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Intro to Cabling

Cabling Connections -

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Engineering Magazine

Revisiting – An Intro to Network Cabling 101 – Using Copper UTP for Gigabit Ethernet I grew up in the computer industry with the onset of the MAC and PC in the mid-80s.  Initially trained by manufacturers and learning in the field through trial-and-error was where a lot of R&D occurred.  I suppose that over time, like with any profession, we get accustomed to our ways based on our education and the proven trial-by-fire tactics that got us through… at that time! So, we start to get set in our ways based on our experiences and routines; suddenly we learn that things have evolved...but, not necessarily with our knowledge. The other day we were in a nearly completed broadcast machine room (a data center for a typical business) and several comments were made on the sterility of the cabling; how pristine things were laid out in neatly wrapped bundles of various colored cables.  I found myself immediately scanning for improper bends in the cables and the use of zip-ties or even Velcro so tight that the cabling appears crimped or kinked.  I am always concerned about this common issue, as I know through trouble- shooting networks that even minor cabling faux pas can cause problems that can be extremely hard to trace. Kinked cables, kinked or mashed cables that were re-straightened, bare wires, open sheathing or shiners, and untwisted cables at the termination point can all cause issues that are difficult to track down and often go uncorrected. The faux pas that became etched in my mind are probably just my personal pet-peeves, yet these practices are widely used within the industry and can cause tolerable, yet problematic, conditions that may only affect performance minimally, but can waste considerable amounts of time when troubleshooting: o Solid-Core copper wiring connected to 8P8C connectors meant for stranded copper o Solid-Core wire used for patch- cords An accepted practice still in use today (in spite of the fact that it is improper), is what I heard someone refer to as “Home Runs; the practice of using solid-core wire for horizontal runs with the final termination being the 8P8C adapter that are plugged straight into the network appliance or device. This illustrated practice of cabling likely evolved from fast Ethernet deployments (pre 100BASE-TX) when the speed difference for a dropped packet wasn’t much to consider.  However, with today’s high-speed and GigE networks, attention to the details is prudent; as we increase speed, errors increase exponentially. It is typical in networking that nearly 80% of failures and errors are attributed to the physical network infrastructure.  This issue hasn’t changed much over the years, we just find the faults much, much faster (and so do the end users)! Although practical and appearing to be considerably less expensive at first, running solid-core cable directly from appliance to switch (Home Runs) can and does cause issues.  If you can imagine the rigidity of one single set of solid-core copper wire, then add an additional 7 pairs, then bundle them into a small group, you create a pretty solid and very stationary cable group.  What happens is the cable group moves as a whole unit at the bundle, but individually at each stationary point and this causes intermittent continuity at the connection to the networked appliance. These issues are compounded when the “Home Run” cabling is terminated to an 8P8C connector that was NOT intended for solid-core use.  Specific 8P8C connectors must be used for solid core cabling, as stranded copper connectors are usually purchased when making field-prepared patch cords.  In my professional opinion, solid-core wiring should be kept for horizontal runs only and terminated on a 110-type, or better - CATx
certified termination points and then distributed from there to the appliance, switch, or cross-connect using certified pre-connectorized patch cables from a known and approved manufacturer.   Face it – the manufacturing process is much more consistent than a tech sitting in an unfinished room on a spool with probably minimal light and no A/C before the place opens. Interestingly, the person who taught me token ring cabling was color-blind!  MICHAEL – LOAD is an electrical reference and LOADED would be IMPROPER.  Load=Voltage Certification of cabling can ensure a level of performance at the time of the scan.  Scans are typically done during the initial cabling process for approval and acceptance of the work by the contractor.  When the infrastructure gets load, and time progresses, the environment changes; temperature changes cause expansion or contraction, and accidental bumps, or even being walked on can change the integrity of a cable and therein the performance.  At 95 degrees, the integrity of a typical UTP cable deteriorates. In a data network this shows up as a very intermittent CRC, or results in totally dropped packets.  Since a digital data network is self-healing it continues to transmit and recovers quickly enough that the user doesn’t really notice. I grew intolerable to this practice early on in the diagnostics and support of KVM networks which were then based on an ANALOG signal (a signal that is NOT self-healing).  Intermittent loss in an analog KVM solution causes display flickers and a loss of continuity that make the user’s experience poor, including (but not limited to) sluggish mouse or keyboard commands, continuity loss that displays itself by the loss of a single color to the display, and/or total loss altogether until a system reboots.  Unlike a digital protocol, analog issues were easily noticed and mostly intolerable to the users.  These practices were the major contributor to errors and gave the feeling to the users that the solution was NOT performing the way it was supposed to (which reflected poorly on both the manufacturer and the person who acquired it). So how did I learn this and know it was something to pay attention to? My first official cabling certification came in the 90s from Panduit, Leviton, and Champlain - full day classes for both the copper and fiber disciplines for use in high-speed networks   A high-speed network (at the time, the 10BASE-T) was easier to install and expand on the newer, inexpensive UTP and we were moving quickly from token-ring, coax-based 10BASE-2, with an explosion of networked computer growth.  Very quickly (within 3 years), the demands on this wiring method grew as the newer faster Fast-Ethernet 100Base- TX was being deployed on the same unshielded-twisted pair cabling. In the late 90’s I spent a year working with Microtest – Creators of TDR and OTDR cable testers and further developed my skills. While troubleshooting an analog matrix with this issue (used for KVM), I frequently described the process of finding the problem as compared to stomping on a grass fire. Just when you put out the fire in one area it immediately starts up in another. (or stirring up a Bee Hive or Wasps nest!) Now, back to visit the new machine room that I previously mentioned. During the visit with my peers to the newly built broadcast machine room, I couldn’t resist commenting on the organized and pristine cabling layout, and to the well-documented manner in which the cabling was deployed; in a manner in which could cause envy to a typical data-center deployment. The group made the typical comments on Velcro, bend radius, and the use of zip-ties.  Everyone acknowledged the consideration given to those practices and that everything appeared to be in order.  I personally had to comment on the use of CATx Patch Cables custom-built to less than 5” to make things appear neat and orderly from distribution ports on the same panel. These patch cables were custom- made by a well known company, but they were well under the minimum
specification of what a patch-cord was supposed to be – one meter.   Well, that was what I was taught early on in my cabling days.  This practice occurs a lot, and so I continued to query my team to see if they had anything new to offer on this practice.  The group was split down the middle: half acknowledged that they had heard of this specification and were concerned, and the other half never heard of such a practice (including the physicist in the group).  Now I was really curious – was this an actual practice, or just a myth? The reasoning behind this practice has to do with the need for the signal wave to be regenerated completely between connection points.  Learning this information made me go directly to Google to query with absolutely NO support or mention for the one meter requirement. As long as the patch-cord is stranded and terminated with the correct 8P8C connector, and within the 25’ limit, it can be as short as you’d like.  Therefore, there is no longer any reason for messy or unorganized patch cord cross-connects … What’s left now is the concern about the number of connections, and sticking to the general specifications overall. As a rule of thumb, connection points cost signal strength by 2dBs at each occurrence.  Loss of decibel level means distance limitations as signal strength takes a hit.  Loss of signal strength eventually results in more susceptibility to interference and total loss of communication.  Since the number of connections affects signal strength, overall distance must be considered when multiple connections in an infrastructure are required.  A typical CATx cable run averages four:, host-to-patch-cable, patch-cable to horizontal cabling termination point, distribution point to patch-cable, and patch-cable to switch or network appliance.  The signal is regenerated at the Ethernet switch and the distance limitation is restarted.  Each time the signal is restarted is known as a hop. This narrative is a guideline for deploying a better and more consistent network infrastructure, and to increase awareness of acceptable practices that minimize infrastructure issues.  It is to be considered in addition to those publicized standards for CATx.  While the practices mentioned above may be considered acceptable, they may NOT be in your best interest in the long run. So, consult the IEEE Ethernet Standards and/or rely on a trusted professional and watch for these visible, problematic signs whenever possible.  IEEE Ethernet Standards can be found at the IEEE website: IEEE 802.3™ (sub-section 2000):  ETHERNET   http://standards.ieee.org/about/get/ 802/802.3.html For a thorough checklist of the “visible signs” to watch for in your post cabling walk-through, visit:  http://oobaxs.com/101checklist. The above standards are rudimentary for the network-savvy tech; however, the attention to the small details will ensure that the network in question can transition easily from the 100Mb to the 1000Mb infrastructure of today. Please watch for the next article in this series that will specifically address the importance of this cabling infrastructure for the sustaining of the highest bandwidth utilization networks for video and broadcast traffic. The key to a successful transition is to build upon the physical infrastructure in order to sustain the highest bandwidth utilization networks for use in a broadcast and video environment.  Of course, it is imperative to make this type of network transition in order to sustain the demands of today’s high speed networks that transport video and broadcast traffic. Alan M Frank is the senior systems engineer, out-of-band access and technology strategist at OOBAXS (pronounced Out-Of-Band Access)
© 2016, OOBAXS. All rights reserved for content, descriptions, images and video.

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Intro to Cabling

I grew up in the computer industry with the onset of the MAC and PC in the mid-80s.  Initially trained by manufacturers and learning in the field through trial-and-error was where a lot of R&D occurred.  I suppose that over time, like with any profession, we get accustomed to our ways based on our education and the proven trial-by-fire tactics that got us through… at that time! So, we start to get set in our ways based on our experiences and routines; suddenly we learn that things have evolved...but, not necessarily with our knowledge. The other day we were in a nearly completed broadcast machine room (a data center for a typical business) and several comments were made on the sterility of the cabling; how pristine things were laid out in neatly wrapped bundles of various colored cables.  I found myself immediately scanning for improper bends in the cables and the use of zip-ties or even Velcro so tight that the cabling appears crimped or kinked.  I am always concerned about this common issue, as I know through trouble- shooting networks that even minor cabling faux pas can cause problems that can be extremely hard to trace. Kinked cables, kinked or mashed cables that were re-straightened, bare wires, open sheathing or shiners, and untwisted cables at the termination point can all cause issues that are difficult to track down and often go uncorrected. The faux pas that became etched in my mind are probably just my personal pet-peeves, yet these practices are widely used within the industry and can cause tolerable, yet problematic, conditions that may only affect performance minimally, but can waste considerable amounts of time when troubleshooting: o Solid-Core copper wiring connected to 8P8C connectors meant for stranded copper o Solid-Core wire used for patch-cords An accepted practice still in use today (in spite of the fact that it is improper), is what I heard someone refer to as “Home Runs; the practice of using solid- core wire for horizontal runs with the final termination being the 8P8C adapter that are plugged straight into the network appliance or device. It is typical in networking that nearly 80% of failures and errors are attributed to the physical network infrastructure.  This issue hasn’t changed much over the years, we just find the faults much,
much faster (and so do the end users)! Although practical and appearing to be considerably less expensive at first, running solid-core cable directly from appliance to switch (Home Runs) can and does cause issues.  If you can imagine the rigidity of one single set of solid-core copper wire, then add an additional 7 pairs, then bundle them into a small group, you create a pretty solid and very stationary cable group.  What happens is the cable group moves as a whole unit at the bundle, but individually at each stationary point and this causes intermittent continuity at the connection to the networked appliance. These issues are compounded when the “Home Run” cabling is terminated to an 8P8C connector that was NOT intended for solid-core use.  Specific 8P8C connectors must be used for solid core cabling, as stranded copper connectors are usually purchased when making field-prepared patch cords.  In my professional opinion, solid-core wiring should be kept for horizontal runs only and terminated on a 110-type, or better - CATx certified termination points and then distributed from there to the appliance, switch, or cross-connect using certified pre-connectorized patch cables from a known and approved manufacturer.   Face it – the manufacturing process is much more consistent than a tech sitting in an unfinished room on a spool with probably minimal light and no A/C before the place opens. Interestingly, the person who taught me token ring cabling was color-blind!  ! MICHAEL – LOAD is an electrical reference and LOADED would be IMPROPER.  Load=Voltage Certification of cabling can ensure a level of performance at the time of the scan.  Scans are typically done during the initial cabling process for approval and acceptance of the work by the contractor.  When the infrastructure gets load, and time progresses, the environment changes; temperature changes cause expansion or contraction, and accidental bumps, or even being walked on can change the integrity of a cable and therein the performance.  At 95 degrees, the integrity of a typical UTP cable deteriorates. In a data network this shows up as a very intermittent CRC, or results in totally dropped packets.  Since a digital data network is self-healing it continues to transmit and recovers quickly enough that the user doesn’t really notice. I grew intolerable to this practice early on in the diagnostics and support of KVM networks which were then based on an ANALOG signal (a signal that is NOT self-healing).  Intermittent loss in an analog KVM solution causes display flickers and a loss of continuity that make the user’s experience poor, including (but not limited to) sluggish mouse or keyboard commands, continuity loss that displays itself by the loss of a single color to the display, and/or total loss altogether until a system reboots.  Unlike a digital protocol, analog issues were easily noticed and mostly intolerable to the users.  These practices were the major contributor to errors and gave the feeling to the users that the solution was NOT performing the way it was supposed to (which reflected poorly on both the manufacturer and the person who acquired it). So how did I learn this and know it was something to pay attention to? My first official cabling certification came in the 90s
from Panduit, Leviton, and Champlain - full day classes for both the copper and fiber disciplines for use in high-speed networks   A high-speed network (at the time, the 10BASE-T) was easier to install and expand on the newer, inexpensive UTP and we were moving quickly from token-ring, coax-based 10BASE- 2, with an explosion of networked computer growth.  Very quickly (within 3 years), the demands on this wiring method grew as the newer faster Fast- Ethernet 100Base-TX was being deployed on the same unshielded-twisted pair cabling. In the late 90’s I spent a year working with Microtest – Creators of TDR and OTDR cable testers and further developed my skills. While troubleshooting an analog matrix with this issue (used for KVM), I frequently described the process of finding the problem as compared to stomping on a grass fire. Just when you put out the fire in one area it immediately starts up in another. (or stirring up a Bee Hive or Wasps nest!) Now, back to visit the new machine room that I previously mentioned. During the visit with my peers to the newly built broadcast machine room, I couldn’t resist commenting on the organized and pristine cabling layout, and to the well-documented manner in which the cabling was deployed; in a manner in which could cause envy to a typical data- center deployment. The group made the typical comments on Velcro, bend radius, and the use of zip-ties.  Everyone acknowledged the consideration given to those practices and that everything appeared to be in order.  I personally had to comment on the use of CATx Patch Cables custom-built to less than 5” to make things appear neat and orderly from distribution ports on the same panel. These patch cables were custom-made by a well known company, but they were well under the minimum specification of what a patch-cord was supposed to be – one meter.   Well, that was what I was taught early on in my cabling days.  This practice occurs a lot, and so I continued to query my team to see if they had anything new to offer on this practice.  The group was split down the middle: half acknowledged that they had heard of this specification and were concerned, and the other half never heard of such a practice (including the physicist in the group).  Now I was really curious – was this an actual practice, or just a myth? The reasoning behind this practice has to do with the need for the signal wave to be regenerated completely between connection points.  Learning this information made me go directly to Google to query with absolutely NO support or mention for the one meter requirement. As long as the patch-cord is stranded and terminated with the correct 8P8C connector, and within the 25’ limit, it can be as short as you’d like.  Therefore, there is no longer any reason for messy or unorganized patch cord cross-connects … What’s left now is the concern about the number of connections, and sticking to the general specifications overall. As a rule of thumb, connection points cost signal strength by 2dBs at each occurrence.  Loss of decibel level means distance limitations as signal strength takes a hit.  Loss of signal strength eventually results in more susceptibility to interference and total loss of communication.  Since the number of connections affects signal strength, overall distance must be considered when multiple connections in an infrastructure are required.  A typical CATx cable run averages four:, host-to-patch- cable, patch-cable to horizontal cabling termination point, distribution point to patch-cable, and patch- cable to switch or network appliance.  The signal is regenerated at the Ethernet switch and the distance limitation is restarted.  Each time the signal is restarted is known as a hop. This narrative is a guideline for deploying a better and more consistent network infrastructure, and to increase awareness of acceptable practices that minimize infrastructure issues.  It is to be considered in addition to those publicized standards for CATx.  While the practices mentioned above may be considered acceptable, they may NOT be in your best interest in the long run. So, consult the IEEE Ethernet Standards and/or rely on a trusted professional and watch for these visible, problematic signs whenever possible.  IEEE Ethernet Standards can be found at the IEEE website: IEEE 802.3™ (sub-section 2000):  ETHERNET   http://standards.ieee.org/about/get/802/802.3.html For a thorough checklist of the “visible signs” to watch for in your post cabling walk-through, visit:  http://oobaxs.com/101checklist. The above standards are rudimentary for the network-savvy tech; however, the attention to the small details will ensure that the network in question can transition easily from the 100Mb to the 1000Mb infrastructure of today. Please watch for the next article in this series that will specifically address the importance of this cabling infrastructure for the sustaining of the highest bandwidth utilization networks for video and broadcast traffic. The key to a successful transition is to build upon the physical infrastructure in order to sustain the highest bandwidth utilization networks for use in a broadcast and video environment.  Of course, it is imperative to make this type of network transition in order to sustain the demands of today’s high speed networks that transport video and broadcast traffic. Alan M Frank is the senior systems engineer, out-of- band access and technology strategist at OOBAXS (pronounced Out-Of-Band Access)