the data center. Noting that data centers and server clusters need to reduce power consumption and to increase energy efficiency, they believe that the time to plan for 40Gbps Ethernet applications is now. They also think that copper cabling can be a viable choice for 40Gbps Ethernet using a fully shielded Cat. 7A cable construction for distances less than 100 m. The rationale is that 92% of channels in a data center are less than 50 m in length, and this topology can satisfy the short-term data center needs for the next three to five years.

In "An Expanding Role of the Rack in the 'Future Proofing' of a Data Center," Rick Trombetta and William Santucci, Great Lakes Case & Cabinet Co., Inc., Erie, Pa., promoted the idea that an equipment enclosure should allow the use of many accessories and installation techniques throughout the life span of the data center. It should support a variety of power configurations and facilitate making proper grounding connections while fill and blanking panels can direct airflow in the cabinet for maximum cooling of the equipment. By properly applying the components and accessories, a user can go from a low-density layout in a traditional hot aisle/cold aisle, to the employment of more advanced air management systems. Whereas the traditional role of the enclosure offered simple protection for mounted equipment, security/restricted access to equipment, and internal cable management, today's role of the data center enclosure must be thought of in terms of being an integral part of the building infrastructure.

In "Contemporary Considerations When Precision Cleaning Fiber Optic Connections," Edward Forrest, ITW Chemtronics, Marietta, Ga., cleared up many misconceptions regarding the preparation and cleaning of the glass fiber ends of fiber-optic cable prior to splice or termination. The end face preparation of the connector is a critical factor, because particles of dirt on a connection end face can cause transmission error and permanent damage. A portable high-definition video scope is essential when doing fiber installation and maintenance work to detect this contamination. It's also a best practice to never assume that a fiber end is "factory clean."

The two general soil categories you'll face are ionic and non-ionic, sometimes called polar and non-polar. Because not all cleaning methods work the same way, you should clearly understand both the dry and wet methods of cleaning. Dry cleaning is not effective on all soils, and the wiping materials used can generate static that attracts more soils. In addition, wiping materials can leave "lint" residues. Wet cleaning is usually done with 99.9% IPA isopropyl alcohol. Although the newer solutions are water-based and effective, they require an active drying step.

In "Fiber’s Role in the Video Security and Surveillance Network," Curt Carlson, Transition Networks, Minnetonka, Minn., described how fiber-optic cabling can be integrated easily into an existing copper-based cabling system that uses either UTP or coaxial cable with analog cameras. By using a media converter, two or more media types with dissimilar cable and connectors can be integrated on a network. With the ever-increasing need to support video surveillance equipment at distances beyond the reach of UTP or coaxial cable, multimode optical fiber cabling easily provides the extended transmission capability. Industrial Ethernet enclosures, connectors, and other products can satisfy the needs of outdoor applications and in any application where extreme temperatures are encountered.

In "The Importance of Cabinet Level Power Monitoring in a Data Center," Jeff Miller, Geist Mfg., Lincoln, Neb., emphasized how proper monitoring and tracking of AC power use at the equipment/receptacle level can be beneficial in maximizing power efficiencies. Power distribution unit (PDU) level meter options include local ammeter, remote ammeter, and remote management and control. A power meter can be used as a diagnostic tool to measure phase loads and neutral loads for proper balance, monitor breaker loads, and measure current usage at each receptacle. He also described the advantage of bringing 3-phase power to the cabinet level.

In "Using the Structured Cabling System for Security Applications," Mark Dearing, Leviton Network Solutions, Bothell, Wash., noted that traditionally the various security subsystems in a building, such as access control or intrusion detection, was supported on its own cabling system. Today, however IP-enabled devices, running on an Ethernet platform, offer advantages such as standardization, scalability, system integration and interfacing, resource sharing and centralized power via PoE. The use of TIA 568-C standard requires adherence to a star topology with a maximum of two levels. But this effort delivers predictable performance as well as flexibility to accommodate growth and change over an extended period of time. Video surveillance offers the best opportunity for IP integration, followed by access control, while alarm and intrusion detection offer limited opportunity.

In "Product Counterfeiting – The Economic Scourge of the 21st Century," Ralph Frasca Jr., Grand ISS, St. Petersburg, Fla., explained why the counterfeiting of high-tech products is a serious economic threat. This worldwide activity affects consumer health and safety, national security, legitimate business, national revenues, foreign investment, and brand integrity. Research shows that about 10% of high tech products sold globally is counterfeit; in specific cases, such as network interface cards, the percentage is even higher. Bogus products proliferate because the profits can be significant, and the penalties in most countries are minimal or nonexistent. In addition, there is lax regulation and a low risk of being caught. Counterfeiting is increasingly the crime of choice for criminal groups, including terrorist organizations.

Some basic steps to combat this threat include making greater use of creative enforcement tools to detect, deter and respond; implementing internal remedies; working with local authorities; lobbying for stricter laws; encouraging international cooperation; and using unique identifiers on the products or packages. More importantly, know and closely monitor/investigate channels of distribution and reward distributors for detecting/refusing bogus goods.