The converging of technology presents numerous challenges to managers of network infrastructures. No longer do managers only have to worry about voice and data; they must now be well versed in the installation and support of integrated voice, data, video and a variety of building management products. Industry trends moving toward IP-based networks will result in significant new demands on IT managers and their network infrastructures.

In anticipation of this, we should take some time to remember the real goal of a structured network infrastructure (aka. structured cabling system). As you should hopefully guess from its name, it is a cohesive way of organizing an infrastructure and there are basic rules governing this:

  • It uses standardized media and layout for both backbone and horizontal cabling.

  • It uses standard connection interfaces for the physical connection of equipment.

  • It supports equipment and applications of many vendors — not just a single vendor.  The cabling system should be independent of the vendor’s equipment, and thus, is more flexible.  This is also known as "Open Architecture."

  • It has a consistent and uniform design.  It follows a system plan and basic design principles.

  • It is designed and installed as a total system. Avoid installing cabling on an as-needed basis.

The benefits of using a structured network infrastructure include lower material and labor costs, a single installation force for cabling, a single point of contact for systems integration, reduction in physical space requirements, lower relocation expenses, reduced maintenance and administration costs, and the ability to migrate to new technologies with greater ease, less risk and lower costs.

The ideal structured network infrastructure is not just the use of particular category of cabling product (Category 5e, 6, 6A etc) in the building. In fact, an infrastructure should have a mixture of twisted pair, coax and fiber optic cabling, but also important is the design, installation and ongoing management. The concept is to WIRE ONCE.

The extra material cost and labor expense incurred in implementing a true structured network infrastructure is minimal compared to the higher labor expense involved in upgrading and re-cabling at a later date.

Today, energy conservation is a global priority. Energy consumption is increasing at an alarming rate, oil prices are rising, which lead to increases in the price of electricity. Government programs are being instituted and laws enacted to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. While fuel prices continue to fluctuate, there is a worldwide quest to protect the environment and conserve energy, demand for healthy work environment, and the need to minimize expense during difficult economic times. With a true structured network infrastructure, the merging of telephones, computers, wireless devices and building management controls onto one centralized IP network is enabled as the technology evolves, as well as improving the building’s carbon footprint.  The structured network infrastructure becomes the ‘fourth utility’ of a building.

The key to this is early planning, long term thinking and avoiding ‘living for today’ investment, which is as applicable to IT as it is in all walks of life.

About the Author

James Donovan

James Donovan is Vice President of the CommScope Infrastructure Academy. James joined CommScope in 1993 and has held positions in Sales, Technical, Marketing, Training and Business Development and served most recently as VP of Digital and Creative Services for CommScope. James oversees the CommScope Infrastructure Academy, which is CommScope’s partner and customer training platform. Prior to joining the company, he held positions at GEC, ITT and Alcatel. He holds a Masters Degree in Engineering and a BSc Honors degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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