Cabling woes loom over enterprise nets

As many as nine out of 10 companies will soon need to overhaul their cabling infrastructures or find themselves unable to reap the rewards of bandwidth-hungry applications that are on the horizon.

That was the conclusion of a report released last month by Kanata, Ont.-based The Yankee Group in Canada entitled “Vicissitudinous Viscera: The New Importance of Corporate Communications.” The report also stated that any enterprise which has not re-architected its infrastructure in the past 24 months will be compelled to do so.

While network managers are busy worrying about the security of their networks or how well their servers are running, their cabling infrastructures are not necessarily getting the attention they deserve, the findings stressed.

Noted in the report is that, with the increase of bandwidth-intensive applications such as voice over IP, network managers and administrators will have to compensate by improving their communications infrastructures.

“The reason why I think a lot of people have been overlooking this is just because there has been a real focus on applications, software, the other end of the hardware like computers and servers and that kind of thing,” explained Jeremy Depow, senior analyst and author of the report. “It hasn’t necessarily been overlooked, but the applications at the time didn’t demand what they are beginning to demand right now…and therefore there is a real need to sort of focus more on that cabling than there previously was.”

In fact, the neglect of enterprise cabling infrastructures “may well be a main determinant in corporate success or failure,” the report states. Inadequate cabling infrastructures can lead to various problems, including losses in productivity, service delays and a lack of security.

Because times have recently been tumultuous for the communications industry due to the state of the economy, as well as the fact the area of cabling is becoming so complicated, there’s a real need for true experts, Depow said.

“There are companies that are developing that…(make this) their core business, and they’re all about designing this kind of cabling infrastructure, installing it, and then, even after that, maintaining it through a contract,” he explained. “I think that’s a place where enterprises need to start to look. Most enterprises don’t need fibre right to the desktop, but they need Category 5, Category 6, which will come around eventually, and Ethernet. And those will eventually be the standard, and I think that any company that’s installing that new cabling should really consider Category 5 Ethernet.”

According to Depow’s report, choosing a company to help with the cabling infrastructure can be difficult due to the lack of certified providers and standards. Enterprises should therefore rely on brands and proven track records. Companies that have been around for a while and have the required relationships in place are a good choice.

Bell Canada – which has a cabling business unit within it – is one company which offers such services, including implementation and maintenance.

“We move right through the value chain, from consulting to management,” explained Kerry Eberwein, Bell’s senior director of cabling. “So we’ll consult, we’ll design, we will engineer, we will install or build, and we will also maintain cabling solutions for a variety of customers.”

This includes small customers, all the way up to large, national clients, he added.

Eberwein said customers are facing the issue of cost when it comes to cabling. He is seeing quite a few of them turning to copper, which he called a very good solution to the desktop. Bell does see instances where it takes fibre deployment to the desktop as well, but Eberwein noted that is not the norm.

Customers interested in outsourcing have a variety of options when it comes to services and packages. Bell, for instance, is able to offer the solution as a straight, one-time sale, or if the customer prefers there is a leasing option available.

“Sometimes…our preference would be to go in and even provide a greater solution to a customer with a variety of options (of) how to manage those costs,” Eberwein said. “And we, at times, will package and bundle a cabling solution with other equipment, with other services, and through packaging and bundling, it becomes much more viable for the customer.”

Depow predicts that, looking down the road, more and more enterprises will likely turn to the expertise of third-parties, and noted that is in part why he wrote the report.

“It’s kind of a prediction that hasn’t begun yet because these applications that demand more cabling infrastructure are just sort of entering the market now, and gradually increasing their own penetration,” Depow explained. “So it’s something that we will see more and more as time goes on, but now is certainly a decisive time.”