New wiring world is here

We’re happy to present a special section this time around on a subject that often, like Rodney Dangerfield, gets “no respect”: cabling. And, when you think about it, this key element in the network hierarchy might just be the one most worthy of a few “we’re not worthys” from the networking and telecommunications communities.

Why? Because the bottom layer of the seven-tiered Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model is often one of the most stable and reliable cogs in the networking wheel. The application, network and transport layers grab the majority of headlines and generate the most discussion, but that’s usually because something has gone haywire up there and all is not right in the loftier layers.

Meanwhile, down in the furnace room, cables of various varieties simply carry the ones and zeroes around the network, thanklessly hauling their cargo to and fro while the higher tiers take all the glory.

As all levels of the networking model become more complicated, it’s good to know that there is at least one part of the equation that we can (almost) take for granted. Like utilities such as electricity and water, cabling has long been accepted as something that is “just there”, with very few instances where users have to worry about something going awry. Of course, nothing is perfect; hence the addition of the word “almost” in the above paragraph. Layer 1 may be a relatively docile beast, devoid of the mood swings of Layers 6 and 7, but it nevertheless poses its own set of challenges. For most network managers, those challenges often centre around the installation, repair and replacement of an organization’s cables.

When it comes time to tend to such headaches, most organizations today simply get on the phone and enlist the services of their friendly neighbourhood cable installer to carry out the dirty work. The availability of such services has relieved IT departments of one more concern when it comes to cabling, but also presents a new one. Instead of having to rip cords from walls, companies must look for the ideal qualities of firms that will do the ripping for them.

Factors such as cost, quality of work, service level agreements and timeframes for completion must now be considered. In other words, net managers are not absolved from having to know the differences between Category 5 and Category 6, or the advantages and disadvantages of fibre versus copper. Knowledge of what cables do and how they do it is still crucial to ensuring that a network operates at peak efficiency.

For that reason, it’s always a good idea to stay up to date with the latest happenings in the world of wires. Hopefully our special section will help you in what has been, and probably always will be, a deceivingly tall task.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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